It could be said that June 18, 2013 was one of the most important dates in hip-hop history.
That was the day J. Cole dropped his Born Sinner album; Mac Miller released his Watching Movies with the Sound Off project; and Kanye West unleashed Yeezus: ‘Ye’s best or worst album, depending who you ask.
While Mac Miller and Cole both had fine projects, let’s be real here: that day matters because of Yeezus, one of the most important hip-hop albums of the last 10 years.
On this one-year anniversary, we decided to look back at Yeezus to determine what effect Kanye West’s sixth solo album had on the music scene.
It’s the most polarizing album in years.
No one thinks Yeezus is alright. It’s either a masterpiece or a disjointed mess. The response to the album was strange. Fans were pretty split, with a lot of Kanye lovers saying things like “they want the old ‘Ye back” or “this isn’t really rap music.” (Just head to Twitter now, and put in Yeezus, you’ll see what we’re talking about.)
However, the critics? The critics absolutely loved it. Yeezus was either the number one or number two album on most critics’ end of year lists, from Pitchfork and The New York Times, to Complex and GlobalGrind.
There were no hit records.
You know what Kanye West’s second highest charting single last year was? “Gone,” a song from his 2006 album, Late Registration. And the only reason that song charted was because of a viral video.
Yeezus had three official singles. The rock-influenced “Black Skinheads,” “Bound 2” and “Blood on the Leaves.” Out of those, “Bound 2” was the song that got the most traction. It reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also got a decent amount of spins on the radio. The other two singles bricked pretty badly. And there still is no “Blood on the Leaves” video.
Even Yeezus haters can agree: “New Slaves” is an all-time great rap song.
Despite Yeezus‘ polarizing reviews, one thing stands: “New Slaves” is amazing. Like, an all-time great, flawless song, with a magical last minute and a half. Possibly, when it’s all said and done, it will be one of Kanye’s greatest tracks.
Yeezus songs can move a crowd.
After releasing Late Registration in 2006, and touring with that album, Kanye West realized he needed to make stadium music. Music that could rock in front of 50,000 people.
Yeezus can rock in front of 50,000 people. And the proof was in the Yeezus tour, which was a success critically and commercially. The tour made $25 million and was the second highest grossing tour of the year.
(And this was very much a Yeezus tour. Kanye played every song on the album during the show.)
People aren’t really biting Yeezus yet (with the exception of G.O.O.D. Music affiliates like Travi$ Scott and Cyhi the Prynce). However, Kanye’s album has become the soundtrack for alternative rap. (Or weirdo rap, which is what Troy Ave likes to say.) Over the years, there’s been an audience for rappers who mix their songs with EDM, like Chance The Rapper, Childish Gambino, Vic Mensa, and Danny Brown.
Kanye spent more time explaining Yeezus than any other previous album.
Remember when Kanye West didn’t talk to press? That was ages ago. Ever since Kanye’s amazing NYTimes Q&A, we haven’t been able to get the rapper to stop talking. Especially while trying to sell the Yeezus tour.
Much of the talk was ‘Ye defending Yeezus, saying things like “it’s supposed to be imperfect.”
Kanye clearly won June 18th.
Here’s something interesting: Yeezus had the highest sales that week (selling over 300,000 copies in its first week), but it eventually got outsold by J. Cole’s Born Sinner album (which had a legit hit with “Power Trip.”) And though Yeezus wasn’t the big seller it was supposed to be, it’s the winner of the June 18th date.
It’s the album we spent the most time talking about and obsessing over. It gave us one of the great tours of the last decade and it gave us music (like “New Slaves”) we’ll remember 15 years from now.
What’s your take on Yeezus?
PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY, Giphy