Review: Ye.

Ye
Ye

The album explores darker topics such as suicide, self-isolation, overdose, and addiction, and is sprinkled with confident, borderline narcissistic, tracks. Released in 2018, Ye has a total runtime just short of 24 minutes. West was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2016 and has openly spoken on the subject since. He has admitted that he experiences manic phases and has shared how he manages his diagnosis without medication. Fans believe that Kanye created Ye to give listeners further insight into some of the influences on his mental health.

However, the album was received terribly. Reviewers commonly note the album as “absolutely chaotic” and “nonsensical.” Multiple reviews note that Ye did not reach the same high standard that Kanye previously established. One of the more positive reviews, from Rolling Stone, reads “if you put serious time into Ye, which is probably more than its author did, you find it isn’t as flaccid as it first sounds.” Kanye has a reputation of being a celebrity douchebag that produces music as a hobby and the album is short… But, it doesn’t take a lot of commitment to enjoy this album.

The seemingly disorganized track order easily plays in the background while you prep your meals for the week, work on a group assignment, walk (or run if you’re chronically late like me) to the bus, and lie on the floor to recollect yourself before tackling one more chore. It didn’t take long before I was singing along and trying to understand the meaning of Ye. In an interview with Billboard, Kanye says that the album title was changed, “It went from Kanye, which means the only one, to just Ye—just being a reflection of our good, our bad, our confused, everything. The album is more of a reflection of who we are.” [Iasimone, 2018]

Ye is an uncomfortable album that gives us insight into Kanye West’s psyche. “I Thought About Killing You” opens the album with Kanye vocalizing his thoughts on suicide and encouraging listeners to voice their struggles, “Just say it out loud, just to see how it feels / Weigh all the options, nothing’s off the table”. “Yikes,” a significantly more upbeat song, follows next, highlighting the use of illicit drugs and expensive material goods as daily distractions. “All Mine” references heightened sexual attraction and the inability to focus, “Let’s have a threesome, me, you and the blunt / I love your titties ‘cause they prove I can focus on two things at once,” a few of the symptoms that are commonly shown during a manic phase. Kanye uses “Wouldn’t Leave” to further explore his difficulty managing his mental health and show appreciation for his wife’s support (RIP to anyone that’s updated on Kim & Kanye’s relationship). “No Mistakes” appears as a transitionary track where Kanye is still struggling and challenging societal systems and rules but promises a more stable future to his love. The sixth track, “Ghost Town” is my personal favourite on the album as it represents the fall that comes after a manic phase and the unravelling of the mind. The song begins with West imagining an ideal life for himself then slowly progresses through the coping mechanisms that keep him from actualizing his dreams. By the end of the track, we’re listening to a numbed-out Kanye that is self-inflicting pain to feel something. Ye closes with “Violent Crimes,” which features a short clip of Nicki Minaj, where Kanye expresses concern for his daughter’s future, “Father forgive me, I’m scared of the karma / ‘Cause now I see women as somethin’ to nuture / Not something to conquer.” He claims an increased awareness of how women are viewed in society and vows to protect his daughter even though most control is out of his hands.

I loved Ye because it is the most personal album that Kanye has released. Listening to it makes me feel like I’m reading his personal journal—I get a glimpse into his past trauma and his deepest fears. While most of his content is produced for a targeted audience, Kanye created this album for himself. The artist knew that a short album would fly low on the world’s radar so he used the opportunity to dive deeper into conversations that are generally not discussed in our communities. Ye was not meant to be a popular album. Its purpose was to prompt a self-reflection.

References:

Iasimone, Ashley. “Kanye West Opens up about Making ‘Ye,’ Being Diagnosed with a ‘Mental Condition’.” Billboard. June 3, 2018. billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/8459006/kanye-west-mental-health-ye-album-interview%5C