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Lyrics aside, ‘Yeezus’ finds Kanye taking another leap forward

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Illustration: Chris Morris
Shea Serrano

Four stars

Kanye West Yeezus

Kanye West’s new album, Yeezus, sixth in his impressive discography, is as likeable as it is untenable. Aurally, it’s bold and magnetic and hyper-energetic. Plenty of artists have made similar agro-rap (Blackie, Death Grips, etc.), but even if West borrowed from any of them, nobody making this sort of sound possesses his world-bending cache. And few, if any, make it as long-term consumable.

It sounds like trying to combine a bunch of alkali metals (“Guilt Trip,” featuring Kid Cudi). It sounds like a prison riot in outer space (“On Sight”). It sounds like all of the anger multiplied by all of the frustration (“Black Skinhead”). There are clever moments lyrically (“Leave a pretty girl, sad reputation/Start a Fight Club, Brad reputation”), and guest work from Chief Keef and Frank Ocean sounds pristine. But the whole thing is mostly twisted steel and war screams, acquiescing to the ethos of the monstrous, beautiful production from Daft Punk, Mike Dean, No I.D., 88-Keys and more.

Still, for all of its advances there are gigantic leaps backward in ideology—with nearly all of the jabs aimed at anyone brazen enough to be born with a vagina. The most egregious lines include references to oral sex from a member of the clergy; connections between iconography associated with the Civil Rights movement and ultra-aggressive sexual acts; and, basically, a level of objectification that borders on psychosis.

Few artists have ever existed as decisively as Chicago’s most super-famous emcee. And Yeezus, barely longer than 40 minutes, is yet another glowing grab bag of art from him. But few, too, have ever been as exhausting in their exultation.

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