NEW YORK — The Yeezus album rollout has been highly unconventional, even by Kanye West's standards. So it's not surprising that on Monday night, 'Ye invited a wide range of media types, fashion mainstays and his closest friends to the Milk Studios loading dock on Manhattan's west side to get an open-air listen to 10 tracks off of his new LP.
"I have an idea on how to sell more music — it's called make better music," West said to the crowd, which included Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Timbaland and New York Knicks star Tyson Chandler.
West has made a living making "better music" and pushing hip-hop's envelope each time out, but whether or not Yeezus is his best work to date is still to be determined. While last night's loud and booming bass made it difficult to pick up on the smallest details of the surely labored LP, one listen was more than enough to establish that Yeezus is Kanye's most daring work.
Chief Keef, Daft Punk and Bon Iver all make appearances, but Yeezus is 100 percent Kanye. "The monster about to come alive again," he boasts over boombastic drums on "Onsite," making reference to his 2010 single "Monster."
'Ye offered no titles or production credits, instead just letting the album play with pretty much no interruption. When it was all over, he played it back again. The entire LP screams creative freedom (sometimes literally, as Kanye wails over tracks like the punk-laced "Black Skinhead" and EDM-driven "I Am a God"). On the latter, Yeezy looks towards the King of Pop and declares himself "the only rapper compared to Michael."
While Yeezus has a clear and distinct electro influence, Kanye also drew inspiration from reggae and dancehall for his latest. One unnamed track in particular features either a sampling, an interpolation or a total re-recording of Beenie Man's hit "Stop Live Inna Di Past."
There are more moments of familiarity, as Kanye blends Billie Holiday's classic "Strange Fruit" with C-Murder's 2000 favorite "Down for My N's." That record went over so well last night that West granted one special request for a playback. "Hov want me to bring that one back," he informed the crowd before hitting the rewind button.
By the time the 10 tracks ended, the invited flock and the uninvited who braved the rain to take a listen just beyond the loading dock's barricades were left with more than a qualitative judgment on whether Yeezus was good, bad or somewhere in the middle. Instead they were left with a unique listening experience, one that may never be duplicated again — especially not by someone as inventive as Kanye West.