Jay-Z or Virgil Abloh? Kanye West’s new song ‘Brothers’ is an emotional call to allies past and present

Co-producer Irv Gotti has lit up the debate about who Ye is addressing on the candid track

Another new Kanye West song, another hotpot of talking points. The rapper’s latest track ‘Brothers’ premiered this week during the latest episode of the BET drama Tales, and its thinly-veiled references to quashing beefs, repairing close friendships and being “brothers forever” has once again put Ye and his personal life at the top of the agenda.

‘Brothers’, which features backing vocals from celebrated crooner and regular Kanye collaborator Charlie Wilson, is driven by a soulful instrumental which harks back to ‘The College Dropout’/’Late Registration’ eras and is lyrically geared towards achieving reconciliation as Ye sings: “We’ll be brothers forever / What happens to one of us happens to us together / And we’ll be brothers forever.” Delightful! Lovely! Very wholesome! But who, we hear you ask, is Kanye talking about? Over to you, ‘Brothers’ co-producer Irv Gotti.

“There is a lot of speculation right now on who Kanye West is rapping about on the song ‘Brothers’,” Gotti, the creator of Tales, wrote in the caption accompanying his now-deleted Instagram premiere. “So here is the song… Listen. And decide for yourself if you think Kanye is rapping about Jay Z or Virgil [Abloh, high fashion designer]. Both Ye’s Brothers.” Oh, Irv: look what you’ve gone and done.

Gotti’s proposed interpretation of ‘Brothers’ has given fans two very significant masts to nail their colours to, with ‘Watch The Throne’ aficionados in particular on high alert (more on that shortly). But it’s Ye’s relationship with Virgil which should be addressed first. After a rumoured spot of drama, which was purportedly triggered by Virgil’s decision in March 2018 to leave Kanye’s creative set-up to head up menswear at Louis Vuitton, the two swiftly buried the hatchet three months later by sharing an emotional hug on Virgil’s Paris Fashion Week runway. That widely-covered expression of friendship therefore seems to be the inspiration for the lines “I just wanna make sure that my brother’s good / So I ain’t embarrassed or above / Flying out to Paris for a hug.” It’s also thought that ‘Brothers’ has origins dating back to 2017, and was worked on around the time of Kanye’s Wyoming sessions  — suggesting that he might’ve added the above lyrics into the equation following his reconciliation with Virgil.

Jay-Z, then. Cast your mind back to 2011, when two of hip-hop’s greatest figures combined forces to deliver ‘Watch The Throne’, an album packed with a host of knock-out tracks, superstar guests and massive, massive flexing. For a short time at least, it seemed like Kanye and Jay-Z were destined to rule the music world together. But then, sadly, that dream started to go a bit pear-shaped as the pair drifted apart: rarely spotted together either on stage or in public, we instead witnessed a deteriorating friendship through passive-aggressive interview answers, not-so-subtle lyrical disses and that infamous time Kanye called out Jay during an on-stage rant in 2016.

But amidst this hardening of relations was the enduring mutual affirmation between the two which always maintained that they were still “brothers”. Take the below from Jay, who posted a rare tweet in November to respond to reports that he’d dissed Kanye on the Meek Mill track ‘What’s Free’ with his bar about the “red hat”.

Kanye’s “Throne 2″ reply was a pretty wishful response to Jay’s explanation, but it at least demonstrated that, despite the pair still exactly not seeing eye-to-eye at the moment, their brotherhood remains in tact. So for those of us who are clinging on to the hope that Ye and Jay will one day light up cigars and forget about all the bullshit, will find plenty to enjoy at the conclusion of ‘Brothers”s second verse: “I knew we’d reconnect when the timing was right,” Kanye offers. “Man, I ain’t spoke to you in like forever / Maybe it’s time we put the band back together.” Kanye famously addressed his respect and admiration for Jay on the ‘Graduation’ track ‘Big Brother’ back in 2007, where he hailed the Brooklyn rapper as an “idol in my eyes, God of the game.” 12 years on, ‘Brothers’ lightly touches on those sentiments, albeit without mentioning Jay by name ⁠— but ‘Brothers’ is more than likely intended to be an olive branch from one ‘Watch The Throne’ king to another.

‘Brothers’ has sadly been taken off Instagram, but Gotti is apparently pushing for an official release of the song on streaming services from Friday (July 5) ⁠— let’s just hope it’s available on Tidal…