The past fortnight has seen Kanye West release two new albums – three if you count Pusha T‘s new record, which West returned to beat-making duties for, and there are two further Kanye-related LPs on the way from Nas and Teyana Taylor. Yeezy season indeed, but – unlike most of Yeezus’ previous offerings – neither ‘ye’ or ‘Kids See Ghosts’ has received universal acclaim from fans nor critics.
‘ye’, Kanye’s solo offering and the eagerly-anticipated ‘Life Of Pablo’ follow-up, the first of the divisive pair, was released on June 1. Seven tracks in length, it divided both critics and fans. NME‘s Douglas Greenwood noted how it lacked “the profundity of ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ and the audacity of ‘808s…’ or ‘Yeezus'” and that while “succinct and easy to swallow”, it left listeners “wish[ing] there was a little more to it.”
Its companion record of sorts, the also-seven tracks long Kid Cudi collaboration ‘Kids See Ghosts’, was more warmly received. NME‘s Jordan Bassett called it “a brief glimpse into another world” and a “uniquely meditative, self-accepting album”. Still, this was a record that could “hardly help but feel slight” and that saw its creators “looking back over the vast distance they’ve travelled”, rather than pushing music forward, as we’ve come to expect.
Of course, not every Kanye album has to be perfect, and the rapper himself has stated that he’s mastered perfection and is no longer striving for that. West has also recieved praise for releasing lean and tailored albums in an age of overfilled releases intended to dominate streaming charts.
The fact remains: Kanye’s has released two quite good albums. Not great, not terrible, but simply quite good. This led us to think that if you cut and chopped them up, spliced them back together again, gave them a little Rick Rubin-esque edit and restructure, could you come up with an undeniably great Kanye album? We gave it a go and present to you ‘Ye Sees Ghosts’, the most complete edit of the twin releases that we could assemble.
How the albums work together
As previously mentioned, ‘ye’ and ‘Kids See Ghosts’ can be seen as companion albums in a multitude of ways. Both address emotional turmoil, psychological struggles, family issues, self-grandiosity and the overcoming of strife. They are also both among Kanye’s most personal records, definitely his most inward-looking releases since ‘808s & Heartbreak’. While ‘ye’ could be considered more as an airing of grievances, ‘Kids See Ghosts’ sees both Kanye and Cudi in more meditative moods. Together, they present a more whole representation of Kanye as both an artist and person.
Which tracks are out?
Releasing two seven-track albums would lead you to think that every single one of the 14 tracks would be all killer – hit after hit with no filler. This was true of Pusha’s foot-on-pedal onslaught ‘Daytona’, but not the case with ‘ye’ or ‘Kids See Ghosts’. There are definitely some standout tracks across both record that hold up next to Kanye’s all-time best (‘Ghost Town’, ‘No Mistakes’, ‘Reborn’), but there are sadly also a couple duds.
The closing track from ‘ye’, ‘Violent Crimes’ can’t even be saved by a star-turn from 070 Shake, the latest Kanye protege who steals the show a song earlier on ‘Ghost Town’. A “fathers of daughters” ode, it sees West paternally praying that his offspring grow up with bodies “draped more like mine and not like your mommy’s”, later imagining the troubles to come in this digital age: “Curves under your dress, I know it’s pervs all on the net / All in the comments, you wanna vomit”. Clearly Kanye means well (and openly admits that he’s just being “silly”), but it can’t help come across as a little creepy, so that one’s out.
We can also lose ‘Fire’ from ‘Kids See Ghosts’, which sees Kanye tread water lyrically over a verse that stretches to only six lines. “Well, it took me long enough to rap on this strong enough,” Kanye later spits on the record’s title-track and he could probably be referring to his below-par offering on ‘Fire’. Thus, we’ve ditched that one too.
Binning the above leaves us with 10 pretty strong tracks, but we decided to throw in another (because we’re nice like that). ‘What Would Meek Do?’, from Pusha’s album, makes the cut, addressing the same issues as much of the more confrontational side of ‘ye’ and with a guest spot that’s as tight as any verse on either of his own records. “Seven pill nights, you know what that feel like? / No more hidin’ the scars, I show ’em like Seal, right?,” West raps with a true sense of urgency, even throwing in a playful “poop, scoop” for good measure.
How we decided on the track order
Kanye recently revealed in an interview that he was diagnosed with an unspecified “mental condition” at the age of 39 and his album artwork for ‘ye’ refers to this, featuring the punning text: “I hate being Bi-Polar / its awesome”. On ‘Yikes’, West exclaims, “that’s my bipolar shit”, referring to it as a “superpower” rather than a “disability”. Many critics have noted how Kanye appears to recreate the feeling of both mania and depression within ‘ye’, from the unbridled highs of the opening tracks to the more introspective closing tracks. ‘Kids See Ghosts’ follows such a similar structure to, opening with Kanye’s brash – and hypnotic – Big Shaq-like yelps on ‘Feel The Love’ to self acceptance of ‘Reborn’. We’ve tried to order the tracklist to recreate this artistic structuring.
Beginning with both ‘I Thought About Killing You’ and ‘Feel The Love’, two of Kanye’s most stark album openers ever, we then move onto ‘Yikes’, ‘4th Dimension’, ‘All Mine’ and ‘What Would Meek Do?’, four of Kanye’s most braggadocio-filled tracks that see Kanye address his recent controversies with little sense of repentance.
The playful ‘No Mistakes’ then bridges the gap between the defiant introduction and the more remorseful tone to come. The middle portion is occupied by the euphoric two-parter of ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘Freeee’, which operate as both a musical and emotional catharsis, with Kanye confronting his demons and emerging stronger.
The final third depicts a more reflective mood. On ‘Wouldn’t Leave’, West apologises for causing his loved ones stress and strain, while on ‘Reborn’, a strong-willed and onward-looking track that we’ve chosen as our closer, Kanye reflects being “engulfed in shame” as Cudi sings in the song’s chorus: “I’m so reborn, I’m movin’ forward”.
How does it compare to Kanye’s best?
Not as unwieldy and unwinding as ‘The Life Of Pablo’, nor as succinct as ‘Yeezus’, merging both ‘ye’ and ‘Kids See Ghosts’ does perhaps provide something greater and more fulfilling than the sum of its parts. You’re welcome!