Tonight, Kanye West premiered his eighth studio album ye for a small audience in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (and a global audience on a WAV livestream). The album features Ty Dolla $ign, Kid Cudi, Jeremih, Young Thug, 070 Shake, Charlie Wilson and a voicemail from Nicki Minaj.
I watched horses and a campfire for two hours before the livestream listening party started. Chris Rock spoke for five minutes, and then introduced Kanye, who didn’t speak. The album just started playing.
As the story goes, Kanye West created the cover of his new album ye—an iPhone snap of a Wyoming horizon with the message “I hate being Bi-Polar its awesome” Snapchat-caption-scrawled overtop—on the way to the listening session where it debuted, hours before it was made available to the public. West had previously suggested that the album’s cover would feature a photograph of his mother’s plastic surgeon, but the chosen image is more fitting: ye is an album of dualities, splits, and intentional contradictions, and it also has a slapdash, unfinished quality about it, like a ten-page paper written in a shaky hand on the bumpy morning bus ride to school.
I appreciate this album for how much quality lives inside such a short amount of time1. The production has so much soul, and the lyrics on the album prove that, no matter how bizarre his personal life is, he’s extremely gifted at turning craziness into brilliance. Kanye never claims to be lyrical, and he doesn’t need to be—but what he is good at is communicating thoughts, whether they’re braggadocios, introspective, or shining light on social topics. On ye, he said just as much, if not more, than he usually does on a full-length album, but in just 23 minutes.
The album is full of features, but it’s blended so well, they’re more like instruments being used. There’s a long list of features, but my favorite is by far 070 Shake, an artist signed to Kanye’s label. She stole the show on the last two songs, where they feel like her songs that Kanye just used on his album. She sings, ”Nothing hurts anymore, I feel kind of free. We’re still the kids we used to be.” Those words feel incredible to hear.
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As of now, I’ve listened to this album about 50 times. It captures a moment in time for me. That’s when Kanye is at his best. I appreciate how none of his albums are the same—even if he doesn’t execute his vision as well as he wants to each time, he never settles for a formula from the past. He continues to innovate and refresh his approach.
”I got the mind state to take us past the stratosphere. I use the same attitude that done got us here.” When I hear that line, I hear him saying to the world, though I’m not always perfect, I’m trying my best. It’s worked this far.
It looks like Kanye has a plan, where all his artist and himself release albums with only 7 songs. Some say that’s too short. I disagree. For the last 5 or so years, my albums have been around 7 songs. A short album has a certain type of impact. It fits with the pace of our current society. Attention spans have shortened, and longer albums don’t fit the current landscape. The average person doesn’t even listen to whole albums anymore. So how does an artist become more efficient? By putting the same amount of energy as before in smaller packages. I think of it less like a full-length movie, and more like a 30 minute Atlanta episode. You have a perspective to show the world, you get in and you get out. No filler tracks. Just cohesiveness. To all the artist that have long albums with tracks that shouldn’t have left the vault or could fit on a different project, copy this style. Less is more.↩
Perfect way to start this album. The story here is about someone self-imploding, but still remaining confident. “Hurt so bad I go numbbbb. […] They’ll say he died so youngggg.”↩
The hook reminds me of 808’s. Feels like the first single. ”I can feel the spirits all around me. I think Prince and Mike was trying to warn me. They know I got demons all around me. Devil been trying to make an army. They’ve been strategizing to harm me.”↩
Also feels like a single. The hook, though I’m not a fan of it, sounds like a hit. And then when the beat switches in the second verse, it brings in a whole different element. As far as lyrics go, this is the weakest song on the album, but I still enjoy this song every time it comes on.↩
“Keep that same energy.” My favorite song on the album. Verse two might be his best verse ever, because it articulates his mind so well: the struggles he deals with as someone who uses his impulsive thoughts to create genius moments, but how it also backfires on him.↩
Reminds me of Good Life, from his Graduation album. The production is so well done on this track, combining many samples that wouldn’t normally fit together, but end up complimenting each other. This verse is my second favorite on the album.↩
I’ll always remember this song for how big the celebration was when this song was playing at the listening party. They should turn that into the music video for this song. This feels like a summer single. 070 Shake killed this one.↩
“Don’t you grow up in a hurry.” Reminds me of Daughters by Nas. Don’t like the choppiness of his verse’s punch-ins, but still a great song. Once again, 070 Shake made this song beautiful. “They gotta repaint the colors. The lie is wearing off. Reality is upon us.”↩