Kanye West's gospel album Jesus Is King may have been delayed indefinitely, but he's certainly not keeping quiet.
September 3rd saw the release of Francis and the Lights' atmospheric "Take Me to the Light," which Kanye appeared on alongside Bon Iver. On Sunday, Kanye performed with a gospel choir in a church in Jamaica, Queens. And today, nine of his unreleased songs surfaced on the Internet—as iTunes ringtones.
Take Me to the Light (feat. Bon Iver and Kanye West) www.youtube.com
In September 2018, Kim Kardashian announced that her husband's next album would be called Yandhi. That album never appeared and was eventually scrapped, or so we thought. But as of today, people can listen to 26-second excerpts of nine songs from the album via the ringtones section of the iTunes store. To own the tracks, you'll need to fork over $1.29 for each.
In the age of streaming and texting, does anyone call each other or use ringtones anymore? It's hard to say what Kanye's up to, but then again, he's been a reliable wild card for years.
There is heavy speculation that the songs were all leaked by someone other than Kanye, meaning that it's possible that these songs reached us illegally. Regardless, this could be the last collection of secular material we ever hear from West, judging by his recent declaration that he'll "only do gospel music" from now on.
So, to match the nature of the brief samples we were given, here's a short, incomplete review of each song:
The first track, "New Body," places a punchy, vintage hip-hop beat and record-scratch sound over a recording of a flute. The song, which features Ty Dolla $ign and Nicki Minaj, leaked in July. Its release comes after Nicki announced her possible retirement from music, so these might be the last bars we hear from either of them for a while.
Kanye West Ft. Nicki Minaj, Ty Dolla $ign - New Body www.youtube.com
"Slave Name" places a triumphant electric guitar solo over chill-inducing choral melodies and flickers of electric piano. In its emotional intensity, it resembles the iconic climax of "Runaway" (though it never quite reaches that level of spiritual grandeur, but then again, it never gets the chance to). The far-too-short fragment now available on iTunes appeared in several versions as a leak and samples the song "Wally Wider" by Delicate Stevens.
kanye - slave name (extended) www.youtube.com
"80 Degrees" puts a trap beat over synthy flourishes and slurred falsetto vocals. You can make out the statement, "I can walk on the water," which goes well with Kanye's new born-again religious convictions. Kanye previously teased the song in a promo video, but this is the first we've heard of its release since then.
KANYE WEST- 80 DEGREES (HURRICANE) FULL LEAK www.youtube.com
"Alien" is all lush, stratospheric synths and spaced-out woodwinds, which seem to be the defining characteristic of this album. Opening with the line, "I won't let them get the best of me," this song is reminiscent of the wide-eyed aggression of the Graduate. It leaked in full in July, but it's tough to find online, so you might be stuck with the ringtone for now.
On "Law of Attraction," Wyoming's newest resident begins with a chorus made up of muddled harmonies. It then veers into a rap verse over what sounds like a car door alarm (which has annoyed some fans so much that one made a version without the beeps, though some firmly stand by the beeps). This song was also leaked in full in July and is sometimes called "Chakras/Law of Attraction." It's a seductive collage of futuristic sounds and autotune, the kind of thing that, ultimately, only Kanye could make.
YANDHI - LAW OF ATTRACTION (WITHOUT BEEP) www.youtube.com
"The Storm" is smooth and glossy, with R&B elements that are almost reminiscent of Drake. "Don't troll yourself," the lyrics say. "Girl you owe it to yourself." Well, that's good advice, but the song itself unfortunately features the late, disgraced rapper XXXTentancion (alongside Ty Dolla $ign), making it somewhat hard to listen to. It does contain the poetic couplet, "We began after the storm inside / leaving then it's just the morning light," but as to whether its lyrical merits outweigh the presence of XXXTentacion (and Kanye's fraught persona, for that matter), that's for listeners to decide.
"We Got Love" features Teyana Taylor. Kanye debuted it on SNL in September 2018, then released the full track on SoundCloud in November, and it can be listened to in full online. It's an ode to success as a protest to struggle. "Love is the new money," goes the chorus—a rallying cry for today's world if there ever was one. A voiceover recording at the end goes, "You can have all the money in the world...but if you can't be a person of integrity while having all these things, then what does it mean? Your value is internal." One would wonder if Kim Kardashian believes this. Regardless, the song seems to indicate the presence of a newly inspired, enlightened Kanye.
Kanye West - We Got Love (Feat. Teyana Taylor) www.youtube.com
"Bye Bye" leaked in July (under the name "Bye Bye Baby") alongside "Law of Attraction." It was the third song on an early album tracklist. It's about overdosing, excess, UFOs, and refusing to take one's meds; and in its chaotic energy, it's most similar of ye and the singles that came out last summer.
As songs like "Bye Bye" highlight, Kanye has clearly struggled a lot. If religion is a way for him to make peace with the world and his own mind, and especially if it gets him to renounce his troublesome political viewpoints, we should all be here for it—even if it means that the best we'll get of Kanye West's secular repertoire are 26-second glimpses.
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