After much fanfare on timelines, Kanye West simultaneously unveiled his Yeezy Season 3 line and hosted a massive listening party for his seventh studio album The Life of Pablo at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Thursday (Feb. 11). For anyone who has yet to hit up Tidal’s live stream or tweet-watch the entire affair, here are some SparkNotes from the ‘Ye session.
Ed. Note: This morning (Feb. 12) Kanye tweeted an updated tracklist with six additional songs (below) and debuted “30 Hours,” which was not played at yesterday’s listening.
The album is being mastered and will be out today… added on a couple of tracks… pic.twitter.com/6lBxcd83N2
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 12, 2016
1. “Ultra Light Beam” shows Kanye allowing powerhouse talent room in the spotlight
West recruited an all-star cast for the album’s opener. With Kirk Franklin helming the spiritual track, Kelly Price also appears with soulful vocals that would make even the least devout churchgoer raise their hands to the heaven. Fellow Chicagoan Chance The Rapper also appears on the standout hip-hop hymn, even twisting a Kanye lyric from “Otis” to his own: “I made ‘Sunday Candy,’ I’m never going to hell/I met Kanye West, I’m never going to fail.” Price shouted out Fonzworth Bentley as the producer behind the cut.
— Kelly Price (@KellyPrice4Real) February 12, 2016
2. Rihanna and Swizz Beatz lend star power to “Famous”
Despite reports that West stepped down as executive producer of her recent release Anti to focus on his own effort, Rihanna offers ‘Ye an alley-oop for the Swizz Beatz-produced TLOP cut “Famous” that also salutes Sister Nancy with the “Bam Bam” sample and Nina Simone by chopping up “Do What You Gotta Do” and letting it ride through the end.
“Famous” has also been shrouded in controversy given this lyric referencing Taylor Swift: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous.”
3. Don’t be surprised if Equinox memberships spike
The Chicago rapper turns life into a SportsCenter countdown by only focusing on his top plays on “Highlights” featuring Young Thug and The-Dream.
Here, Kanye West pulls a Beyonce (specifically that Red Lobster shout out on “Formation”) by giving a lyrical dap to the high-end gym franchise Equinox. “I need every bad bitch up in Equinox,” he raps.
The Auto-Tuned record also includes shout outs to Ray J (West spotlights Kim K’s ex by spitting, “I bet me and Ray J would be friends / If we ain’t love the same bitch”), as well as shout outs to Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian.
4. Kanye isn’t afraid to make himself a target
On “I Miss The Old Kanye,” West takes a dig at the man in the mirror in a Kanye way. He plays both critic and cheerleader, delivering lines like, “I miss the old Kanye,” “I hate the new Kanye,” “See I invented Kanye / It wasn’t any Kanye’s / Now I look and look around and there’s so many Kanye’s,” and the popular meme slogan, “I love you like Kanye loves Kanye.”
5. Kanye West goes emo on “FML” and “Real Friends”
As ruthless as West can be, he knows he’s human. On the reflective track featuring The Weeknd, he keeps his haters at arm’s length while looking out for self: “I wish I could go ahead and fuck my life up / Can’t let ’em get to me / And even though I always fuck my life up / Only I can mention me.”
On the previously released “Real Friends,” West runs through the pressures of being a famous family man. “I’m a deadbeat cousin, I hate family reunions,” he offers at one point. ‘Ye lets every listener become his plus-one on this wild adventure he calls “life.”
6. He’s getting on the Atlanta wave
Kanye tried his hand at rapping over Metro Boomin’s production when he flipped Future and Drake’s “Jumpman” for his New Year’s Eve release “Facts” (which now has been added to the album), and he employs the young producer again for the beat to “Father Stretch My Hands.”
7. Kanye’s got a new protege under his tutelage
Most would be forgiven for admitting that they’d never heard of Brooklyn rapper Desiigner before yesterday, but Kanye cares little for what anyone else thinks. The young MC’s song “Panda” has exploded since its release in December, and ‘Ye interpolates the song on “Freestyle 4,” while G.O.O.D. Music president Pusha T confirmed Desiigner appears on two tracks on The Life of Pablo. Yeezy capped the breakout look by announcing to the Madison Square Garden crowd that Desiigner had signed to G.O.O.D. Music.
8. Nothing is ever finished
Usually, an album listening party is a celebration, a time for an artist to finally showcase their finished product just ahead of its commercial release. But one thing we’ve always known about Kanye — and that he’s reinforced repeatedly during this album rollout — is that nothing is ever set in stone until the album is finally in hands. Not only did ‘Ye switch up the track list this morning after the listening, he re-added songs like “No More Parties in L.A.” and “30 Hours” that had been cut from previous versions and tweaked songs that had previously been released; Vic Mensa and Sia were replaced by Frank Ocean on “Wolves,” and G.O.O.D. Music signee Charlie Heat seems to have put a twist on “Facts.” Only Kanye knows what will end up on the finished album.
West announced that T.L.O.P. would be released on Friday, Feb. 12, on Twitter.