Disclaimer: I don’t want to talk about the sound or critique the songs on Kanye West’s new album. I did that for his last album. I don’t want to speculate either—that’s what social media is for.
At this point, we know how he sounds. And if you don’t, then find out. You can start at the beginning with The College Dropout. But his new album, Ye, is like a new beginning. So, you can start with that.
Part 1: The Album
The album came out on the first of June, marking a new month and the real start of summer. What I can say, right off the bat, is that the album is only seven songs (24 minutes) long.
When I talked to my family about their opinion on Kanye recently, they mentioned how his albums in the past were more cohesive—maybe his greatest works. But this album is very cohesive, and I have listened to the whole thing straight through, very comfortably.
The album is very real, very relatable. Independent of what he’s been saying in the media recently (but not giving any excuses for his behavior), we can all relate to this album. The things he talks about are very real. When we ask, “what is life?” and ponder our roles in life and why we feel the way we feel, it has this kind of air about it.
Kanye talks about his wife, his mental health, and the recent stir he’s been causing.
Kanye is definitely not be the old Kanye. On his last album, Life of Pablo, his personal changes were very clear and evident. Yet, the whole album is still sprinkled with classic Kanye.
I was very pleased to find out we can listen to the album all the way through. Besides being real and relatable, it is apologetic yet unapologetic and appreciative yet marked by the Kanye confidence we all know.
Listening to the album may make you feel good, unless his recent actions just muddy the whole thing for you, which is very likely. People were surprised, according to Vibe and even documented by Billboard, that Kanye West’s Ye held the first seven spots on the Hot 100 and was number one on various charts despite his controversy.
Many don’t care about the art if the person behind it has made controversial or unethical decisions, but many people I follow posted his album on their social media when it came out, implying that they were listening. So how do people really feel?
After his controversial statements on slavery, this chasm between acceptance and canceling his artistry is a topic for a greater discussion.
Part 2: Things I Notice
Ye includes many voices on this album, and each voice is crying out a different pain or emotion.
However, the album doesn’t mention any features, which is kind of cool, because it implies that the album was a collaborative effort. It comes off as a little less commercial. But some people believe he just did not give any credit. This too is ironic. In his interview with Charlamagne Tha God, he mentioned feeling kind of irrelevant on radio because of his comrades like Drake who dominate the airplay.
Next, despite Kanye’s almost raunchy sound, he does not deface or degrade women in this new album. “Violent Crimes,” a song about his daughter and family, caps the album. Fatherhood definitely changed him, and he knows this. But when discussing this with one of my friends, I saw a different perspective. What if Kanye made a song about how men should treat women, rather than one hoping his daughter’s body looks like his so as to not be sexualized? It seems Kanye is genuinely worried for his daughter, but it is not the first time he’s spoken about her body in front of a large audience.
Lastly, Kanye takes on mental health and is truthful about his experience, but he does not mention it as an excuse or as his weakness. He is bipolar, and he is a “superhero.”
He wants to freely talk about how he feel sin his art. In theory, that’s a good thing. However, my first reaction to the first song, “I Thought About Killing You,” was nervousness.
He explicitly repeats “I thought about killing you” numerous times. But he follows it with saying “And I think about killing myself, but I love myself way more than I love you, so…” He mentions just putting things out there to see how they feel, which explains why he said those terrible things about slavery and expressed his support of Trump so callously.
Like he says in “Yikes,” sometimes we scare ourselves. As we encounter new situations we are surprised by what we learn and see about ourselves. In “Ghost Town” (my favorite on the album), 070 Shake sings “I put my hand on the stove, to see if I still bleed.” I read on 070 Shake’s Genius bio that she sticks out because of her unapologetic honesty. 070 is about message over brand, although social media paints millennials as prioritizing brand over message. That made me think: is Kanye dumping his brand for the sake of his message? What even is his message?
While reading other critiques of this album, I noticed a few things about how people view music. Is how something makes you feel not more important than its likeability? Some reviews seem to say his album is trash because he is. But all this makes me wonder about the current attitudes toward mental health. Honestly, much of what Kanye says, in real time, is actually scary to think about. I understand that sometimes it feels like mental health is too much to deal with—that it is easier to dismiss it, call it crazy, and move on.
Yet, he sparked many conversations on race, mental health, and especially our own black community. But what now? To some it is just a bunch of humdrum, to others this is something very serious, and to the rest it is best ignored.
What is everyone supposed to make of all this?