Review: Kanye West – ‘Lift Yourself’ & ‘Ye vs. the People’

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Disappointing

Kanye West has returned after two years with two new releases which will continue to divide and anger his increasingly alienated fanbase.

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It has been a scandalous and strange fortnight in the increasingly bizarre world of Kanye Omari West. The re-activation of his Twitter account on the 16th April sparked great excitement amongst his millions of fans, an excitement which piqued when Yeezy announced that he would be releasing not one, but two albums in June. However, this excitement rapidly devolved into confusion, disappointment and anger as West continued to spew an endless ramble of sometimes unintelligible and often divisive thoughts. Across 356 tweets and several interviews, Kanye has stated that slavery was a ‘choice’, enjoyed a bromance with Donald Trump, endorsed provocative right-wing commentators, tweeted false and harmful facts and claimed that he and Trump are both ‘dragon energy’. This verbal diarrhoea has detracted from the fact that, for the first time in over two years, Kanye had released new music.

This should have been a significant moment. West was hospitalised in November 2016 after suffering a mental breakdown brought on by exhaustion, paranoia and an addiction to opioids. A triumphant comeback was there for the taking. Unfortunately, through a combination of a self-inflicted backlash and the content of his new releases, this comeback is far from triumphant.

‘Lift Yourself’ begins like most of Kanye’s biggest hits. Lifting a soulful sample from Amnesty’s 1973 track ‘Liberty’ and altering it with an increase in tempo, booming bassline and high-pitched reverb, the track is set for a classic Kanye verse, full of imagery, passion and creativity. Instead, what we get is a childish, weird and inexplicable set of lyrics which cannot be described as a comprehensible verse. Coming nearly two minutes into the track, Kanye proceeds to rap (although that’s pushing it) “Poopy-di scoop/Scoop-diddy-whoop/Whoop-di-scoop-di-poop”. This continues in the same fashion for a further twenty seconds or so, with the self-confessed genius resorting to repeating the word ‘poop’ over and over by the end. Whilst art is subjective and possessing different opinions is what makes the world great, ‘Lift Yourself’ is, quite simply, plain and utter crap. The only explanation available as to why Kanye chose to deface a genuinely good beat with the above lyrics, is that whilst in his creative genius mode he tapped into the mind of a 3-year-old child who’s just heard a naughty word for the first time.

‘Ye vs. the People’ is a wildly different track. Once again flipping a soul song, this time the Four Tops’s ‘7 Rooms of Gloom’, the song quickly takes the form of a back and forth debate between Kanye and T.I., with T.I. taking the position of ‘the People’. Lyrically, this is a marked improvement from ‘Lift Yourself’, although the bar was not exactly high. However, the views espoused by Kanye during the track are disappointing and have only furthered the hurt and anger much of his fanbase currently feel. Yeezy attempts to present himself as an intellectual, seeing through the ‘Fake News’ and conspiracy, positioning himself as the saviour of the nation. During its three-minute duration, Kanye states that Trump winning “showed he could be president”, insists that his current political position is him trying to “unify the nation”, that wearing his MAGA hat shows the people “we are equal” and that he has given MAGA a “new direction” adding “empathy, care and affection.” It is not hard to understand why so much of Kanye’s fans feel disenfranchised in the wake of his recent comments. Kanye has aligned himself with a political movement which is overtly racist, homophobic, sexist and Islamophobic. Any attempt to present his recent comments as ‘unifying’ or applying a ‘new direction’ to Trump and his acolytes, grossly misunderstand and underplay the enormous hurt and division that the MAGA movement has already caused. The position of common sense during the track is played by T.I., who perfectly sums up the position held by many of Yeezy’s friends and fans – that he is alienating them through his support for ‘white supremacy’ and that everything he has built “will be destroyed and torn down”. It is difficult to properly assess this track on its musical merits as, for the most part, it resembles a debate over a backing track.

The past couple of weeks have caused potentially irreparable damage to the Kanye West brand. Whilst he may have received large swathes of new support from the right-wing members of the MAGA brigade, he has estranged and isolated himself from much of his core support who have been there since The College Dropout. The situation is not beyond salvaging, however if West continues to put his foot in it and releases anything even remotely resembling the dire ‘Lift Yourself’, then Yeezy may end up burying himself.

‘Lift Yourself’ and ‘Ye vs. the People’ are out now via Def Jam Records.

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