Is Kanye West a master marketer? The recent rollout of his seventh studio album “The Life of Pablo” was messy and controversial, but at the same time a stroke of genius. Sounds exactly like the album itself.
With a seemingly endless series of tweets, ranging from teasingly informational to downright confrontational, West raised public hype for “Pablo” to incredible levels. Throw in a curiously exclusive release, and the possibility that the album somehow remains unfinished two weeks later, and you have a fascinating story about a brash, outspoken megalomaniac. Let’s go over the developments in order, beginning from the late stages of 2015.
Dec. 12: West tweets “I’m finishing my album and my next collection,” referring to the next stages of both his musical and fashion careers. The album at the time is known as “Swish,” which West chose to replace the original title “So Help Me God.”
Dec. 31: West releases the freestyle “Facts” on SoundCloud, borrowing the hook from Drake and Future’s “Jumpman” to help throw shade at Nike, his previous fashion collaborator.
Jan. 8: The day that truly sets everything into motion. West drops the track “Real Friends” featuring Ty Dolla $ign, which digs into his tumultuous relationships with friends and family over a gorgeous piano sample. A few hours later, he sets a definitive release date for Swish, Feb. 11, in a tweet that receives over 168,000 likes.
Jan. 18: West releases “No More Parties in LA,” a Kendrick Lamar-assisted display of bravado that was teased briefly at the end of “Real Friends.”
Jan. 25: “So happy to be finished with the best album of all time,” West tweets, along with a 10-song track list on a college-ruled notepad. “No More Parties in LA” and “Real Friends” both make appearances, along with “Fade and “Wolves,” which West had played live at 2015 fashion shows.
Jan. 26: One day later, what had been “finished” is turned on its head. A new track list adds bright, colorful signatures to the notepad, along with a new track: “Ultra Light Beam.” The title changes for the third time, this time to “WAVES.”
Jan. 27: West ruthlessly attacks “See You Again” rapper Wiz Khalifa in lengthy Twitter rant after misinterpreting a Khalifa remark about the new album title. West makes misguided remarks about Khalifa’s child, invoking criticism from media outlets.
Feb. 1: West announces that “WAVES” will premiere at Madison Square Garden, in its entirety, at his latest fashion show entitled “Yeezy Season 3.” The Garden sells out in 10 minutes.
Feb. 9: Unbelievably, West changes the title again. He announces the acronym of the new title to be “T.L.O.P.,” and tweets that “anybody who can figure out the title gets tickets to Season 3 and free Yeezys.” He also brings a tidal wave of criticism upon himself by proclaiming that widely accused sexual offender Bill Cosby was, in fact, innocent.
Feb. 10: “The Life of Pablo” is revealed as the title, along with a final list of 11 tracks. Some tracks have been moved, some have been added and others seem to have disappeared entirely.
Feb. 11: The premiere date brings an extremely stylized album cover, which spawns the usual slate of memes. West plays “Pablo” at the Garden as fashion models stare aimlessly into the arena’s cavernous darkness. The album is not released officially.
Feb. 12: “The album is being mastered and will be out today … added on a couple of tracks,” West tweets, along with a new track list on a fresh sheet of paper. “No More Parties in LA” and “Facts” are among the added tracks along with a few interludes.
Feb. 13: Or, maybe not. “Pablo” makes it to Saturday without appearing online, with West blaming collaborator Chance the Rapper for holding up the mastering process for a last minute addition. Appearing as the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” that night, West performs “Ultralight Beam” with Chance and “Highlights” with Young Thug. After he concludes, West announces that the album is now available on streaming service Tidal.
Feb. 14: “Pablo” is uploaded to Tidal as a platform exclusive. Fans rush to start free trials for the service as the servers struggle to meet their newfound demand.
Feb. 15: Our worst nightmares are confirmed. “My album will never never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale… You can only get it on Tidal,” West tweets. West also announces that he will “fix” the track “Wolves,” opening the possibility of post-release changes.
Feb. 18: A host of “Pablo” demos leak online, illuminating the creative process behind the album. West continues to rack up Twitter likes by tweeting that he, Future and Drake “got new s–t together that’s gonna drop soon.”
Feb. 19: Is the album actually complete? Def Jam Records executive John Rossi tweets that an image of a vinyl pressing is “not real” because “we gotta get [West] to turn the album in first.” Meanwhile, the exclusive stream has grown Tidal’s subscriber base from 1 million to 2.5 million, and prompted hundreds of thousands of illegal downloads.
Feb. 23: West premieres a new song at a nightclub entitled “Saint Pablo,” which touches on very recent topics. “People tryna say I’m goin’ crazy on Twitter,” he raps, in a frenzied outcry of frustrated introspection.
Feb. 24: “New album coming this summer,” West tweets, as the wait for the official release of the current one continues.
Maybe West is caught up in the music, and his creative juices won’t stop flowing. Maybe he is crazy, and this album is the latest in a series of empty promises.
Whatever he does, it will be worth documenting, because we are currently watching one of this generation’s most compelling artists broadcast his mindset to the world every single step of the way. This is a God dream, indeed.