Headphones: Inside the Curious Mind Of Kanye
The summer of Kanye continues. Kanye found himself involved in the Pusha T and Drake beef after producing every song on Pusha T’s Daytona. Just a week after Daytona’s release, Kanye is back with an album of his own; the title, Ye, and abbreviated version of the rapper’s name. Kanye is set to be included as a producer on Kid Cudi’s album Kids See Ghost, also set to release this June. Kanye shined with his production skills on Daytona and has now given us a much closer look at the content of his mind with the mixed bag that is Ye.
The album starts off with an extremely slow and wavy tune with Kanye essentially giving a speech. On “I Thought About Killing You”, Kanye describes his conflicting choices on whether or not to kill whoever “you” refers to. He talks about his twisted thoughts to kill someone, but deciding he loves himself way too much to kill someone. While this track gives listeners a look into Kanye’s confused and narcissistic mind, it lacks the depth of a full track leaving many craving more.
We are opened up to a different side of Kanye through “Yikes”. We hear him describe his insecurities and fear of fame as he says in the chorus, “Shit could get menacin’, frightenin’find help/Sometimes I scare myself, myself”. Kanye adds small jokes and references throughout the track about the pressures of being famous, even referencing Russell Simmons accused rape of multiple women. The track is somewhat haunting as it shows of his vulnerability within his fame as well as his coping strategies for overcoming this pressure.
The album’s cover art is both unique and revealing as it becomes clear that Kanye will dive deeper into his own problems . It features a picture of the Grand Tetons of Wyoming, (where Kanye recorded and produced the album), with lime green lettering saying, “I hate being bipolar, It’s awesome”. From the first sight of the album’s artwork it can be understood that this is going to be a mixed bag of tracks that will showcase the unique mind of Kanye.
Across most parts of the album, the listener is left wanting more. The entire album is only seven tracks, making each time listening through feel quick and confusing. While the album does have strong points in multiple songs, as a whole it feels somewhat incomplete.
One of those strong points comes three songs in when we hear the catchy and bass-heavy track, “All Mine”. The track is introduced with a high-pitched chorus courtesy of singer Ant Clemons. After the harmonic chorus opening the track, Ty Dolla $ign adds a quick verse alongside Clemons before passing the torch off to Kanye. Kanye has always had a talent for highlighting his voice and flow through simplistic and mellow beats, making his voice sound more prominent and powerful. This is certainly the case on “All Mine”, as we hear Kanye spit three verses of witty punchlines and calculated rhyme schemes. Kanye even references a fellow celebrity who has been caught up in the everlasting drama that is the Kardashian family saying, “All these thots on Christian Mingle/Almost what got Tristan single/If you don’t ball like him or Kobe/Guarantee that bitch gonna leave you”. Kanye’s verses on the track are some of his best and most creative on the whole album and the simple bass and drum beat adds a flare to Kanye’s voice that creates a sense of prominence.
Moving on from “All Mine”, we hear a softer track including additional features titled “Wouldn’t Leave”. Kanye recruits Ty Dolla $ign, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and Jeremih to all add their soothing vocals on the relaxed beat. While the track does include a beautiful bridge from Jeremih and more metaphoric quips from Kanye, it once again is a track that lacks depth. Most of the bars in the track are references to his past behavior such as his, “How Sway?”, rant on a morning radio station or his recent remarks saying slavery is a choice. The song is a touching ode to Kanye’s wife but is honestly carried by its chorus and bridge, both of which don’t really highlight Kanye at all.
By the time you’re finished listening to “Wouldn’t Leave”, you’re already over halfway done listening to the album. The whole album is only 23 minutes and can be listened to very quickly. Although it easy to pass through all seven songs quickly and begin comparing the album to Kanye’s previous work, listening through multiple times is crucial for this album as there are some gems in short project.
While “No Mistakes” is one of the more forgettable tracks on the album, it does have some merit. First, it introduces Kid Cudi for the first time of the album. Fans everywhere became ecstatic when it was announced that Cudi and Kanye would be working together once again, with the two teaming up on tracks like “Erase Me”, “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”, and “Gorgeous” in the past. “No Mistakes” brings veteran singer Charlie Wilson back into collaboration with Kanye as well as he has added featured vocals on past tracks like “Bound 2”. The track also gains some relevance with Kanye returning shots at Drake in the wake of his beef with Pusha T. Even with the track’s catchy chorus and impressive features, it is one of the more forgettable songs on the album. It has the potential to be a great track, however the beat never grasps the listener and the quick verse lacks the lyrical depth that Kanye is capable of, letting his mind do the writing.
After his introduction on “No Mistakes”, we finally get our full fill of Kid Cudi on “Ghost Town”. This is without a doubt one of the best tracks, (if not the best), on the album. The track is perfectly balanced between verses from Kanye, a tremendous chorus from Kid Cudi, and even additional vocals from singer 070 Shake. While Kanye’s verse on the track is strong and touches on more inner-personal thoughts, Kid Cudi and 070 Shake make this track wildly memorable.
Kid Cudi’s chorus on “Ghost Town” is an example of what makes him such a creative and flexible artist. Often, we hear Cudi’s deep voice shine on rap verses. However, in this track we get to hear him display his singing ability as he harmonizes, “I’ve been trying to make you love me/But everything I try just takes you further from me”. Cudi singing talent is on display and acts perfectly between Kanye’s verse and the outro from 070 Shake. True Cudi fans will flock to his contribution to these tracks as they patiently wait for Kids See Ghosts to drop.
070 Shake’s outro for “Ghost Town” is another incredible performance from an artist that many might not know about. Kanye signed the singer to his GOOD Music label a year ago and has now found an opportunity for fans to hear the talent she possesses. After a few quick lines to begin the outro, Shake goes into a repetitive pattern saying, “We’re still the kids we used to be/I put my hand on the stove, to see if I still bleed/And nothing hurts anymore, I feel kinda free” over and over to conclude the song. Even after just one listen you will have these lines stuck in your head, repeating the words in your head over and over again. Shake’s outro is a beautiful and powerful ending to the album’s top track. Not only is the combination of artists brilliant, but the way each artist is utilized is another marvel in itself. Although the album has some low points and missed opportunities, “Ghost Town” gives the listener plenty of reason to still refer to Kanye as a “genius”.
070 Shake is put right back to work as she angelically opens “Violent Crimes”. The whole message of the album’s final track is Kanye’s alteration of his perspective of women since the birth of his daughter. He says, “Cause now I see women as somethin’ to nurture/Not somethin’ to conquer”, to capture the whole point of the track in one line. He goes on saying that men are savages, pimps, and players until they have daughters. The track is slow and filled with harmony courtesy of Shake, and you can truly hear the sincerity in Kanye’s voice as he speaks on his fear of his daughter growing up. Again, through all the forgettable tracks and witty metaphors this track offers up something of real meaning. You can feel the vulnerability of Kanye as he raps his final verse of the album creating some of the best and most real music we’ve ever heard from him.
Through all the confusing lines, timid beats, and unnecessary features on the album, there is no denying that the album showcases its artistic nature on multiple tracks. Kanye has been through a lot in the past year or two, being diagnosed with a mental illness at the age of 39. Over the past few years, it’s been pretty unclear what kind of music Kanye would release. Despite the blemishes across the album, Ye is a confusing masterpiece that adds to Kanye's brilliant collection of music.
Ye does give us a look at the fragile and vulnerable nature of the artist. We seem him speak proudly about his mental illness along with other personal issues like the thought of losing his wife and the concept of his daughter growing older. We get a close look at the narcissism that drives a majority of his actions as well as the insecurities that often hold him back. Kanye is one of the more unique artists of all time, and he has given listeners a closer look at his mind through Ye. While his mind and thoughts may be hard to decipher, some of the tracks on this album provide a complex key in understanding Kanye. Although the album features some needless components, it is a unique and artistic trip into the complex and bipolar mind of Kanye West.