WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2016|
Posted by: Don Saas
If there's one thing Kanye West is excellent at besides rapping and being one of the top three producers of the last 15 years, it's shameless self-promotion. And good for him. You've got to get your name in the headlines any way you can in this business. Although sometimes Ye's name ends up in headlines for...not the best reasons. But Yeezus has been on his grind trying to get folks hyped for his latest studio record which is due out 2/11. Due to be his seventh solo studio record since the release of The College Dropout in 2004 (this leaves out his Jay-Z collab album, Watch the Throne, and his G.O.O.D. Music collab record, Cruel Summer). This record is Ye's chance to prove that the hip-hop throne is still his after Kendrick Lamar has made a pretty convincing case in the last four years that it's his game now.
Kanye changed the name of the forthcoming record for the second time since it was first announced (what feels like ages ago). The album's original title, So Help Me God (which feels like Kanye excess in the best sense), was eventually changed to SWISH which is definitely Yeezy arrogance but not as game-changing an album title as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. But we've got (presumably) the actual "final, ready to ship CDs in two and a half weeks" title (and the track listing). So what is Kanye naming the record he claims will be the greatest album of all time? Waves. Alright, Yeezy. We're listening.
Jokes aside, Kanye has dropped two great singles in the lead-up to this record, "Real Friends" and the exceptional "No More Parties In L.A." feat Kendrick Lamar. Kanye has reached a point in his career where if he wanted, he could coast. Kanye could release whatever he thinks people want, and it would be purchased in huge numbers and he'd probably get great reviews. He's reached the elder statesman phase of his career and he's only 38 years old. You can't have a conversation about the greatest of all time in hip hop and not include Kanye West. No matter how you feel about him as a person (and my feelings can be complicated), Kanye reshapes hip hop every time he releases a new album. The only other artist of the last twenty years to consistently reshape music as often as Kanye does is Radiohead. It's not even close.
Fortunately, "Real Friends" and "No More Parties in L.A." sound nothing like a man coasting on his laurels...but it doesn't necessarily sound like a man pushing boundaries the way My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus did either. If Kanye's last two solo records were an artist redefining the sonic boundaries of hip-hop (and there's no question that's what he did), "Real Friends" and "No More Parties in L.A." find an artist getting in touch with the intimate roots of his approach to rap storytelling. Kanye has only released two records that were actual duds in his career (Graduation and the G.O.O.D. Music collaborative album, Cruel Summer) so we're hoping that we'll get to sing "Praise Yeezus" when we finally get our hands on Waves in two weeks.