I had three important questions about Kanye's new album: does it sound good in the car, the place where people are probably going to listen to it the most? Am I missing something by only listening to it on headphones? Is it fun to listen to with a coworker who absolutely hates it? Yes, yes, and yes.
(Full Disclosure: Raphael wanted to write about the new Kanye album so badly he made Travis listen to it in a Mazdaspeed3 and took pictures and wrote about it. When someone has something they badly want to write about I don't really care if it's car-related or not although, you could argue, this still is. Enjoy it. - MH)
Since my own car doesn't have a working radio, I hitched a ride with my coworker Travis, who had a new Mazdaspeed 3 on loan from Mazda. Travis, as you will find out, absolutely loathes Yeezus. When I told him halfway through "Black Skinhead" that the album is a relatively-short 40 minutes long, he said, "I can't make it that long."
I'll get to more about Travis later, so let's start with that first question: is Yeezus good driving music? It's not bad, actually, and it's down to the rhythm of the track order. When you start the album, you're all excited like "fuck yeah, I'm gonna listen to some Yeezus, and it's gonna be weird and aggressive and have Kanye yelling angrily about stuff!" That's exactly what the opening track gives you. "On Sight" is as jarring as you'd expect given the hype.
The trick is that in the hatchback Mazda you get a decent amount of road noise. It's about as loud as, like, your buddy's '90s Civic, but way noisier inside than your rich friend's new BMW. This means that the more subtle bits of Kanye's delivery get lost and you only end up with the beat and his punchlines. The good thing is is that the beats on "Black Skinhead," "I Am A God," and "New Slaves" are great. The bad thing is that the only lyrics you can hear are Yeezy yelling about bitches and Yeezy yelling about how he's going to fuck those bitches. If there's some artsy fartsy depth to this record, you definitely don't get it in a car.
After "New Slaves," though, the album really settles down. Midtown crosstown traffic in Manhattan rush hour really, really slowed down about the time "Hold My Liquor" came on, and hung on through "Guilt Trip." It wasn't hard to relax and chat over the songs. When you're driving, you don't want full-bore thrash for a whole album. You need lulls to concentrate on the road and the scenery.
We finally got a few chances to eat up some road (and the 263-horsepower Mazdaspeed 3 does like to devour the road) when "Send It Up" came on. Aside from the fact that King Louie gets the best rapping on all of Yeezus in that song, it works great for winding on speed. The closer, and probably my favorite track, "Bound 2" eases you back down to the speed limit.
On to the second question: are you missing something if you only Listen to Yeezus on headphones? Yes. Bass.
It's not like Kanye mastered this album for rattling the trunk and thumping the concrete, but you're not getting everything out of songs like "Blood On The Leaves" until you can feel them through the seat and shaking the whole car.
I imagine that most of the people who are reviewing Yeezus are hip, young, urban-living rap bloggers. That's a problem because hip, young, urban-living rap bloggers probably don't have cars, because young people aren't buying cars because cars are expensive. So don't trust any other Yeezus reviews, because they just don't get it.
Question three: is it possible to put Yeezus on when you're driving with someone who hates Kanye, or rap in general? Not really. I don't think Yeezus is as outlandish as most reviews make it out to be. That said, I like weird rap, I like minimal no-wave, I like Nine Inch Nails, and don't freak out when people rap about fisting on a record. Once you listen to Black Randy and the Metrosquad squeal about assfucking orgy eels, or to Master P give out crack cooking recipes, everything else loses its shock value. Travis, on the other hand, was pretty much dying through the whole thing.
In the end, you should absolutely get your hands on a car and listen to Yeezus in there, because you're missing out otherwise. If the only people you know who have cars hate Kanye, you probably shouldn't play them the album. If you do, they'll never let you pick the music for a car trip ever again.
Photo Credits: Raphael Orlove, Getty Images (pop-up Kanye)