It’s not regular being Kanye West. Every tweet, every album title, every track list, every fashion design becomes an instant headline. Yet, despite the past month of negative publicity (see: Wiz Khalifa beef and Bill Cosby is innocent tweet), there was no hint of sad Kanye, mad Kanye or even loud Kanye.
At New York’s landmark Madison Square Garden for a combination listening party (new album The Life of Pablo) and fashion show (his Adidas Yeezy Season 3 line), the man of the hour wore a maroon long-sleeve shirt that read “I feel like Pablo” on his breast pocket, black Yeezus cap and a goofy grin. Four album titles and several revised track lists later, Mr. West’s vision had become reality. As the Chicago-bred rapper hit play on Track 1 “Ultra Light Beam” — a soulful gospel rap hym that featured Kirk Franklin, Kelly Price and Chance the Rapper — two large billowy sheets were pulled to unveil an intricate setup for his Yeezy line.
There was no catwalk — though supermodel legends Naomi Campbell and Veronica Webb made an appearance — but rather a stationary display, created by Yeezus tour and Yeezy fashion show visionary Vanessa Beecroft and paid for by Adidas. Models of color stood atop two square platforms as other YS3 models, draped in multiple layers of red, orange, beige, black and gray with expressionless faces, peered into the crowd. (A list of the alleged rules for the models in the show also surfaced on Twitter.)
Flanked by an entourage that included Pusha T, Travi$ Scott, Don C, Virgil Abloh and Vic Mensa, West was the life of his own party. No pamphlets or liner notes were handed out to attendees (though other features included Rihanna and Kid Cudi), but the long-awaited album was an ear party from start to finish. The final product sounded like a collection of ‘Ye’s previous work combined. There were moments of darkness, a la Yeezus, soul claps from the College Dropout ‘Ye and a wealth of shit-talking lines but also a sense of comfort in giving zero f—s about what critics had to say about his music or clothing line. In un-Kanye-like fashion, he kept the mic from his lips and attempted to blow out the Garden’s sound system with The Life of Pablo. Timelines went wild when West name-dropped Ray J, commented on Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna’s alleged relationship, and this one chin-stroking lyric: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/ I made that bitch famous.” He also embraced his meme-dom, at one point rapping, “I love you like Kanye loves Kanye.”
“This album is really a gospel album,” West said during his closing remarks. “It’s been a hard struggle, but I feel so happy, so much joy to be actually following my dreams without people shitting on me.” He ran through a lengthy list of thank yous that included Jay Z, Adidas and the fans who supported the music, purchased the Yeezys and believed in him. At one point, West even blasted the Nike diss “Facts” before hushing “Fuck Michael Jordan” chanters: “No ‘Fuck Michael Jordan.’ I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Jordan. Respect Jordan.” (Jordan had declined to attend his show, according to a photo ‘Ye posted on Twitter.) He closed with a preview of a video game he worked on called Only One, prefacing the heavenly montage with, “The idea of the game is my mom traveling through the gates of heaven.” He played it twice. “I just wanna bring as much beauty to the world as possible. I’m only 38 years old.” He later retreated backstage to be with his wife and kids — his family supported him from the crowd, including Kim, North, Caitlyn, Kris and the rest of the Kardashian-Jenner collective — before passing the aux cord to Virgil.
All in a hard day’s work for Kanye.