The king of modern music Kanye West blessed us again with his presence this summer from atop the throne on which we assume he sits on a daily basis before his twitter rants. In the span of just under a month, five albums – yes five – were released all with Kanye heavily involved, including rapping, singing and production credits. To put that into perspective of how monumental this feat is: Kendrick Lamar has only four studio albums in his discography. This could raise concerns over the level of quality these albums would be able to achieve – however these fears were quickly proven wrong as each album has received critical acclaim with them all boasting at least one track that can be celebrated, which this article will aim to showcase. This list is in chronological order of when the albums were released.
Pusha T: Daytona – ‘What Would Meek Do?’
The first of the summer of Kanye collection was Daytona by Pusha T. In terms of flow Pusha T holds himself up there with rappers such as Tech N9ne and Eminem. Like Tech N9ne and Eminem, Pusha T has the ability to emphasise each word as he raps, making every syllable feel important. This can be attributed to his upbringing in the Bronx New York, featuring legendary artists like Fat Joe and Slick Rick, as well as modern stars such as Cardi B. This flow is what makes Pusha T different in this era of mumble rapping, which is showcased across Daytona but none more so than in ‘What Would Meek Do?’.
The track features a heavy classic hip hop beat, reminiscent of early 2000 underground rappers but with Kanye charm boasting the relentless high hats and sub-base. The track is structured as if it is a court presiding, starting with the statement “Niggas talkin’ shit. Push-How do you respond”. Pusha then proceeds to deliver a vicious verse referencing his past in drug dealing in which his manager was convicted for his involvement in an over $10 million drug ring when 100 pounds of cocaine was discovered; Pusha T across interviews and albums boasts about how he avoided the legal system for his involvement. This theme of crime continues with the clinical line “Angel on my shoulder, ‘What should we do?’ (we do) Devil on the other, ‘What would Meek do?’ Pop a wheelie, tell the judge to Akinyele”. This is in reference to the case of Meek Mills who was sentenced to 2-4 years of probation after taking adderall on set for a music video in New York City. Whether he is emphasising, glorifying or believing the sentence was too harsh, Pusha T makes his view on the judge clear when he tells him to “Akinyele” – A reference to the 1996 song from the rapper Akinyele: “Put it in your mouth”, essentially telling him to “suck it”. Pusha T relentlessly continues his drug-related lyricism across the track, almost too numerous for me to explain without making this article only on this one track.
Pusha T then switches the track to Kanye in a similar fashion to how the track began and Kanye does one of the best things I’ve ever heard. He simply states “Poop, Scoop. Whoop, Whoopty- Whoop!”, referencing his internet crashing track ‘Lift yourself’, which if you have not listened to, do so now, you will not be disappointed. The controversial Kanye talks about his antics of publicly supporting President Donald Trump – a figure that is frequently ridiculed by the rap community and the black community in America. Kanye presents himself in this verse as being someone that pushes his own view without looking at others, a criticism he has against the black community in general, believing they follow each other without opening their own mind. Referencing Tupac, someone who through rap pushed his view against the mainstream media to benefit black people in the US, something that Kanye seemingly believes he is doing. He finally ends the track with how the track began – “How do you respond?”
Kanye West: Ye – ‘Ghost Town’
If you ever want to delve into the deep dark side of Kanye, Ye is your entry. Putting his struggle with Bipolar Disorder in full show with the statement on the cover of the album – “I hate being Bi-Polar it’s awesome” – it puts into full view the state of his mind. Of course he was taken into hospital following opioid abuse and a reported breakdown in November 2016. This is his first album since this incident and does he address it here. The opening track, ‘I Thought About Killing You’, delves into his mind more than any, but it was not his best track on the album so I will not go into details now – potentially one day. ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘Violent’ crimes are in my mind almost inseparable – just amazing tracks. But whilst I fully recommend this whole album, listen to these two tracks at least. If not these two then just ‘Ghost Town’. I beg of you.
Shirley Ann Lee begins the track with the powerful statement of “Some day, some day Someday I’ll, I wanna wear a starry crown”. This is in reference to the book of Revelation 12 the Holy Bible. In this revelation a woman wears a crown of 12 stars, clothed in the sun and moon underneath her feet. Without getting too biblical it does show that one day Kanye wants to be protected by God, as the woman was in this passage. This religious imagery continues with the next verse in which PARTYNEXTDOOR talks about resting like God on a Sunday and relaxing. This statement of “Someday” is echoed across Kanye’s next verse in which he reflects and talks about his past. He references his opioid abuse but speaks about how he isn’t written off and he will continue regardless of what people say about his crash due to his mental issues. Hilariously Kanye mentions how it seems like he “Talk like I drank all the wine”. Of course this is because of the controversy which follows him and he causes, such as the time he interrupted Taylor Swift on stage claiming that Beyonce should have won the Best Female Artist Music Video award.
What makes this song so impactful is the final verse, which in all honesty needs to be at my funeral, or at least on the playlist. “And nothing hurts anymore, I feel kinda free
We’re still the kids we used to be, yeah, yeah I put my hand on a stove, to see if I still bleed, yeah And nothing hurts anymore, I feel kinda free.”
These lines shows how broken the mind of Kanye really is. He uses kids as a metaphor as being innocent and free of hurt, something he believes we all strive to be, a mind set we used to be in. 070, the singer who sang this verse, in Rolling Stone magazine talked about how you eventually bleed after a while of putting your hand on a stove – but it becomes numb, almost free. An idea that haunts Kanye’s mind, something that is explored more throughout the album. But this verse fully encapsulates what I believe this album to be, thus it should be hailed as this albums strongest track.
Kids See Ghost (Kid Cudi and Kanye): Kids See Ghost – ‘Feel The Love’
To those who have listened to the album already may be shocked by my choice of favourite track, but yes ‘Feel The Love’ is my favourite track. This album was the hardest in terms of picking what I believe to be the best track as the album as a whole has been described as Kanye’s best work by many, for me it is the best of the five albums he released. The contrast of Kanye’s flow and Kid Cudi on this album along with how every track on this album could have been the flagship track on most other albums makes this already legendary among Kanye fans. I cannot honestly sell this album better than me saying that it is one of the best pieces that Kanye has ever produced and you should listen to it – now.
‘Feel The Love’ is not regarded as the best track on the album by many, I accept that. But the way it introduces this album I think is just too perfect for me not to place it as the best, also because choosing the first track was the easiest for my sanity. I say that because I have spent the past 25 minutes debating which track to put as my favourite. My conclusion: the first track due to it hitting me hard when I first listened to it, telling the listener that what they are going to listen to is an epic as much as Homer’s Iliad was.
‘Feel the Love’ starts off with low synths slowly building a sense of tension with its slightly off patterned beat before the booming voice of Kid Cudi, manipulated with effects, bellows “I can still feel the love”. Both Kid Cudi and Kanye have dealt with mental illness across the years, but here they still say to their fans, friends and family – that they can still feel their love. Pusha T starts the first verse with his statements calling out all other rappers claiming they aren’t worried about them and they are above them. Something that not many rappers can get away with saying, but Kanye over the years is potentially one of the few who can.
Kanye. Does what Kanye does. And makes gun noises and it’s amazing. This goes on for over 35 seconds, shifting in intensity and delivery of the gun noises. The whole time Kid Cudi still saying “I can still feel the love”. This shows however that despite the madness – hence Kanye screaming gun noises – they can still feel the love of their fans. It’s amazing, just listen to it.
Nas: Nasir – ‘Everything’
Legendary rapper Nas is back! In 2018! What?! That’s the reaction we all had. The rapper who brought us Illmatic, potentially the best rap album ever, is back armed with Kanye. Unfortunately, it’s the weakest of the five albums. Yet, it has tracks that are 11/10, such as the song ‘Everything’ – which is going to go down as one of Nas greatest tracks. If you are a fan of Nas it really is nice seeing him rapping on a modern beat addressing modern black issues in America.
The beginning of the track starts with a simple low thud before Kanye singing in a high key, addressing his belief that we should be empowered for change and not follow the status quo. He sums this up brilliantly with his chorus throughout the song “If I had everything, everything. I could change anything”.
The Dream then sings about how black youth in America should remain strong and not cry, love their scars and what they are. A message I as an ethnic minority can get behind. This is backed by a beautiful choir slowly increasing before taking over in an amazing display of the human voice – in particular one single high-pitch note at the end. The first real hip-hop beat then kicks into place with the iconic rapping skills of Nas on show.
Here Nasir talks about how the media will try and bring down black youth but they should use it to grow stronger. Similar to Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’, Nas comments on the “Vultures”, about the stigma of black people being there to entertain white people.
The track follows a simple chorus, verse, structure with Nas talking about his success as a black man and also the issues which face blacks in America in 2018. The message is something that really needs to be listened to rather than read about in an article. The track is my favourite across the five albums released and I could write about it for days, but I just implore you listen to it yourself.
Teyana Taylor: K.T.S.E – ‘Rose In Harlem’
Teyana Taylor has had a very slow career with her first album coming out in 2014, even though she was signed to Pharrell over a decade ago. She has amazing vocal talent and just like Estelle, Kanye showcases this in this very good project. I hope her career moves on forth from here and this can act as her breakthrough as she really is something special. This project oozes sexiness with it littered with sexual lyrics, which is not my type of lyrics but I can appreciate it. ‘Rose In Harlem’ is tied as my favourite track on the album with ‘Hurry’, but I chose ‘Rose in Harlem’ as it is based on the Tupac poem: ‘Rose that grew out of the concrete’, which should be considered a modern classic in terms of poetry is concerned.
The track begins with a sample of the 1974 track ‘Because I Love You Girl” by The Stylistics, this becomes the chorus throughout the song. This is accompanied by a low-fi jazz beat with drum beat that will stick in your head for days. Teyana then raps with such a smooth flow about going through hardship. When the chorus hits she repeats the lines of the famed Tupac poem to accompany the sample. The track itself is repetitive with a simple structure but it is not a weakness rather it is just how Teyana Taylor generally writes songs. The album itself is not of the level of some of the others Kanye was involved in but it still is very good and is worth a listen to, even if it is just for Teyana Taylor’s beautiful voice.