Everybody’s talking about the EDM but Yeezus is rife with dancehall.
Few albums have been so minutely dissected and analyzed before their release as Yeezus. And while there has been much discussion of the EDM influence and the Daft Punk production and the “Strange Fruit” samples and all the rest, there has been much less discussion of the profound dancehall influence on the album. Not only is the overall sound of the record—stripped-down, hard-edged, digital—very much representative of a dancehall asesthetic, but is full up of dancehall reggae samples.
First comes “I Am A God” which features a generous chunk of Capleton’s “Forward Inna Dem Clothes.” About how wearing a “tall skirt” can show you what life’s really worth. A few tracks later Assassin contributes an all-new verse to “I’m In It,” bringing some intelligent gangster argument to the mix. The hottest segment of Popcaan’s intro to “Blocka” by Pusha T—the part about how “None of them no have the guts to buss the AK”—is chopped and screwed into “Guilt Trip.”
On “Send It Up,” the chorus to Beenie Man’s “Memories” (aka “Stop Live Inna De Pass”) runs twice near the end of the song. And finally, on “Bound 2,” Kanye gives us a hint as to his choice of holiday retreat. “How you gonna be mad on vacation?/Dutty wine around all these Jamaicans…” No, Yeezus isn’t all the way Major Lazer-ed out, but Kanye’s deployment of so much dancehall sonics makes it clear that “Mercy” was no fluke and Jamaican sound system music continues to exert a powerful, if mostly under-the-radar, influence on its American nephew hip-hop.
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urge that motivates you.
Keep the channel open.
— Martha Graham (via metaconscious)
Notable quotes from Behind Kanye’s Mask by Jon Caramanica
On receiving recognition for one’s work: “Anytime I’ve had a big thing that’s ever pierced and cut across the Internet, it was a fight for justice. Justice. And when you say justice, it doesn’t have to be war. Justice could just be clearing a path for people to dream properly. It could be clearing a path to make it fair within the arena that I play. You know, if Michael Jordan can scream at the refs, me as Kanye West, as the Michael Jordan of music, can go and say, ‘This is wrong.’”
On the 2007 Grammy Awards: “I remember when both Gnarls Barkley and Justin [Timberlake] lost for Album of the Year, and I looked at Justin, and I was like: ‘Do you want me to go onstage for you? You know, do you want me to fight…’”
On his attitude that has led to infamous outbursts: “It’s only led me to complete awesomeness at all times. It’s only led me to awesome truth and awesomeness. Beauty, truth, awesomeness. That’s all it is.”
On his relationship with the public: “I don’t have some type of romantic relationship with the public. I’m like, the anti-celebrity, and my music comes from a place of being anti.”
On the connection between art and pain: “Creative output, you know, is just pain. I’m going to be cliché for a minute and say that great art comes from pain. But also I’d say a bigger statement than that is: Great art comes from great artists. There’s a bunch of people that are hurt that still couldn’t have made the album that was super-polarizing and redefined the sound of radio.”
On the duplication of his sound: “There are people who have figured out the exact, you know, Kanye West formula, the mix between Graduation and 808s, and were able to become more successful at it.”
On the evolution of his sound: “I used to have tracks that sounded like Timbaland; I had tracks that sounded like [DJ Premier]. But Jay-Z was an amazing communicator that made the soul sound extremely popular. And because I could make the soul sound in my sleep, it finally gave me a platform to put the message that my parents put inside of me and that dead prez helped to get out of me and Mos Def and [Talib] Kweli, they helped to get out of me: I was able to put it, sloppily rap it, on top of the platform that Jay-Z had created for me.”
On how his upbringing as influenced his sound: “…I am my father’s son. I’m my mother’s child. That’s how I was raised. I am in the lineage of Gil Scott-Heron, great activist-type artists. But I’m also in the lineage of a Miles Davis — you know, that liked nice things also.”
On relationship with Kim Kardashian: “Any woman that you’re in love with or that loves you is going to command a certain amount of, you know, energy. It’s actually easier to focus, in some ways… I’m the type of rock star that likes to have a girlfriend, you know? I’m the type of soul that likes to be in love and likes to be able to focus. And that inspires me.”
On upcoming fatherhood: “Well, I just don’t want to talk to America about my family. Like, this is my baby. This isn’t America’s baby.”
On his confidence in music and fashion: “The longer your ‘gevity is, the more confidence you build. The idea of Kanye and vanity are like, synonymous. But I’ve put myself in a lot of places where a vain person wouldn’t put themselves in.”
On his dedication to fashion: “The passion is for people. The passion is for the 18-year-old version of myself. The passion is for the kids at my shows. I need to do more. I need to be able to give people more of what they want that currently is behind a glass. I don’t believe that it’s luxury to go into a store and not be able to afford something. I believe luxury is to be able to go into a store and be able to afford something.”
On meeting resistance in the fashion industry: “I’ve had meetings where a guy actually told me, ‘What we’re trying to figure out is how we can control you.’ In the meeting, to me! Why do you want to control me? Like, I want the world to be better! All I want is positive! All I want is dopeness! Why would you want to control that?”
On comparing himself to Steve Jobs: “I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it’s like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z.”
On being a cultural linchpin: “I think that’s a responsibility that I have, to push possibilities, to show people: ‘This is the level that things could be at.’ So when you get something that has the name Kanye West on it, it’s supposed to be pushing the furthest possibilities. I will be the leader of a company that ends up being worth billions of dollars, because I got the answers. I understand culture. I am the nucleus.”