Asking this again I see...
808s is when Kanye broke a streak.
A lot of people can't handle unconventionality and I think this is a big reason why a lot of people are turned off by Yeezus. Yet it isn't even that left-field or divergent at all. It’s actually a pretty logical reaction to MBDTF and shares quite a few similarities with it. If you snipped MBDTF's mile-long guestlist and stripped its tracks down to their barest essentials, I think everyone would notice some similarities. What Graduation is to TCD and LR, Yeezus is to 808s and MBDTF. It sort of ties everything from 808s and MBDTF together and regurgitates something at once comprehensive and concise - with a few new twists.
The amateur internet hipsters are smirking to themselves because of their awareness that Yeezus was partly influenced by the sounds of Chief Keef and Death Grips (to them this automatically means that all of a sudden he's pillaging from others and making **** music). Others think that Kanye's shock tactics have gotten old or want him to return to making more "soulful", "meaningful" music (ugh). When has Kanye NOT been about publicity stunts and absorbing ideas from others?! He's practically the Madonna of hip-hop at this stage. I think people are missing the point of what Kanye's all about - and Yeezus IS what Kanye's all about. It’s not the most satisfactory of follow-ups and at times Kanye’s a little hamstrung content-wise but there’s a lot to admire overall.
Kanye's always been a loathsome little hypocrite - that's what so great about him. The only thing people should really be worrying about is the entertainment value and cleverness of his lyrics and Yeezus mostly succeeds here. Kanye's no genius mc but he spits with more conviction and panache than a lot of other dudes.
Yeezus is largely tongue-in-cheek musical and lyrical minimalism (although he could have dealt with this amusingly inconsistent "less is more" aesthetic a little more thoughtfully as far as songwriting goes) that boils down to a pop album in all but song structure (this is where Kanye goads, “Ha, I'm so clever and so much better than you”), i.e., immediate accessibility. It takes 808s & Heartbreak as a stylistic precedent and overhauls it entirely - replacing 808s’ overly-streamlined production, repetitive use of autotune and whiney lyrics with a less diluted overall presentation and balls-out lewdness. Sure, a few of Yeezus’ tracks drag but not to the extent of 808s’. If people can come around to 808s' pretentious murk then they can sure as hell come around to Yeezus.
The album amounts to a deliberately loose middle-ground between pop and experimental music - but an intriguing (and almost fully realized) one - designed to mirror Kanye’s lyrics and capture the current zeitgeist with seemingly minimal effort or regard. Kanye’s ego-tripping off his ability to polarize just as much as he is his wealth and fame. That’s power - hence the title. The title is even more fitting considering that Kanye's always regarded himself as an ambassador of honesty - someone who feels that he's persecuted for real talk. Kanye’s sort of molded his own act through the years and Yeezus is a celebration of the genuine and bogus aspects of his cult.
It can also be looked at as an assimilation of all of Kanye’s musical (and lyrical) whims built around an ultra-contemporary sound and sensibility; the moment where he’s decided he has nothing left to prove at all and simply wants to build on his legacy by crafting records that try to take hip-hop’s underground trends and hipster cliques and emerging subgenres into the mainstream.
Quite a few of Kanye’s verses on Yeezus amount to a collection of potentially offensive statements and blurts. It’s as if he’s setting his real-life dilemmas, outbursts and tantrums to music and this is why Yeezus sounds so compelling to these ears. It’s not how boldly Kanye crafts the tracks that makes the album in any way worthy of art or "genius" - it’s the way he marries his opportune, loudmouth tendencies (interestingly enough, there’s an energized, more substantial militant/political agenda here - one of the few sincere aspects of Yeezus) with a similar musical backdrop that captures a moment in time in hip-hop. If it had more conceptually ambitious tracks such as New Slaves and Blood On The Leaves then it would be close to classic territory.
To finish, Kanye wants to make sure his name is at the top of the pile when we look back at hip-hop’s recent embrace of irony, self-depreciation and pre-release publicity stunts. It's an album drenched in contradictions and loud, unsubtle piss-taking more than anything else; getting wrapped up in it is simultaneously doing it more justice than it deserves and enjoying it as Kanye intended.
It's considerably better than 808s & Heartbreak.