Delivering on his promise to reveal his new album - now titled The Life of Pablo - Kanye West last night took over New York’s famed Madison Square Garden to not only play his anticipated seventh solo album, but also unveil his fourth fashion collection as part of New York fashion week. This is Yeezy Season.
Sponsored by Adidas, whom West bluntly thanked for paying for it all, the night itself played out more like a house party than a high-profile fashion launch. While in attendance the likes of Anna Wintour, and of course the Kardashian clan - who were all kitted out in white fur ensembles designed by French designer Olivier Rousteing - held up the exclusivity we’ve come to expect from a fashion week event. Behind the mixing desk - where West spent most of his evening - it appeared as if the gathering of rappers and friends were more concerned with playing “pass the aux cable” than putting on a fashion show/album release party.
Let’s not get it twisted. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with just playing tunes to your friends and family from a laptop, or a phone - which was the case when it was the turn of Young Thug and Vic Mensa to debut a new record each - but to charge people just short of £20 to watch the event streamed live in a movie theatre you expect a bit more of a show. You expect that high level of showmanship coupled with stunning backdrops, explosive pyrotechnics and a dazzling light show that West usually delivers when it comes to his music and the performance of it.
Instead fans were witness to a sheet being pulled from over the top of hundreds of models - who were told not to smile for the entire event - on two blocks as part of a stage put together by Vanessa Beecroft, while West, alongside names such as Pusha T, Mike Dean, 2 Chainz, Big Sean and Wale, pushed the spacebar on his laptop while occasionally hopping on the mic to address the 20,000+ audience.
Somewhere amongst the frantic proceedings and what looked like awkward conversations between West and a few of the stage managers at MSG, there was some new music. Now being that Kanye West has changed the name of his new album four times already - and changed the tracklisting several times too - you’ll need to forgive us if we’re not entirely convinced that what was played last night was the new Kanye West album.
Standing at 10 tracks in length, stand out moments played from what is currently known as The Life of Pablo included ‘FML’, a track that hears The Weeknd feature after West spits an a cappella verse about how people keep asking for the old ‘Ye, and the dedication to his father, ‘Father Stretch My Hands’ - even if he does talk about a model’s bleached asshole bleaching his t-shirt. There was also a brief appearance from Frank Ocean at one point over some delicately played keys and a deep synth, but what the track was is still a mystery.
Still one to keep controversy on the boil, there were a few lyrics that caught the attention of attentive ears. On ‘Famous’ West raps: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous,” referring to his on/off friendship with pop star Taylor Swift after he infamously gatecrashed her award acceptance speech at the VMAs in 2009. Then keeping with rap music’s contradicting - and at times misogynistic - nature when it comes to lyrical content, on ‘Joy For The Journey’ West calls his own wife a bitch when he spits: “I bet me and Ray J could be friends if we ain’t love the same bitch/ Yeah he might of hit it first, only problem is I’m rich.”
Sounding like a mash-up of his previous three albums - Yeezus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 808s & Heartbreak - there’s nothing new to see on this occasion from Mr. West. Still heavy on the autotune, it feels as if he’s trying too hard to find the next new sound when in actual fact he’s already changed the soundscape of Hip Hop twice. There’s no need to be greedy. Stick with the artistic direction that made fans fall in love in the first place. This new so-called trap sound, leave it to the youngsters.
In all honesty, it almost seems as if Kanye West is trolling the world right now. Okay, so perhaps the Yeezy Season 3 launch was a real thing. The experimental streetwear, which this year saw the introduction of over-the-knee socks and super-luxe fur to the collection, looked pretty legit, and being that Adidas aren’t in the game to throw away money - although some who don’t like the collection might say otherwise - Yeezy Season 3 and its autumnal colours is real. But the authenticity of his supposed upcoming video game (which he previewed last night on the big screen) about his mother flying to the gates of heaven - which seemed kind of disrespectful and had movie goers laughing in hysterics - is definitely in question. Therefore we have to ask, is the album real?
Quite evidently not a gospel album - not in the stereotypical sense at least - even though West still claims it to be, and honestly not “the best album in the world” after hearing it last night, there could be another twist to the story of Kanye West’s new album. While it was previewed last night there’s still no word on the official release date. Is there one? Is this just one big elaborate joke? Or perhaps West wanted to test the waters on a global scale instead of just playing the album to a few record executives in a board room somewhere who might be all about the “yes men” mentality. You never know with Kanye West.
Going back to the intro to the song ‘FML’, people really hoped for the “old Kanye” to appear on this new album. There was a glimmer of hope when he previewed both ‘No More Parties In LA’ and ‘Real Friends’ ahead of the album playback, yet only the latter made the tracklisting, and his summer smash ‘All Day’ was nowhere to be heard. Some people argue that ‘All Day’ is too old to be featured on the album, if that’s the case then why does the autotune-heavy Vic Mensa and Sia assisted ‘Wolves’, that was debuted over a year ago, close the album out? There appears to be no method to West’s madness at this moment in time. What would be really good is if he drops a completely new album to the one we’re all lead to believe is his actual album - one that revisits his boom bap and sample roots. If he did that he would well and truly be the troll MVP.
Will the real Kanye West album please stand up?