Master producer and MC Kanye West is back with an album after two years. The album has what can be expected from Kanye in terms of production; extraordinarily refreshing and well thought out music. In terms of lyrics, what Kanye has to say is also to some extent expected: the album opens with “I Thought About Killing You”, a track that finds Kanye confused, to some extent violent, yet his voice remains measured and peaceful. Suddenly, his voice begins to fuse with the vocoder that was made famous from a previous album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. On the album cover, a picture of Wyomingite mountains is tagged with the words “I hate being Bi-Polar its awesome”; perhaps the best way the album can be described is as bipolar. The production is always fresh, but also oscillates between maximalist and minimalist styles.
“All Mine” is a fully minimalist song, with some moments of synth, but generally relies on 808s and Kanye’s voice, which is more than enough to capture a listener’s attention. Kanye is at times philosophical, at other times hilariously childish; he raps “Let me hit it raw fuck the outcome/none of us would be here without come”.
“Wouldn’t Leave” is a much more mature refrain. Backed by a gorgeous sampling track, Kanye reminds listeners that he is still himself and he still would never abandon those who he loves and those who love him.
“No Mistakes” is without a doubt the high point of the album, and to some continuation. It is a pure victory anthem, as Charlie Wilson and Kid Cudi both triumphantly sing the chorus that reminds listeners and Kanye’s subject that he still loves them. Kanye throws shots at Drake, sheds failures he had over the course of the last year, and pronounces himself as fresh and triumphant. His happiness and sense of victory is contagious.
“Ghost Town” finds that Kanye is on a high that is not coming down. Kid Cudi sings the chorus perfectly, with epic electric guitars that excellently back Cudi’s epic style of singing. Young singer “070 Shake” sings the outro, which is also very well done and continues the epic feeling that Kanye’s music has the tendency to bring out.
“Violent Crimes” has a minimalist beat and finds Kanye completely sober and reflective. Lyrically, this is perhaps one of Kanye’s most interesting songs yet. Kanye raps about how the way he sees women has transformed after having two daughters, and he spends the song trying to readjust himself to the life of a father above a rapper, arguably one of the most explicit careers a person can pursue. Kanye is hopeful for the future yet scared at the same time of what his daughters will become, and if he will have properly prepared them for that future. 070 Shake and Ty Dolla $ign finish the song and the album with a harmonized duet reaffirming Kanye’s desire to slow his daughter’s maturation and path towards independence, fearful of the fading of the “lie”, or his daughters’ exposure to the reality of the world outside of the protective West home.
Overall, this album to me is a 9/10. Though at times the minimalist beats were somewhat unnecessary and detracted from the listening experience, the album overall finds Kanye at his most mature and reflective. He is 40 years old now, so this makes sense. His perspective has dramatically shifted since 2016, and it is fascinating to see it musically expressed. Kanye is now unwilling or perhaps unable to write hits like “Gold Digger”, “Stronger”, or “Power”, and as a result there is no one track in this album that stands out from the others. Together however, the album truly stands out as a musical and lyrical expression of a very charismatic and controversial person’s life, thoughts, and ideals.