So Kanye West’s album leaked.
The thing about Kanye is that he jumped the shark and stayed relevant. It’s him and Lady Gaga when it comes to present, all-consuming fame at the moment and, as luck would have it, he’s also in the habit of producing excellent music. Everything gets that bit more significant when someone has enough of a profile to be an entire side of the cultural conversation unto themselves.
So Kanye went autotune, went out with that snaky woman, interrupted Taylor Swift and started being more accessibly strange hourly on Twitter. He’s still the guy. If you’re Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj or even Jay-Z, you have a different ringtone for him and you answer with the word ‘yes’. There are a few of these posse tracks on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but none of them are as good as this or as significant as this.
Bon Iver opens proceedings, because Kanye is plugged into the lumberjackcore scene or because he heard his voice with a sampler’s ear and thought ‘with distortion that could sing a hook’. Rick Ross trundles in and calls himself a “fat motherfucker”, in keeping with the be-self-deprecating-around-Kanye trend established recently, then decides 4 bars is enough.
Kanye? He calls himself “the best living or dead hands down”. People will tend to say this from time to time, but it’s different when you’ve got this much cultural (and actual) currency. He also says “have you ever had sex with a pharoah?/I put the pussy in a sarcophagus/Now she claiming I bruised her oesophagus” which is Lil Wayne batshit at best.
Then it’s Jay-Z. There was a time when he’d call himself the best rapper alive every 8 bars or so, and as far as something like that can be true, it was true. But here, after Kanye whose vaguely lazy, self-regarding but ultimately satisfying flow is clearly a cut above, he’s shown up as old. If you’re guesting on something as high profile as this, you don’t get killed, especially if you’re still hanging on to claims of ‘best’, and he’s dead as soon as he starts.
And then Nicki Minaj shows up – 3.30 will get you some of the hook, and then her verse. She does voices, if you didn’t know. Sri Lankan, normalish/reggaeton, nice girl, reggaeton, Barbie, growl, Barbie, normalish. She’s head and shoulders above anyone else on this track, and it’s probably the best verse on the album, in my early stages of listening. Guess what’s rumoured though? She has ghostwriters. Is that just sexism because a GIRL without even an album out managed to dance all over Jay-Z, Kanye West and Rick Ross for about 80 seconds on Kanye’s own track? Put it this way, there’s no evidence either way, and Nicki herself says this:
“I write my own raps, I go in the studio by myself. There are some female rappers who can’t go in the studio unless they have a ghostwriter sitting right next to them,” says Minaj. “I’m the complete opposite—I’ll go in and ghostwrite for someone.”
So that addresses that. As for the rest of the album, it’s Kanye coming back to take possession of his evolution of boom-bap rap. It’s a nutcase at the top of his game, lyrically astute but with an odd worldview as divorced from reality as you’d expect from a guy this far away from the real world for this long. The window might not stay open long, but it’s open now and he’s doing it without breaking a sweat.
In other news, Lil B, who is definitely bad milk, put out a mixtape that he claims is the greatest mixtape of all time. He tends to claim a lot of stuff that’s not true though. For example, that he’s Bill Clinton. It’s free.