hYpE Week: Wavy guest features
The “Waves” tracklist by Kanye West has proved a largely illegible work-in-progress, but when we squinted really hard and tilted our phone screens just right, we were able to make out some of the signatures. Here are our hopes on how the signees will — or, in some cases, prayers that they won’t — contribute to “ONE of the greatest albums (of all time) not the greatest just one of … ”
Chance The Rapper – Adam Ramos
Early this year, Kanye gave a shout out to fellow Chicago artist Chance The Rapper at Ottawa Bluesfest. Commending the young rapper, Kanye acclaimed Chance as “one of the most talented young new artists,” and added, “stay tuned” — a possible reference to the now confirmed collaboration on Kanye’s highly anticipated upcoming album. Aside from a home city, both artists share quite a bit, especially in terms of their equally lush and intricate productions. Kanye’s influence is also extensively apparent in the subject matter Chance has made into a winning brand. Kanye’s departure from the machismo-oriented gangsta rap, so popular during his early career, was a departure taken even further on Chance’s 2013 emotional and brilliant “Acid Rap.” Such clear connections between the two Windy City rappers makes their collaboration that much more intriguing. Chance’s relaxed delivery and poignant lyrics could pair very nicely with Kanye’s expertly crafted beats and expansive hooks.
In Chance’s latest single, the dazzling “Somewhere In Paradise,” he proclaims, “They say I’m saving my city, say I’m staying for good / They screaming Chano for mayor, I’m thinking maybe I should.” While politics may be a bit out of Chance’s domain, if he does end up gaining some experience in office, he may make a perfect running mate for Kanye’s 2020 ticket — hey if this upcoming election has taught us anything, it’s never say never.
Earl Sweatshirt – Jack Riedy
From precocious Odd Future-trash talker to introspective poet, Thebe Kgositsile’s career has dramatically evolved despite his young age. At only 21 years old, the artist better known as Earl Sweatshirt has elaborated on what it means to be young, gifted and black through two studio albums, a mixtape, an EP and numerous guest verses. Earl is young enough that Kanye has always been a driving force in hip-hop throughout his whole career. Though his rapping is more technically complex, his detailed accounts of battling inner turmoil amidst outside pressure owe a great debt to Kanye’s groundbreaking emotional openness. When Earl raps, “I just want my time and my mind intact, when they both gone, you can’t buy ‘em back,” he’s dealing with the same existential angst that led Kanye to say, “I had a dream I could buy my way to heaven, when I woke I spent that on a necklace.” Under the alias “randomblackdude,” Earl is a talented producer as well. His warped beats are more influenced by crate-diggers like Madlib and J Dilla than the polished sheen of latter-day Kanye. Behind the boards, he slows samples down to a glacial crawl and adds subtly swinging drums to create an insular atmosphere. Earl has carved out his own unique space in the hip-hop landscape. Only time will tell if bringing on one of his own artistic descendants leads to Kanye’s latest opus or merely a feedback loop.
Swizz Beatz – Matt McMahon
The first signature that popped out on the second iteration of the tracklist announcement sheet of paper, the first one post-edits, was the blue pen scrawled “Swizz Is Here” stretched all the way across the bottom third of the page. The Kanye-labelled “best rap producer of all time,” Swizz Beatz has created hits in a variety of styles, including the high octane rap of DMX’s “Party Up (Up In Here),” the Southern blowout of T.I.’s “Bring Em Out” and the pop perfection of Beyoncé’s “Check On It.” Signatures of Swizz’s usually fast-paced production are horns and whistles, heavy and deliberate percussion and the occasional Jay Z sample, so expect something powerful but accessible if he’s working behind the scenes. Hopefully, Swizz was only in the studio for the “Waves” sessions in his producer and hook-writer forms; after the mess that was Swizz’s verse on the G.O.O.D. Friday version of “Lord Lord Lord,” fans would be very averse to hearing Swizz rap on a Kanye track ever again, or any track for that matter. If Swizz does happen to show up on the guest features side of the album’s collaborations, it must be a sign of Kanye truly embracing his belief in self-improvement and second chances, maybe contributing to possible themes of the album as a whole.
A$AP Rocky – Miko Malabute
Lord Pretty Boy Flacko has always been one of those rappers who has had more bark than bite — his steely gaze and album covers can be intimidating, and his favorite deep-voice effect makes his music seem as recreational drug-filled as your favorite music festival. However, A$AP Rocky refers to himself as the “Pretty Boy” for a reason: between his forward-fashion sense and his song “Fashion Killa” he is an interesting hybrid artist who can add just the right amount of street cred to his European extra-long shirt/dress.
Kylie Jenner – Erin McAuliffe
Perhaps to realign her own brand with her brother-in-law’s, Kylie was the OG John Hancock on the track list. West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” lyrics “Don’t ever fix your lips like collagen” didn’t stand in the way of Kylie’s cosmetics empire (her three-piece collection of lip kits sold out in one minute and was going for $250 on eBay), but the words still stand in opposition to “Family Business.” However, the definitive “KYLIE WAS HERE” unites the two in support of each other’s 2016 endeavours.
Kim/Kourtney/Khloe Kardshian – Erin McAuliffe
Eventually the other Kardashian sisters (sans Kendall) joined in on the publicity opportunity — Kim’s “never left” comment channeled a possessive girlfriend’s passive-aggressive note in her popular high school boyfriend’s yearbook.
Hopefully, Kourtney, Khloe and Kim only appear on “Waves” in lyrical mentions; however, I am equally hopeful that the album will inspire the fam to revive their vacation lip-sync videos circa-2012. For example, this leopard print-covered ode to The Notorious B.I.G. (featuring donkeys and Lord Disick in a purple turban/do-rag) filmed on a family vacation to the Dominican Republic that proved an inspiring in memoriam to the late rapper. Or, this “E.T.” cover that unfortunately doesn’t feature Kanye’s verse — perhaps because it does feature Kim’s ex-husband Kris Humphries.
The family’s hype for “Waves” should not channel Kim’s 2011 single “Jam (Turn It Up)”: an over-saturated pink video that channels the ’80s with lightning effects and lip close-ups. However, the lyrics “They playin’ my jam / Turn it up” foreshadow the fam’s impending tweets and Kimojis.