If it feels like we’ve all been talking about Kanye’s new album forever – well, we have. Before most people had even had time to fully digest Yeezus – a record dark as molasses and just as impenetrable – ‘Ye started talking new album names and surprise release dates.
Scroll forward two years, innumerable title changes and one insight into Kanye’s bedroom preferences, courtesy of Amber Rose, and hype around the record has built to proportions that rival even its author’s ego.
So why not weigh in?
It Will Be The Greatest Album Of All Time
There have been hints, amid Kanye’s usual pre-release bluster, of a newfound humility. A few weeks back, when he tweeted the new album’s hand-scrawled tracklist, he bookended it with his relief at having finally finished “the greatest album of all time”.
Cue torches being fired up and probably somebody, somewhere, launching an online petition demanding that he get Rolling Stone’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band review tattooed on his back in penance.
But before the hot takes had cooled, and in an act of previously unseen meekness, West backpedalled on that braggadocio, clarifying that he only meant one of the greatest. In the process he also tipped his hat to Tupac, Jimi Hendrix and a rollcall of other all-time greats that he hoped to honour. Which is an act of self-awareness entirely out of step with what makes ‘Ye the greatest artist of his generation.
That one Nike diss track aside, Kanye’s discography is so bulletproof you could put wheels on it and drive unscathed through Aleppo. And if My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is up there with the greatest rap records ever made (and it is) and Yeezus marked an artist at his experimental zenith (name one other commercial hip-hop album that opens with what sounds like 30 seconds of synths being plugged in) then the man’s on an upward tick, from an already lofty vantage, which means you’ll have to excuse our saliva-covered chin.
Best start clearing a space at the top of your album polls.
It Will Be An Ill-Judged Attempt To Exonerate Bill Cosby
But before we actually get to hear it, someone really needs to confiscate Kanye’s phone. A Yeezy Twitter rant is always enjoyable, whether he’s dropping napalm on Wiz Khalifa (sample tweet: “Maybe I couldn’t be skinny and tall but I’ll settle for being the greatest artist of all time as a consolation”) or getting hypebeasts hyperventilating by teasing every detail of the new Yeezy collection.
But occasionally, the thumb slips and ‘Ye’s offerings cross the border from OTT to oh-my-god-did-he-just-try-to-excuse-a-probable-rapist. Because while beefing with Puma – as he did last night after the announcement the brand was collaborating with sister-in-law Kylie Jenner – is par for the Kanye course, the follow-up probably pushed his label’s long-suffering social media executive onto the ledge.
BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!!!!
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 9, 2016
While we’re not going to comment on a still-active court case (hey there, UK libel laws!), we will pause to note that this particular swim against the tide flip-flops on Kanye’s previous dig at a man accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women, on single ‘Facts’: “Do anybody feel bad for Bill Cosby? Did he forget names just like Steve Harvey?”
Perhaps T.L.O.P is Kanye’s efforts to emulate Bob Dylan’s ‘Hurricane’, a record that helped exonerate a wrongly convicted man. If so, well, that’s a punchy move. So let’s just hope it was a late-night cry for attention from a Kanye halfway through his second bottle of Chablis.
It Will Change The Pop Paradigm
A pattern has established itself over the last decade or so: Kanye releases an album, then six months later everyone’s jumped on whatever sound he’d showcased, be it autotune, sing-song rap, kicks and synths ripped from techno bangers, or being all sad about stuff. Yeezy’s inability to rest, his urge to not merely rip up blueprints but then sample the sound of them being shredded, is why he’s Bowie’s natural heir. Even if that’s an idea that makes the petitioners apoplectic.
So what new sound is Kanye ushering in this time? After the phlegm and bile of Yeezus, the signs point mellower. The teased hook-up with Kendrick Lamar, ‘No More Parties In LA’, sees ‘Ye swap vinegar for honey, and his dissection of “rich n***a problems” unfurls, with a wink, over a Madlib beat thick as syrup.
Predecessor ‘Real Friends’ was equally lethargic, Kanye’s lament against snakes tempered with an understanding that, when you’re wearing the crown, traitors come with the territory.
Perhaps fatherhood has mellowed the anger. Perhaps his fashion success has extinguished the flames of self-righteousness. If so, then the prospect of a self-reflexive Kanye, one willing to admit missteps (as he did when, at the MTV VMAs, he hinted that current Kanye wouldn’t have been so hasty to rush Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech in 2009) should make fans weak-kneed.
What does a self-doubting Kanye sound like? God knows, but rest assured it’s a sound that’ll be unavoidable in six months time.
You Need To Listen To Yeezy While Wearing Yeezy
Call Kanye the king of synergy. In an era when albums appear on streaming services by accident, only to be removed, then re-upped seemingly at random (kudos on the release strategy by the way, Rihanna) he’s turned a digital release into a legit event by timing it with the reveal of the equally hyped Yeezy Season 3 collab with adidas, and broadcasting the whole thing live to a global network of sold out cinemas. Best believe the hype.
Now, you could say that offering up a new record and a new fashion collection – especially one that apparently demanded 1,200 extras, which is probably more than each run of Yeezy Boosts – is diluting the message somewhat. But we like to think that this isn’t just a cynical attempt to garner as much press coverage as possible, but rather a sign that clothes and sounds will be inseparable.
Will we see duck boots with built in speakers? A parka that proclaims it godliness when you sit down? Only Kanye knows. But in ‘Ye we trust.