When the New Year begun, I remember the excitement for Kanye’s “Only One.” It was the pre-play excitement, when your mind creates that assumption you'll soon be getting an earful of genius. The ball was about to drop in Times Square, champagne corks would be colliding with the ceiling in seconds and the internet was in a frenzy over Kanye’s new single with Paul McCartney. Yeezus had aligned himself with a legendary Beatle, how could the results be anything less than a thousand flame emojis? I imagine Kanye sitting at home, cradling his daughter in an ancient, gold and crimson throne with a smile that can be found on the face of Lex Luger after plotting the demise of Superman. It’s the face of domination, the smirk of a man who knows his era is beginning. 2015 was going to be Kanye's year, he seemed poised and determined to regain the throne even he admitted he had lost. YEEZY SEASON WAS UPON US!!!
And......it's June, and here we are. We are officially five full months into 2015 and while Kanye has been popping up with new music regularly, almost entirely via guest verses, I’m completely underwhelmed. His upcoming album is largely a mystery floating off into a distant fog. So far, Kanye season has been a long one that’s threatening to stretch into meaninglessness.
We want Kanye to be the mad scientist that emerges with innovation every time he leaves his laboratory. His history of brilliance and passion for creating is why each release fills us with hope that he’ll soon be transcending modern music with the sound of tomorrow. Some will even settle for the sounds of yesterday if he goes back to looping soul samples and rapping about daughters name Alexis. His presence in entertainment this year has felt grandiose and overly artistic. For exampling, attempting to turn a heartfelt lullaby for his daughter into a single that should’ve never left the nursery. It’s a song you want to like, but truthfully fails to resonate. “Wolves,” the fan demanded single, has failed to ever reach iTunes. For a while the Saturday Night Live’s 40th Anniversary performance was suitable, watching as he crawled around with Sia and Vic Mensa, but that didn’t last long. Now the song feels mythical, like the one Kendrick performed on the Colbert Report. Maybe I’m missing the bigger picture and 'Ye has some grand artistic vision I just can't see yet, but we are in June and both "All Day" and "Wolves" have sunk in beneath the surface of this year's new music. I would’ve forgotten all about “Wolves” completely if it wasn’t for Martin Torres.
Rihanna’s “FourFiveSeconds” kept the momentum going, showing that Kanye and Paul seemed to be working as a duo. I know he’s music history, but I’m having a hard time seeing the hype in their union. Still, it felt like something huge was building, and then Kanye surprised us with a performance of “All Day” at the Brit Awards. The stuffy crowd might not have enjoyed the performance but the fans were ecstatic. It felt powerful, glorious, flamethrowers shooting streaks of fire while 30 grime artists dressed in all black mobbed on stage with Ye. It’s also the first record that was rap driven, there was triumphant energy that would surely be anthemic. Again, from the bowels of the internet, screams for an official release were heard. The prayers were answered in early March but after giving the song a few spins, it didn’t give me the same feeling of the performance. Like Lil Wayne’s performance of “Gossip” at the B.E.T Awards, there was an enormous hype, when it was finally released, listeners were disappointed at the lackluster recording in comparison to the stage performance. “All Day” didn’t conquer Billboard, only charting 15, and didn't make much of an impact in the culture. It was still a hit, best believe it will be heard in stadiums and barbecues and commercials, but the anticipation was bigger than the actual release, a reoccurring phenomenon I’ve witnessed with modern music, but this is Kanye, if he sneezes on a beat it supposed to have longevity.
You shouldn’t judge a book by its movie or an album by its singles, and I wanted Kanye’s album before I made any further judgements. In March, Kanye announced the title, So Help Me God, along with the artwork and “All Day” release. He went on the interview circuit, even hinting at a surprise release. Rumors spread that the album was sent to Def Jam back in early March. In his interview with Montreality, Theophilus London claimed the album has been finished but Kanye was changing it daily. The anticipation escalated, what’s more exciting than waking up to a possible Kanye album? He didn’t need a hit single, he was a tweet away from exploding the internet. We waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. Kanye decided to change the title in May, it’s now unfortunately titled, Swish, and that's been the only information on the album front we have. Did Def Jam demand a hit single before they put out the album? Did he scrap the entire project and start anew? For someone so calculated and detailed driven, the lead up to the album has felt clumsy and freestyled so far.
Is Kanye losing his touch? I’ve been pondering this all weekend. He seems to be passionate about rapping again, his countless features is proof of this. There’s hope that he’s tapping back into his zone, Vic Mensa’s “U Mad,” Tyler’s “Smuckers,” Big Sean’s “All Your Fault” and Rocky’s “Jukebox Joints” are examples. He’s passionate about stage designs, wanting to deliver an experience each time he touches the stage, but while he’s fueled by this creative force he’s slowly resembling Billy Walsh from Entourage. Entrapped in his vision he completely disregards the audience. He’s evolved beyond the idea of simplicity, it’s a gift and curse. All we want is simple. He doesn’t have to put a hologram face on walls to have our interest. Uploading “Wolves” to YouTube would be more effective than performing at award shows as a silhouette.
In the past, Kanye has always been in complete control. Yeezus was an album I questioned, I thought he was losing his mind, and then I saw it on stage. How the songs worked to forward a narrative, how much since they made in conjunction with the rest of his discography, the songs worked better as scenes from a screenplay than an album. That’s why I trust him. He has a big picture that won’t be seen until he decides to unveil. This time, he doesn’t seem in control. I have to believe he has a plan, one that he was building upon, but for some reason has decided not to pull the trigger. One Reddit user did some digging and charted his findings. He took all of Kanye’s albums, and dated all the singles and correlation to the album releases. If we count “Only One” as a single, it’s been six months, the longest that Kanye has ever waited between dropping a first single and the album. And if “All Day” is the first single, it’s still been three months. It’s about time for a second single or the release of his best kept secret.
My theory is that Kanye needs an adversary. How Batman needs the Joker, how Ryan Seacrest needs Simon Cowell, Kanye needs someone to challenge him. With College Dropout he was facing an industry that didn’t believe he could rap. Late Registration was made during a time where the sophomore jinx was a fear, he had to prove he could do it again. Graduation was the beginning of Kanye pushing against the contraints of being "a rapper," his attempts to be taken seriously as an artist, period. 808s he was battling grief and the loss of his mother. He was determined to overcome creative limitations on MBDTF and Yeezus was born from the spite he had for the fashion world, another industry that told him no so he vented to the one that told him yes. Who is he facing now? What must he overcome? I think he’s searching for something. Maybe that’s why he’s been in the company of the young and talented recently. I don’t know what to expect from him, my fingers are crossed that this album will be astounding, but lately it's become hard not to let the question marks pile up. Just what the hell is going on with this album? What is it that Kanye has in store for us? This is supposed to be his year, his rise, but what if this is the year he falls?
[By Yoh, aka Mr. Still Waiting for "Wolves," aka @Yoh31]