Kanye West Plays ‘Yeezus’ for Listening Party Guests, Reveals ‘Hold My Liquor’ Collaborators
“I got this new strategy, it’s called no strategy," Kanye West explained in his sort-of-expected rant just before playing his highly anticipated album 'Yeezus' (out June 18) for his listening party guests. "And I got this idea about how to sell more music. It’s called make better music.”
While his concept made perfect sense in his head, we (journalists and photographers) seemed a bit lost without a track listing or an actual stage to look at, and were swallowed by the dimly lit and hollowed out Milk Studios situated in the Meat Packing Disctrict. PopCrush was in attendance along with the fashion world, artists, producers and rappers. (At one point we were standing next to DJ Khaled, Jay-Z, Beyonce and Timbaland.) Still, at 10:41 PM, we held onto every word -- hoping to get new details about his new record.
"[I'm] showing them, that this is not -- no diss to these people -- but [this is] not no Jessica Simpson or Lindsay Lohan type clothing line," he explained about his work of art, in the form of 'Yeezus.' "This is the true creator that wants to make product[s] better for the world." Cheers erupted.
West then discussed his heritage, a way to bridge his own personal political influences with the messages in his lyrics. "This room has so much talent, so much power, so much voice that we can have, and me, the son of a Black Panther and the son of of the first black chair of the English department of Chicago State, and my grandfather was a civil rights activist… as I put these words on these beats," he said before going off on a tangent about how he didn't even know what the genre new wave was and that he "hadn't listened to Joy Division growing up or nothing."
But then he got back on track, and thanked all of us for attending, and giving a special shoutout to his creative director and another guy by the name of Matt Williams. Suddenly, he stopped with the "thank you's" saying, “Oh man, I started to thank Jesus. I’m really f---- up.” Laughter broke out, and then he went on to playing his album.
Now, we must disclose that we have no final track listing. We're not sure if what we heard is the final product. And a lot of what we picked up were the tracks he performed at Governors Ball. Still, there's other new material we heard, too.
The first song he played was 'On Site,' which features a lot of electronic bleeps on loop, while Kanye raps: "F--- whatever ya'll been hearing / F--- whatever y'all been wearing / The Monster about to come alive again." The electronic pulses only stop when an unknown Motown sample chimes in.
Next we have the bass-heavy track 'Skinhead,' which was accompanied by a 'Not for Sale' sign projected across the side screen -- much like the imagery that played during his performance on 'SNL' last month and at Governors Ball on June 9. "Pardon, I'm getting my scream on," Ye spits out at the beginning of the record while weaving in anti-racism subject matter. The song apparently samples Gary Glitter's 'Rock and Roll' and was produced by Daft Punk, who told Rolling Stone in an earlier interview about how he is "screaming in a primal way." The screaming… well, it reminds us of a tribal bird. Just sayin'.
He then played 'I Am God' ("Get the Porsche out of the damn garage / I am a god / Even though I’m a man of god / My whole life in the hands of God") driven by shrieking panther sounds. That was followed by 'New Slaves' (“My mama was raised in an era when clean water was only served to the fairer skin"), which took us back to his intro where he talks about his parents' and grandparents' racist upbringings.
At one point in the night, Kanye announced that his "joint," aka the track 'Hold My Liquor,' features Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Chief Keef, which was news to all of us. Blaring horns emit between his verses while he spits, "I can't handle my liquor / n----s can't handle me."
We watched Ye during each segment. Sweating through his heather grey T-shirt and hoodie, the emcee bounced fervently during his songs, a mannerism we see in EDM artists like David Guetta. At one point his staff motioned to a statuesque model (who resembles Iman) over, at the request of Kanye. She obliged.
Then Jay-Z and Beyonce showed up. Beyonce was a flawless queen, donning scarlet lipstick, dark-rimmed, round sunglasses and a black and white coat. Jay was in a green trench coat, making himself a barrier between her and the crowd filled with shutterbugs.
One of the songs that really stood out to us was a song possibly called 'Could've Been Somebody.' We heard it twice (we stayed to hear some of the tracks again) and it always seemed to get the crowd excited. The lyrics ("And I told you to wait / Yeah I told you to wait / So I'mma need a little more time now / 'Cause I ain't got the money on me right now") were a break from the political themes, reminiscing on a relationship's bad timing and the doomed consequences. It also samples Billie Holiday's 'Strange Fruit.'
Kanye mentioned at one point that, "This album, I had to learn about giving… this whole process is about giving." From the sounds of the crowd and the expressions coming from his fellow friends and artists, it seemed as though he gave them what they wanted.