This is a story about Kanye West.
It’s a story about one of the most highly-discussed yet misunderstood sub-plots in the constantly unfolding saga that is Kanye’s career. It’s a mixture of secrecy and over-exposure. It’s a story about Twitter and publicity in the social media age. It’s a tale of what happens when fan expectations collide with an artist's reality.
It’s not the album you're thinking of…
Between "Ultralight Beam," Chance’s clear and vocal admiration, and the OG versions of "Famous" and "Waves," Kanye and Chano have become the most popular creative duo since Rick and Morty. I've warned against it, but it’s getting harder and harder to separate them, especially when it seems like some of Kanye’s story is now being handed off to Chance.
I always considered Good Ass Job to be Kanye’s Detox, Act II, or any one of the countless projects we refuse to pull the proverbial plug on despite their catatonic states. I’ve never paid it much attention because Good Ass Job never felt like more than a few whispers and rumors. Now that Chance is apparently trying to revive the album, though, I figured it's as good a time as any to really get to know the saga of the project, so I traced it all the way back to the beginning.
June 4, 2003: Kanye Details Plans for His First Four Albums, Including Good Ass Job
Trying to find the big bang, the origin point, of Good Ass Job proved very difficult. So many articles and blogs cited "rumors" and never included a quote from Kanye himself, so I was starting to believe Good Ass Job was simply a product of the rumor mill. Then I uncovered an MTV article, "Producer Kanye West's Debut LP Features Jay-Z, ODB, Mos Def," from June of 2003, back when Kanye was just a producer and Jay Z still used a hyphen. Among a few surprisingly candid Kanye quotes - Kanye admitting he's "not the best rapper out there" is astounding considering where he is today - Kanye outlines his vision for his first four projects.
“I’m calling the next one Late Registration,” he said earnestly. “I’ve got this song ’Hey Mama’ I did three years ago that I’m saving for that one. Then my third album is going to be called Graduation. And the fourth is Good-Ass Job.”
There it is, the first time Kanye ever mentioned Good Ass Job, along with other gems like "Hey Mama" being recorded in 2000, how "Keep The Receipt" featuring ODB was supposed to be on College Dropout, and the original release date was supposed to be August 12. I think it's important to highlight the discrepancies between this article and the College Dropout we know because it shows how quickly things can change. Good Ass Job would fall victim to the same forces of happenstance that "Don't Keep The Receipt" did. "Hey Mama" actually making it on Late Registration, as first planned, is a rarity considering how often an artist's vision and plans can change when reality hits.
February 2004: The "Graduation Day" Line
I always have trouble making it through the first part of this record, the skit is so annoying, but if you stick around long enough you might catch a young John Legend croon, "She wants me to get a good ass job just like everybody." This line helps to detail the whole Dropout/Good Ass Job concept. Kanye drops out of school (College Dropout), goes back to school (Late Registration), graduates (Graduation) then gets a job (Good Ass Job). I'd have to imagine Legend's line was in response to that concept, which could have easily started with Rhymefest's 2001 song "Good Ass Job," which was produced by and featured a Kanye guest verse.
August 30, 2005: Late Registration is Released
Kanye's conceptual vision is halfway to reality with the release of his second album.
March 29, 2006: What Are Kanye's Post-Late Registration Plans?
A Today.com article from March of 2006, previews Kanye's plans for his next two albums, and the Dropout into Good Ass Job vision is still on schedule.
Planning ahead even before “Graduation” is in the can, West, who never completed his degree, says he’ll call his fourth LP something most graduates can’t immediately look forward to: “A Good-Ass Job.”
September 11, 2007: Graduation is Released
Kanye releases the third, not quite a classic, album in his planned tetralogy. Now, all that's left is Good Ass Job....
November 10, 2007: Kanye's Mother, Donda West, Passes Away
2007 and 2008 were trying times for Kanye and nothing, including his breakup with Alexis Phifer, shook his foundation more than the death of his mother. He may have had plans for Good Ass Job, but life had other plans and he was forced to adjust. Though we wouldn't get the clarity until later, it was this time period where the Good Ass Job concept veered off course. Kanye was forever changed, as was his music and his plans for it.
September 2008: Kanye Works on a New Album
A Billboard article from September 5, 2008, details Kanye's work on Jay Z's Blueprint III as well as his plans for his own music. As talk of "Love Lockdown" as his next album's lead single shows, nobody saw 808's & Heartbreak coming. As far as the world was concerned, this next album would be Good Ass Job...
In addition to crafting tracks for Jay-Z's upcoming album, "Blueprint III," Kanye West is plotting the release of his own as-yet-untitled Def Jam album, according to his management. West initially named his fourth album "Good Ass Job" several years ago, to follow the thread of "College Dropout," "Late Registration" and "Graduation," however, an official title has yet to be confirmed.
Still, the disc may well hit shelves in the fourth quarter and management says West is seriously contemplating that timeline. Most recently, the MC has been performing a new track called "Love Lockdown," which is rumored to be his first single and to be hitting iTunes in a matter of days.
November 24, 2008: 808's & Heartbreak is Released
Still one of the most polarizing albums in modern hip-hop, I'm wondering if how different and shocking this album felt was affected by people expecting a College Dropout-esque album and instead got an Auto-Tune-laced 808's. Even back then people saw this album as an outlier, a response to his world changing, and a deviation from the course he had previously mapped out from the start. Take a look at this review from 2008:
But how the hell's he supposed to pull off having A Good Ass Job when he's feeling bummed out and heartbroken? He can't. So he takes a leap of faith. He steps out of his comfort zone. He shelves the braggadocio. And finally bares his soul by serenading us with a set of utterly dejected croons about how his life sucks.
December 2008: Kanye Speaks on 808's & Future Plans
If you still doubt the tremendous impact Donda's passing had on Kanye's music, look no further than this interview with Elle (translated from French).
I was singing in my shower but until then, I was afraid that people say I sing badly. When my mother died, I took the leap.
Also of note, while everyone seemed (and would continue) to believe that Good Ass Job was next, it sounds like Kanye had other plans. In that same interview, he detailed plans for yet another, unreleased album that will shock you.
My next album will be called "Winter-Spring-Summer-Fall" and will feature twelve songs and the four seasons, with three songs for each season.
Kanye had another conceptual project?! Oddly enough, despite my loyal fandom, I had never heard of the season-inspired project before researching for this article. Forget Good Ass Job, I want to know what the hell happened to Winter-Spring-Summer-Fall! Is this somehow linked to Cruel Summer and the rumored Cruel Winter album we never saw either?
September 2009: Kanye Reaches Peak Kanye
Similar to late 2007 and 2008, Kanye was quiet on the Good Ass Job front, but it's what happened outside of the music that again affected his plans. Between his many rants and outbursts, and of course the Taylor Swift VMA incident, Kanye's behavior became more and more erratic. It was his state of mind and behavior in '09, that would set the tone for his 2010 magnum opus, MBDTF. Like that review of Heartbreak from above, he just was not in a Good Ass Job state of mind.
February 2010: Big Sean Details Work on Kanye's New Album, Good Ass Job
While the whole Kanye recording in Hawaii is part of the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy mystique, it sounds like, according to Big Sean, Kanye was planning on releasing Good Ass Job. A RapRadar article from February 2010, highlights a Big Sean Facebook posts where he discusses Good Ass Job.
It's very likely Kanye had other plans and hadn't informed Sean of the change yet, but at the very least it shows you that even the people closest to Kanye thought Good Ass Job was next.
July 10, 2010: Billboard Says Kanye's Next Album is "Tentatively Titled Good Ass Job"
Though Billboard did say it was "tentative," this small bit of news shows once again that Good Ass Job was a foregone conclusion.Even with the album just a few months away, nobody, even Billboard magazine, had any inclination that it would be anything but, finally, the fourth album in the College Dropout series.
July 28, 2010: Kanye Announces This Album Will NOT be Titled Good Ass Job
Stop me if you've heard this one before; Kanye took to Twitter to announce an album name change. Though his old Twitter account is now gone, I dug it up in the archives. Among hilarious tweets like "I don't own a phone so no tweets in the club... lap tops are hard to dance with hahahahaaha," and "Watching Avatar on the big screen" was this one:
Now Kanye on Twitter is nothing new and causes more of an eye roll, but, just to give you an idea of how far we've come, check out this blog post about Kanye's new social media account.
Kanye finally caved in and joined the Twitterverse. And you know what? He actually comes across a non-egotistical funnyman...At the end of the day, it appears as if Kanye wants to begin a new chapter in his career. After coming out of hiding he decided to tease some tracks and open up his fan base using the power of social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter. It’s an interesting and unconventional route to take but it’s one I can commend.
Kanye "comes across a non-egotistical funnyman" and Twitter is an "unconventional route" for artists? How quickly things have changed. All jokes aside, this was the death of Good Ass Job. His mother's passing, the subsequent 808's album, his rise to peak-Kanyeness in 2009, and the above tweet were all fatal wounds in the Good Ass Job vision, but this next moment is when it officially bled out.
October 5, 2010: Kanye Tweets New Album Title, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy"
RIP Good Ass Job:
I'm calling bullshit on one thing, though. Kanye says the title "always was" My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Yet following this timeline it's clear that at several points Good Ass Job was at least in the running. Regardless, this was the official death of Good Ass Job and Kanye's four album saga.
October 22, 2010: Kanye Talks Name Change with MTV
Considering it's the same outlet that initially reported the GoodAss Job vision in 2003, it's fitting Kanye shared the reason behind the name change with MTV. If the above tweet was the death of Good Ass Job, consider this the eulogy:
It was long rumored his first post-808s project would be titled Good Ass Job, which would mark a return to the first three albums’ theme of upward mobility and a break from the crooning he delivered on Heartbreaks.
But West didn’t want to be handcuffed by the motifs of his past work. Instead he opted for a title that was — as he put it — “awesome.”
“I remember I just changed it because I didn’t want to do the Good Ass Job thing and have to stick to the skits and everything that went with that,” West told MTV News. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and my album cover are just … those things are just awesome. It’s really proper, decadent, soulful, lavishness, and it’s exactly what I wanna say.”
“Everything has a ’f— off,’ ’f— you’-type attitude,” West explained. “The work that I do, what I wanna express. Even if I go full-on black tie, like super, proper Tom Ford tux. When you see it now what I want you to think I’m saying with my suit is, ’F— you. This is what I want to give you. This is the moment, this is what I created and take it or leave it.’
“And I think that’s why my creations are very luxury in a way,” he continued. “Because if you go into a luxury store, they have it presented exactly the way they want to present it to you. They don’t adjust [to be] more commercial like a Wal-Mart, [or a] Kmart.”
November 22, 2010: Kanye Releases My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
If the earlier tweets were the album's death and the interview was the eulogy, the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the lowering of Good Ass Job's casket. Now that the album was out, Good Ass Job was an afterthought.
November 2010 to 2016: The Afterlife
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy would go on to become one of the most revered, acclaimed albums in hip-hop history, and for the next six years, Good Ass Job would stay buried. The occasional passerby would come to mourn or leave flowers, but as a whole, this project was largely considered dead and forgotten. Until now...
Now that it's all laid out from start to finish, that October 22 interview with MTV is eye-opening. The reality of Good Ass Job is that it didn't make sense, it was lost to circumstance, creative development, and life. Sticking to a seven-year-old vision for a series of albums, despite how much has changed in his life, just didn't make sense. Had Kanye stuck to that plan, catered to the expectations placed on him, we wouldn't have Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Good Ass Job isn't some unreleased classic, it's not as if it's completed and sitting in the vault. The simple fact is Good Ass Job never was an album; it's just an idea that never came to fruition. What we got in its place was a masterpiece, one of the best albums ever created, and yet, somehow, it just isn't enough. No matter how good reality is, it can't escape the shadow of what could have been.
Whatever happens with Good Ass Job, whether it stays buried or finally gets brought to life through Chance, I welcome it, but to think of it as the final album in the College Dropout series feels like a recipe for disappointment. The Good Ass Job we get will sound nothing like the album we expected because the album we expected never actually existed.
Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth. His favorite album is College Dropout but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.
Photo Credit: Clay Patrick McBride.