Earlier in his career, Kanye’s ego was the one getting all the attention, but Yeezus, his sixth solo album, is all snarling Id. Nothing can wait, not even the “damn croissants,” which he demands with characteristically insta-quotable brio on “I Am A God.” Fittingly, Yeezus is West’s leanest, tightest, most to-the-point album ever: 10 songs, 40 minutes (almost to the nose), and full of the aggression of mid-’80s Def Jam.
No surprise, then, that Rick Rubin worked on several tracks here, or that Kanye links up with Daft Punk again (their three album-opening tracks that have the lean whap of their early work and none of the middlebrow-soundtrack diddling of Random Access Memories). Sonically, Yeezus connects the scrappy clang of that era’s rap with the more detailed sonic possibilities of modern electronic-dance production. (Warp Records fiddler Hudson Mohawke co-produced “I Am a God” with Daft Punk.) Wax Trax!-style industrial, early U.K. grime, and El-P’s production for Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music are useful coordinates as well.
West isn’t saying anything particularly different than usual; he’s just being more severe and forthright about it. “New Slaves” is Kanye’s latest and most searing indictment of African-American consumerism, the force of which he nearly guts by declaring, “I’d rather be a dick than a swallower.” “I’m in It” is his latest Sexaholics Anonymous confessional, like a seedier “Hell of A Life,” which features the racist equation of “Asian pussy” with “sweet-and-sour sauce.” Call Yeezus his Vice Magazine album — stark, confrontational, willfully offensive and more crafted than it first appears.