Decoding Kanye West's 'Waves': A Guide to His Star-Studded Notepad
Yeezy Season is in full effect. Over the past month, Kanye West (and his high-profile collaborators) have dropped social media clues about the upcoming release of 'Ye's seventh studio effort Waves, due Feb. 11.
In-studio photos with hip-hop’s power players offered timelines a sneak peek into West's VIP invite-only recording process. Similar to his prior albums, the Chicago rapper has kept a tight lip about the features while piecing together the LP he deems “the album of the life.”
Since 2014, West has been bouncing back and forth with ideas for the album, formerly known as So Help Me God and Swish. When the 38-year-old MC finally shared his handwritten track list on a legal pad, doodles and signatures showcased the album's evolution as artists, celebrities and his creative team signed into his wavy sessions.
Here, Billboard carefully dissects the scrawled sheet of autographs for a Who's Who guide to West's Waves. See the latest track list and the heavy-hitters involved below.
The Track Lists
On Jan. 24, 2016, West released a simple version of the track list with the following:
Father Stretch My Hands
No More Parties In L.A.
(Note: Kylie Jenner was there and the album was still titled Swish)
So happy to be finished with the best album of all time pic.twitter.com/JBWa8OWvqw— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 25, 2016
Three days later, Mr. West broke up the album into three acts and debuted the third album name Waves:
Famous (formerly titled "Nina Chop")
Father Stretch My Hands (Pt. 1 – Pt. 2)
No More Parties in LA feat. Kendrick Lamar
Fade feat. Ty Dolla $ign and Post Malone
Real Friends feat. Ty Dolla $ign
Wolves feat. Sia and Vic Mensa
Ultra Light Beam
(Not listed: “Only One”; “FourFiveSeconds”; “All Day”; “Feel Like That”; “Facts”)
Andrew Dawson: An esteemed Grammy Award-winning producer, engineer and mixer who has worked on every Kanye West album.
Mike Dean: Legendary Houston producer/engineer/instrumentalist known for his work with Rap-A-Lot Records and pioneering the Dirty South in the ’90s. He’s now Kanye’s right-hand. Recently, he added his touch on Travi$ Scott’s Rodeo and Tyga’s The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty.
Swizz Beatz: The superproducer ‘Ye calls “the monster.”
The monster pic.twitter.com/N1F3QFmRws— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 22, 2016
Noah Goldstein: Another engineer and mixer part of ‘Ye’s G.O.O.D. Music team. He’s worked closely with Kanye since 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Charlie Heat: The newest member of G.O.O.D. Music was one of the producers credited on Kanye’s “All Day,” and worked on songs by the likes of Pusha T and Vic Mensa.
Anthony Kilhoffer: Another frequent Kanye collaborator who recently contributed to 2013's Yeezus as an engineer.
Plain Pat: The producer and songwriter who once managed the early careers of Kanye and Kid Cudi. He’s been heavily involved with Allan Kingdom, developing his talents and molding his sound as heard on his Northern Lights mixtape.
DJ Dodger Stadium: The duo comprised of Samo Sound Boy and Jerome LOL are fixtures of Los Angeles’ eclectic house/electronic scene.
“Elon”: Elon Rutberg, writer/director who has a deep history with Kanye. 2012's Cruel Summer short film -- which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival -- was based on a screenplay written by Rutberg. He also served as a creative consultant and associate director on the video for “N----s in Paris.” According to his Instagram, his current role for Kanye: the director for media and content creation of DONDA.
“Sox” (The Social Experiment): A musical collective consisting of Nico Segal a.k.a. Donnie Trumpet, Chance the Rapper, Peter Cottontale, Greg Landfair Jr. and Nate Fox.
“Vicious” (Che Vicious a.k.a. Che Pope): The former president of G.O.O.D. Music is best known for co-executive producing Yeezus, co-producing “Bound 2” and executive producing the label’s 2012 compilation set Cruel Summer. He currently holds the title as A&R for G.O.O.D. Music.
2 Chainz: 2 Chainz appeared on Cruel Summer for the standouts “Mercy,” “The Morning” and “The One.” Over the weekend, the Atlanta rapper shared muted (and unmuted) Snapchats that previewed snippets of Waves during a jam-packed studio session.
“A$VP”: The insignia of the Harlem outfit A$AP Mob, which comprises of A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Twelvyy and more.
A$AP Rocky: Rocky and ‘Ye collaborated on “Jukebox Joints” on Pretty Flacko's 2015 At. Long. Last. A$AP, as well as Pusha T’s “M.P.A.” off King Push: Darkest Before Dawn – The Prelude.
Andre 3000, Kanye and Kid Cudi in he studio tonight. pic.twitter.com/N9OxCIHN3Y— TeamKanyeDaily (@TeamKanyeDaily) January 30, 2016
Andre 3000: The OutKast member and 'Ye are mutual fans of each other. A bit of the backstory behind his appearance: According to TMZ, Dre allegedly ordered an Uber Pool by accident while on his way to see Kanye in the studio. He met a fan and invited her to come along. Talk about G.O.O.D. timing.
Kid Cudi: Cudder may have split from G.O.O.D. Music but he’s still down with the team. Cudi’s last appearance on a Kanye project was MBDTF.
Puff Daddy: The iconic hip-hop mogul boasts the biggest, brightest signature of the bunch.
The-Dream: The-Dream is a producer, singer and songwriter that appeared on the notepad after Kanye changed the album name from Swish to Waves. “1977 Kids” likely refers to their birth years (Kanye was also born in ’77).
El DeBarge: The cursive signature with “2016” could be El DeBarge, whose last effort was 2010's Second Chance.
Kirk Franklin: West’s scathing tweets aimed at Wiz Khalifa revealed one interesting tidbit about Waves: “This album is actually a Gospel album.” To keep in theme with the tweet, Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Kirk Franklin was photographed alongside 2 Chainz, French Montana, A$AP Bari and more. Is an “All of the Lights”-esque record about to go down?
Doug E. Fresh: The first human beatbox of rap is a respected veteran among generations of MCs. If this man lays down something for Waves, imagine the endless combination of freestyles.
How to Dress Well: In very small print, there are the initials “T.K.” in the space between Swizz Beatz and The-Dream’s signatures. Kanye to The—one of the largest fan forums for the rapper—claims it is Tom Krell, who also goes by How to Dress Well. They theorize Dawson pulled him into one of ‘Ye’s sessions and How to Dress Well’s tweet supports the idea.
Listening to my new music at unspeakably loud volumes w @MrAndrewDawson --------— tom boy 2016 (@HowToDressWell) January 28, 2016
CyHi the Prynce: West called on the G.O.O.D. Music signee -- and co-writer on a number of Yeezus songs -- possibly for last-minute tweaks.
Chance the Rapper: Chicago represent! Radio personality Big Boy hinted the pair has something in the works and all signs point to it being called “Good Ass Job.”
Good ass job— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) January 25, 2016
Earl Sweatshirt: The lyrical beast could also be lending his services to Waves.
Tyler, the Creator: Odd Future’s kooky leader did the unthinkable on his last album Cherry Bomb by pairing vintage-sounding Kanye and Lil Wayne on “Smuckers.” *Insert wave emojis*
The Creative Associates
Tracey Mills: Mills is the face behind the brand VENUSxMARS. But more importantly, he left his position at Ed Hardy to work for Kanye full-time on his Yeezy collection. His Instagram is a direct line to Kanye. Remember, he’s the guy who blessed the world with the first time Kanye tried on a pair of Yeezy Boosts.
Vanessa Beecroft: Italian artist who has helped Kanye established himself in the art world with a unique aesthetic in recent years. A few notable instances of their work together: his “Runaway” short film, the stage setup for the Yeezus tour, and the visual direction of “Only One.” She will also perform for the Yeezy 3 fashion show and Waves world premiere at New York's Madison Square Garden on Feb. 11.
A$AP Bari: The co-founder of the A$AP Mob and creative mastermind behind VLONE.
The Industry Players
Big Boy: The host of Big Boy’s Neighborhood on Real 92.3 in Los Angeles. They've also freestyled together.
Fonzworth Bentley: Yes, the Fonzworth Bentley. Puffy’s former personal assistant and valet has transitioned into songwriting. His most recent accomplishment was appearing on Yeezus, specifically on tracks like “On Sight,” “Black Skinhead,” “I am a God,” and “Hold My Liquor.”
J. Sakiya Sandifer: In 2009, Sandifer and West teamed up for Thank You and You’re Welcome, a handy dandy page-turner that offers 'Ye's optimistic philosophy on life. He’s kept a close relationship with Yeezy ever since, carrying writing credits on Yeezus.
“Bu”: This is probably Abou "Bu" Thiam, the brother of Akon and co-CEO of Konvict Muzik. The OG A&R, Bu also oversaw the recording process of Hov and Yeezy’s Watch The Throne.
“World Famous”: The World Famous Tony Williams. His name is outlined in red again since previous notepad pics suggest he's been in multiple sessions. The soul/R&B vocalist has contributed to a lot of West’s albums over the years, including College Dropout and Late Registration.
Dion Watkins: A veteran video director who directed visuals for West, Andre 3000, Faith Evans and Charlies Hamilton, to name a few.
Kylie Jenner: ‘Ye’s sister-in-law. If you think about it, Kylie technically released the tracklist with Kanye since she was the first signature. Save her a spot in the liner notes?
Kim Kardashian: His wife. She’s in the studio so much that she signed it twice. (See: Kim K.)
Kourtney Kardashian: Refer to Kylie.
“KoKo Lives”: Khloe Kardashian. Studio vibin’.
Studio Vibes pic.twitter.com/snOeNeb4Fh— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 27, 2016
The Others (Who May Make The Album But Aren’t On the Notepad):
G.O.O.D. Music (Big Sean, Travi$ Scott, Pusha T, Consequence, Malik Yusef)
Justin Vernon of Bon Iver
I'm partially responsible here, sorry heh. #waves— Hudson Mohawke (@HudMo) January 27, 2016
Mike WiLL Made-It
Drake: While the 6 God may have criticized Kanye’s pool size on “Summer Sixteen,” that shouldn’t stop the two from making good music. There’s speculation that Drake will appear on a remix to “No More Parties in LA.” ‘Ye and Drizzy both shared the same vinyl cover of Larry Graham’s “One in a Million You” (it’s actually sampled on “No More Parties in LA”) on social media on different occasions.
Uncle Larry is with us in the lab pic.twitter.com/FCRiOtrZP1— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 23, 2016