Hip-hop artist Kanye West, who has collected 21 Grammy Awards over the course of his rap career, put an end to months of speculation on Jan. 8 by announcing that his seventh studio album “Swish” would release on Feb. 11.
It has been more than two-and-a-half years since West’s last release, the sonically abrasive “Yeezus,” which ditched his usual sounds for the distorted electronic sounds of industrial rap and Chicago drill music. The aesthetic changes provoked mixed responses from rap fans, but didn’t turn away music critics, which helped make “Yeezus” the most critically acclaimed album of 2013 according to Metacritic.
Much has changed for West between then and now. He married reality star Kim Kardashian in May 2014, and the couple have two children together, North and Saint. He shocked the music industry with another award walk-on in 2015, briefly interrupting Beck as he accepted the Grammy album for Album of the Year. Just a few months ago, he told a crowd at the MTV Music Video Awards that he would run for President in 2020.
Such unusual developments are nothing out of the ordinary for the eclectic, outspoken West. The question: to what degree would these developments, which also include the continued expansion of his fashion career, affect his next musical project?
On New Year’s Eve 2014, West released “Only One,” a soulful tribute to his daughter North. The track, which features Beatle great Paul McCartney, was solemn, emotional and relaxed, with no rapping to be found.
Then the pendulum swung the other way in March, when West released the presumed second single from his upcoming album, “All Day.” This explicit new anthem, which again called upon McCarthy for help, was completely different from “Only One,” replacing soulful electric pianos with booming bass.
At the start of this year, “Swish” finally came into focus. On January 8, Kardashian announced on her Twitter that West would be dropping a new song online every Friday from that point on, the return of a promotional giveaway that preceded the release of his 2010 masterpiece “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
Sure enough, West followed through on the promise that day with the SoundCloud release of “Real Friends,” a return to the personal emotion of “Only One” with far more traditional rap production to support it. He also set the release date of “Swish” as February 11 with a triumphant Twitter announcement.
A week later, West raised the stakes with the release of “No More Parties in L.A.,” another score, with fellow superstar Kendrick Lamar receving the assist. On the track, West turns a bouncy Madlib beat into scorched Earth with a monstrously defiant three-minute verse. “I know some fans who thought I wouldn’t rap like this again/But the writer’s block is over, emcees cancel your plans,” he declares with a weary intonation.
There are a few Fridays remaining until “Swish” officially enters the world, which should help give us an even clearer idea of what to expect musically. Looking at the tracks on the table right now, it appears West has silenced doubters of the album’s quality. All that remains is to wait.
Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, and his favorite Kanye album is "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy." He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.