Breaking news: it’s been announced that, going forward, the Governors Ball Music Festival will now simply be called the Kanye Ball.
Because Kanye West caught serious wreck last night, closing the show for the third annual NYC Governors Ball on Randall’s Island.
He performed all the classics you would expect to hear at a Kanye concert (from “Jesus Walks” to “Mercy”) but he also performed new ish too.
With the release of his new album, Yeezus, just eight days away, Kanye, who celebrated his 36th birthday on Saturday, performed five tracks off his upcoming project.
We were in the house for Kanye’s amazing performance last night, so we got to see everything firsthand.
Now let’s look at the five Yeezus tracks played last night and do some decoding.
Kanye West was late. The rapper was supposed to come out at 9:30 PM and it was already 9:51. But the crowd didn’t mind much. And the energy was high when Kanye appeared, with this crazy imagery flashing behind him: there were barking dogs, black Ku Klux Klan members and a flashing Not for Sale sign — all images that appeared when Kanye debuted the song on Saturday Night Live a couple of weeks ago. “Black Skinhead” is dark. The song features Kanye West rapping — screaming is probably more appropriate — anti-establishment lyrics that are religion and race-related.
What makes the track interesting is that the song’s DNA is relatively happy: the song samples Gary Glitter’s good-natured “Rock and Roll“ and Daft Punk, the dudes behind some of the most feel-good pop music of our generation, had a hand in the production. None of that matters, this is all dark Kanye right here:
- “They see a black man with a white woman
- At the top floor they gone come to kill King Kong
- Middle America packed in
- Came to see me in my black skin
- My homey was number one draft pick
- They still burned his jersey in Akron”
Right after doing “Black Skinheads,” Kanye slowed things down and started to perform the closest thing to a single that this album is gonna have: “New Slaves.” When premiering this track a couple of weeks ago, Kanye didn’t just hand the song over to radio: he took things to the streets, projecting the song’s video on walls all over the world. Compared to “Black Skinheads,” “New Slaves” is more hip-hop based, featuring a beat that starts out pretty bare and then rises to a cinematic conclusion. The track samples a song from a Hungarian rock band called Omega. Kanye seems to be more ticked off than usual, because, again, he’s addressing race:
- “You see it’s broke nigga racism
- That’s that ‘Don’t touch anything in the store’
- And this rich nigga racism
- That’s that ‘Come in, please buy more
- What you want, a Bentley? Fur coat? A diamond chain?
- All you blacks want all the same things’”
Here’s the thing about Kanye West: even though it seems like he’s going all militant on people, he’s a pop artist at heart. Which would explain the next song “On Site,” a track that he premiered at the Adult Swim Upfront a number of weeks ago. The song’s beat is straight influenced by EDM, featuring layers of these electronic noises that clash with each other. The song has the classic Kanye twist, however, with the electronic beat transiting into soul for the hook. (Think about how Kanye had D’Banj sing “I’m Getting Married in the Morning” on Cruel Summer’s “The Morning.”)
As for the lyrics, there are some differences from the first two; there’s less religious imagery. Still, Kanye remains as defiant as ever, even while spitting mainstream, commercialized raps:
- “I’m about to come alive again
- Soon as I pull up and park the Benz
- We get this bitch shaking like Parkinson’s
- Take my number and lock it in
- Indian hair, no moccasins
- It’s too many hoes in this house of sin.”
“I Am a God”
For weeks, there were rumors that Kanye’s new album was going to be called “I Am God.” These rumors were put to rest — there’s no album, just a song.
And he’s not calling himself “God,” either. He’s saying he’s “a God,” which is a little less blasphemes, we think. Out of all the new songs we’ve heard, this is the hungriest Ye’ has sounded. Using an aggressive flow, he spits:
“I am a god, even though I’m a man of God. My whole life in the hands of God. See, ya’ll better quit playing with God. As soon as they like you, they will unlike you…the only rapper that’s compared to Michael.”
As for the beat, it’s fast, dark, dramatic and goes through several changes.
Plus it has all of these different animal screams and demented voices on it.
Travi$ Scott has talked about being in the studio with Kanye. Like Cudi and Kanye during their 808s & Heartbreak days, we’re not sure who’s influencing whom, but this song has a lot of the trademark sounds that can be found on Travis’ standout Owl Pharaoh tape.
“Send It Up”
Speaking of Travis $cott, it hasn’t been confirmed, but that sounds like him on the chorus for the last Yeezus song played last night, which is called “Send It Up.” The song sounds the most radio friendly and club-ready out of all the tracks we’ve heard. The beat on this is really something else; the music sounds like a mix between a siren and an elephant screaming. The lyrics were kinda tough to hear, but he mentions “the club” multiple times. It’s clear that this upcoming album will be more diverse than My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which is much more boom bop-based then most people realize.
Which brings us to the rant. This time he didn’t go after Justin Timberlake or Taylor Swift. First, Kanye addressed his unusual marketing plan:
“You know with this album, we ain’t drop no single for radio, we ain’t got no big NBA campaign or nothing like that. Sh*t we ain’t got no cover…we just made some real music.”
He then kinda hinted at why his new music is so dark:
“Honestly at this point I could give a f*ck about selling a million records. I don’t give a f*ck about outside opinions.”
He also added:
“When I listen to radio is not where I want to be anymore.”
He then went on to perform the “I Don’t Like (Remix),” one of the hardest songs to have mainstream success in years.
You can’t fool us, we see what you were trying to say there, Kanye: no matter how dark the music is, you can still end up on the radio.