Let’s face it, there’s a different reality when it comes to Kanye West. Even after moments of potential clarity where it seems that things might be returning to an older version of one of hip-hop’s greatest minds – well, at least artistically – we get slapped back into 2018 and the confusion surrounding the perpetual headline-grabber that is West!
After weeks of teasing his fans with announcements of a new album to coincide with his performance gig on the season opener of “Saturday Night Live,” West apparently had other plans, or thwarted the ones he had.
Based on his most direct tweet days ago about the potential for new music, West announced that the album Yandhi would be released on September 29 during his SNL gig. Its title is a portmanteau of his Ye moniker and Gandhi – the Indian civil rights leader and activist who inspired freedom movements in India and around the world.
Yandhi was being touted by many as Kanye’s rightful followup not to ye, the solo album he released just four months ago in a series of five albums he produced and released in successive weeks for himself and other artists, but to his critically acclaimed 2013 album Yeezus, perhaps the last album by West to be considered a classic.
But the 29th has come and gone and there’s no Yandhi.
We did get Kanye West on SNL though: first in a performance of an f-bomb laced, but otherwise cleaned-up version of his top-10 hit with Lil Pump, “I Love It,” with Ye humorously dressed up as a bottle of Perrier water (Pump was dressed as a Fiji water bottle). Then West performed the more palatable “We Got Love” (below) with Teyana Taylor, a song apparently recorded during sessions for her K.T.S.E. album that was part of this summer’s five-album West series (but the track itself was never released). Taylor noticeably forgets to mouth the song’s opening lines as the backing track plays her accompanying vocal.
Kanye finished the night as the SNL credits rolled with a performance of “Ghost Town,” the best track on his ye album, alongside the song’s collaborators Kid Cudi and up-and-coming female singer 070 Shake.
All three of the song performances received mixed reviews on Twitter and elsewhere. Most notable of the performances was “I Love It,” for which NBC didn’t seem to mind (or maybe they weren’t fast enough to censor) at least two f-bombs that dropped during the current top-10 hit, itself an ill-timed misogynist celebration of loose women during the #MeToo era.
Also of questionable timing was Kanye’s decision to perform the song on the heels of the riveting sexual assault testimonies given last week before Congress by Dr. Christine Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the latter’s bid for a seat on the nation’s highest court (which SNL parodied flawlessly in the cold open skit 30 minutes before West first took the stage). But at least, West and Pump cleaned up the lyrics in the song’s raunchy chorus to “You’re such a freaky girl” from the original, NSFW version.
Yet it was Yandhi that people were really expecting. For better or worse, people either wanted to see if Ye would return to his former genius with the new album, or they were gearing up to troll social media with relentless jabs at hip-hop’s favorite punching bag upon hearing it.
While West didn’t give us the satisfaction by making good on his album delivery – well, not yet anyway – he did manage to deliver more Instagram moments in the form of a post-SNL political rant at the end of his “Ghost Town” performance. It was after the show’ credits were rolled and several of SNL’s actors had cleared the stage while the studio audience remained. It was a moment that was truncated from NBC’s broadcast in some markets, but captured by members of the audience via smartphones and posted to Twitter.
As he pointed to his metaphorical “Superman cape” (the red MAGA cap he was wearing), Kanye talked about his support of Donald Trump, stating that he would have moved out of America a long time ago if he was concerned about racism. He spoke of his “sunken place” and the need for a “dialogue not a diatribe,” and how people should “try love” in order for the world to move forward. He urged people to follow their hearts and not their minds because our minds are “how we are controlled.”
Those words would seem like rational explanations of what’s going on in the head of Kanye West if they were supported by rational actions, both by the artist and the president he supports. But hardly anything West does seems rational anymore.
Think about it, who else in hip-hop name-drops several potential collaborators, concedes a No. 1 sales chart début to another rapper (Lil Wayne, whose Tha Carter V album is expected to début at No. 1 on the next Billboard chart), then flubs one of the highest-profile promotional performances one could make before a national TV audience.
Regarding Yandhi, maybe the pressure of releasing an album on the same weekend as two other high-profile rappers was too much for Kanye. Besides Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V, the rapper Logic also released his new album on Friday, September 28. His YSIV (Young Sinatra IV) has 14 tracks and follows two other Number One albums in the past 16 months.
It appears Lil Wayne will win this week’s sales race and get the year’s 13th No. 1 hip-hop album on the Billboard 200 chart, something Kanye had already conceded with his earlier tweet.
But there was a time when Kanye would not have yielded the floor to another rapper’s album release and instead taken that challenge head-on – and won. Readers likely recall how he bumped up the release of 2007’s Graduation by one week to compete with then-hot rapper 50 Cent’s self-named Curtis album, which debuted on September 11, 2007.
Kanye won that fight by a landslide.
The 2018 Kanye seems to be floundering, fighting mostly with himself as his most recent albums’ release strategies become more and more difficult to comprehend.
Meanwhile, folks will probably keep refreshing their Apple Music and Spotify apps to see if Kanye eventually makes good on what he promised… a Yandhi album that lives up to all this hype.
The hype Ye, of course, generated.