Art appreciation

Unfinished or Not, Kanye’s ‘Donda 2’ Is a Fascinating Artistic Experience

The first two acts of jeen-yuhs, Netflix’s excellent documentary about Kanye West’s decades-long rise, mostly revolves around one big question: Why isn’t anyone taking him seriously as a rapper? The film portrays a young superproducer desperate to become a solo artist, bursting into venues to play demos for unamused executives and rapping songs like “Two Words” for the camera with crystal clarity, like s ‘he would never have another chance of. The images of an unsigned Kanye are powerful – he’s not the best rapper in the world, but he believes he is, or at least understands that to get where he wants he has to rap like he is. he belonged to the top of the mountain.

What do we do, then, with a half-baked song like “Happy”, one of 16 tracks off his new album, 2which were published last week via the $200 Ye Brand Donda Stem Player? After an opening verse from the album’s executive producer, Future, Kanye drops three in a row, each more unintelligible than the last. (A little sample: “When the sun gun, when I’m in / Tinted, squint, it’s, y’all know it’s been a minute.”) They’re clearly—With a bit of luck-reference tracks, vocals for Kanye to work on his flow before going back and adding something substantial. But in their current form, they give Genius editors agree. To call unfinished “Happy” is generous – it’s barely started. This is the type of draft that perfectionist would never have let his hard drive slip before. But two decades later University dropout and the first events of jeen-yuhsthis is Kanye West’s current state, in which albums are living documents whose real-time creation has been packaged and commodified with the music itself.

This reality – where the very idea of ​​a Kanye album is an amorphous concept – is one we’ve been rushing towards for nearly a decade now, ever since he narrowly hit the deadline for 2013 Yeezus and received universal praise for the project, such as a college student getting an A+ after skipping Adderall for an all-nighter. Since YeezusIt is “Wolves” corrected and endless tinkering with Pablo’s lifetook a photo for an album cover on the way to the evening of listening to said albumand has started, stopped, and restarted more projects than most artists drop in their careers, find jesus and skate past countless planned release dates in the process. He took this philosophy of building the plane as you fly it to its extreme last summer when he launched the first donda during three live-streamed stadium listening parties, which gave fans insight into his creative process and allowed them to watch songs blossom from bare sketches to full compositions ahead of the official release. album in August. (Sometimes it was hard to keep track of changes amid the chaos: Kid Cudi was added and removed from “Remote Control” as many times as he was moved in and out of Kanye. Instagram Close friend list.)

Of all Kanye’s exit antics in recent years, the donda the rollout seems most instructive for the current chaos surrounding its sequel. If Kanye hasn’t learned anything else in 2021, it’s that hordes of people are ready to buy tickets (and corresponding merchandising) Where to agree just to get a glimpse of his artistry, even if it meant trying to analyze scratch vocals and unfinished beats. With 2, he took this approach one step further. Similar to his previous album, it debuted with a handful of one-shot tracks. somewhat disastrous live event, this one was held last week in Miami. But rather than work on the songs until they were ready for mass consumption, he distributed them via data dumps to the Stem Player, a disc-like device that lets users remix Ye’s latest songs and break them down into their individual components— and it will apparently be the only place listeners can officially hear 2 because of Kanye’s recriminations with streamers like Spotify, The ringmother Society. The four first 2 the songs arrived on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the listening party, and the biggest update yet arrived the next day via a patch titled “V.2.22.22 MIAMI”, a name that seems to indicate that we expect many more updates as the days turn into weeks and these numbers increase. (Let’s just hope the third digit doesn’t go up and Kanye keeps the 2 experience limited to 2022.)

The result is an ever-evolving symphony from a 21 Grammy Award winner. Already there seems to be recognition that parts of 2 needs more work: a day after the V.2.22.22 update, he released “Keep It Burning” – one of the tracks that made “Happy” sound relatively finished – then updated the drums on “True Love”, removing the 8-Bit Filter he used on the original to let them breathe on what he calls the “Stadium Version”. (The drum break on “True Love” is the same one he used on “Runaway,” a detail that evokes memories of Kanye’s more polished work.) Beyond these small tweaks, other massive changes should be coming soon: current track list (itself a living document) includes 34 songs, and last weekend Kanye posted pictures of himself in studio with independent Beach House darlings, whom he presumably brought in to work on this album. We don’t know what the final form of 2 Looks like; it’s reasonable to assume that neither is Kanye.

Watching it figure out is potentially fascinating as an artistic experience, but for now it’s an even better business exercise. Even with the deluge of illegal Mega and Zippyshare links who follow each 2 update, Kanye and Stem Player maker Kano Computing say they have moved a lot of unitsand even though the new project isn’t available on Spotify, the publicity that accompanies the album has helped make Kanye most streamed artist on the platform on Saturday and Sunday. It’s also excellent brand management: an artist who has relentlessly established himself as a capital-A songwriter for nearly two decades can release half-finished songs about his divorce and polish them publicly, imagining himself as modern-day Warhol inviting spectators to marvel to an unfinished violin painting. Where music had often recently felt like a loss leader for Kanye’s more lucrative ventures – remember, he became a billionaire thanks to Yeezy, no Yeezus— he’s now found a way to bottle his art and resell it to diehards for $200 apiece. As CEO of Kano Computing, Alex Klein tweeted last week“Everywhere else you don’t get the vision.”

You’ll notice that so far we haven’t discussed the outcome of this vision outside of the unfinished tracks. Maybe that’s the point: as an album, insofar as it East an album right now—2 is uneven, never reaching the heights of his best work or falling quite low on lesser projects like you. In many ways it’s the original divorce album donda promised to be. Sometimes it’s effective, like on “Get Lost” and “Too Easy,” which effectively exploit the wounded soul AutoTune styles that made 808 and heartaches most influential album of the 2010s. Other times, the toxicity of Kanye’s harassment on social media of his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, and her new boyfriend, Pete Davidson, overflows on the page. The album’s current opener, “Security” – built around the chorus “I ain’t gettin’ frisked / I met your security at risk” – may not be the worst song Kanye has ever made, but it is certainly one of the coarsest (and miles of the “responsibility” he has undertaken to take earlier this month). Even on 2who tend to retreat from the real-life drama surrounding Kanye, the specter of his divorce looms – on the triumphant team of Migos and Baby Keem “We Did It Kid”, offbeat raps, “Helpin’ Ye find Kim / In the dark double M Benz It’s not exactly Blood on the tracksbut if you’re interested in hearing Kanye complain about how Kim dressed his daughter in Nikes instead of Adidas, there’s enough for you to enjoy.

With untold changes and up to 18 tracks yet to come, assessing 2 overall is a fool’s errand. Does Kim’s sample SNL monologue on “Sci Fi” survive once the lawyers get wind of it? How about the song’s regrettable “semen/Morgan Freeman” bars? Will Jack Harlow’s forgettable feature on Virgil Abloh’s “Louie Bags” tribute appear in the next iteration? These are unanswered questions that Kanye hopes you invest yourselves in. But for now, 2 is something like Schrödinger’s zip file – it’s neither good nor bad until Kanye declares it finished. Plus, if you don’t like what you’re hearing, you can always customize it with your Stem Player, as long as you’re willing to shell out a day’s pay for the privilege.

We often think of albums as immaculate conceptions, arriving fully formed and ready to ingest, as opposed to the product of countless hours of labor. Even when the Legacy Acts get extensive re-releases with dozens of outtakes added, the bonus tracks follow the canonical work, sitting there as curiosities for would-be scholars to dissect – they’re meant to enhance the listening experience. , not to replace it. It’s this kind of documentation that makes Netflix’s first two acts jeen-yuhs a compelling watch, as it traces the evolution of University dropout from raw demo to genre-changing classic. Looking at the doc, we have the advantage of knowing what this project would become; seeing the sweat Kanye poured into it only enhances our appreciation. Almost 20 years after that album, Kanye is asking us to go through this process in reverse – he’s selling the sweat with no clear indication of what the final product will sound like. It’s a leap of faith that many of his biggest fans are willing to take. The question now is whether Kanye can reward that dedication by finishing 2, or if he thinks access to his process is enough to justify the cost of admission. Until we get an answer, it’s hard to say how seriously we should take it.