After releasing his heavily criticised Nike diss-track ‘Facts’, the public’s speculation of rapper/producer/fashion designer/self-proclaimed god Kanye West as having lost all musical talent seemed to be cemented. With a release date for his highly anticipated upcoming seventh album Swish* finally being provided (11/2/16), some felt that the project would not be living up to the quality of some of West’s previous LPs, if it were to follow the same vein as his lacklustre ‘Facts’. But, Yeezus has finally performed his first miracle.
Through the day, (8/1/16), West uploaded and subsequently removed (due to poor sound quality) a new track ‘Real Friends (Ft. Ty Dolla $ign)’ and a snippet from ‘No More Parties in LA (Ft. Kendrick Lemar)’, three times. Listening to these songs provides instant relief for Kanye fans as they both refreshingly revisit his roots in hip-hop/rap. Whilst his flow may not be as quintessentially hip-hop as it has been on older cuts, we do finally hear Kanye rap again. Recently West has been attacked by Charlemagne and Sway in heated radio interviews, (watch here: Charlemange & Sway), for having his priorities too heavily focused on his fashion ventures and ruling the world rather than making quality music. Both interviewers were of the mind that his deviation to another industry has been at the cost of his music, stating that his fans love him for his music not his shoes. However, perhaps the release of these tracks has provided peace of mind for everybody here.
The snippet’s beat by Madlib and Kanye is riddled with jazz instrumentation and classic hip-hop production – something fans have not heard on a Kanye West track for many years. ‘No More Parties in LA’ appears to feature the same sample from Ghostface Killah’s ‘Mighty Healthy’ that Kanye used on ‘New God Flow’ with Pusha T. I hope this is not simply an honouring of his roots in music, but a path for West to revisit in further beats. Clearly Kanye’s unique madness is present in the track, but that’s what makes West so exciting – his ability to take a tried and tested concept and liven it up. Yet it is Kendrick’s feature here that really steals the show since his verse seals fan’s approval by distinctly labelling the song hip-hop.
Lyrically the first track is weak as Kanye struggles along with predictable rhymes of little substance or variety of style. Talking frankly about his newly formed family and problems with loyalty in the music business, Kanye speaks primarily from truthful facts and passions, but his performance misses the bar in terms of any sort of interesting cadence. Maybe his rapping ability has been lost. Thus begging the question, is Kanye’s music still intrinsically good, or is it just the fact that Kanye’s name is attributed to it that makes many listeners praise it?
Ultimately, West is a musician who approaches music as art. A platform to decorate with whatever brush and stroke the artist wishes. His recent output may not be ‘works of art’, but in continually pushing boundaries Kanye West inspires many. Swish could still be the musical guillotine for Kanye’s rap career, but the release of these tracks suggest that all hope may not be lost for traditional fans.
*Previously entitled So Help Me God. West also states that the title could change for a third time.
Written by: James Wijesinghe