Kanye West has premiered his new album via a live-streamed playback from his retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. YE, the rapper’s eighth album, references controversial remarks made by West in recent months, including a recent interview with TMZ in which he said that 400 years of slavery in America “sounds like a choice”.
The final tracklisting, song titles and artwork are yet to be officially confirmed and the album is expected to arrive at 5pm BST (12 EST) on 1 June. West played seven songs: given that he continued to edit 2016’s The Life of Pablo after its release, the titles mentioned at the live stream may change.
On a track called Butterfly Energy, West raps: “I said, ‘Slavery a choice’, they say, ‘How, Ye?’ Just imagine if they caught me on a wild day,” and alludes to his wife, Kim Kardashian West, calling amid the controversy to tell him, “‘We ’bout to lose it all’”. On Extacy, West refers to music mogul Russell Simmons, who is facing multiple allegations of rape and sexual assault. “Russell Simmons wanna pray for me too / I’ma pray for him ’cause he got #MeToo’d / Thinkin’ what if that happened to me too”.
That track also references West’s apparent experiences with the psychedelic drugs 2C-B and DMT and his mental health struggles: “That’s why I fuck with Ye / That’s my third person / That’s my bipolar shit, nigga what / That’s my superpower / Nigga ain’t no disability / I’m a superhero, I’m a superhero.” John Legend, 070 Shake and Kid Cudi feature on Some Day, in which West mentions the opioid painkiller Fentanyl. In his recent TMZ interview, West revealed that his hospitalisation in November 2016 was due to opioid addiction.
Elsewhere on YE, West references Donald Trump’s alleged affair with the porn star Stormy Daniels, the relationship trials of the Kardashian clan and on opening track Premeditated Murder, periods during which he says he contemplated taking his life. Cry Tonight, which features Nicki Minaj, Willow Smith and DeJ Loaf, concerns how having a daughter (four-year-old North West) has changed his view of women: “’Cause now I see women as somethin’ to nurture / Not somethin’ to conquer.’” He expresses his hope that she grows up with a body more like his than Kardashian West’s to avoid the attention of internet trolls: “I pray that you don’t get it all at once / Curves under your dress / I know it’s all pervs on the net.”
YE contains none of the music West released in advance of the album, Lift Yourself and Kanye West vs the People, the latter a debate with TI that included the line: “Make America great again had a negative reception / I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new direction”.
The album’s premiere took place around a campfire and was attended by celebrities including Kardashian West, Kid Cudi, 2 Chainz, Pusha T, Ty Dolla $ign and the pro-Trump commentator Candace Owens, whom West praised on Twitter and met in April. Chris Rock also attended, and said in a speech: “No black man has taken more advantage of his freedom than Kanye West.”
The album will be available to purchasers and on streaming services from noon EST. The pastoral imagery initially released suggests West has abandoned his plan to use as its artwork a photograph of Jan Adams, the plastic surgeon who performed liposuction and mammoplasty on West’s mother, Donda, who died of complications related to the procedure. Kardashian West tweeted that the artwork is a photograph that West took on the way to the streaming party, which depicts a speaker in a field.
YE is the latest release in a creative streak for West. He produced Pusha T’s album Daytona, released 25 May, and forthcoming releases by Nas, Teyana Taylor and a collaborative album between West and Kid Cudi. He also produced Christina Aguilera’s recent comeback single, Accelerate.