“No half-truths, just naked minds,” Kanye West sings on Ghost Town, the penultimate and perhaps strongest track on his eighth album, ‘ye’. And he isn’t lying: every question you’ve had about the past year of the divisive rapper’s life – from his battle with bipolar to his problematic comments on black slavery – seems to be answered in this widely speculated and fascinating record.
At 23 minutes in length and with a brisk 7-song tracklist, it feels purpose-built to avoid room for euphemisms, too. After months of speculation, with gatherings of rap’s most prevalent figures in the snowy hills of Wyoming, perhaps we’d wrongly expected this to be a gigantic tapestry of collaborations. Instead, it sounds strangely intimate: a pop culture pariah coming to terms with the actions that led to his exile. This is the most candid he’s been on record in a long time.
‘I Thought About Killing You’, the album’s opening monologue in which Kanye admits to thinking “really, really bad things”, suicidal and murderous thoughts among them, is a bold opener lyrically. It’s made even darker by the fact he seems to abandons the song’s style two thirds of the way through to tack what feels like a completely new song on the end. Similarly, ‘Yikes’ and ‘Wouldn’t Leave’ see him weigh in on the rise of #MeToo and Kim’s Kardashian’s unwavering loyalty in the wake of his own flagrant comments (“My wife’ callin’, says we ‘bout to lose it all”).
Those looking for radio-friendly rap might feel short-changed. ‘All Mine’ offers up the record’s most commercial sounding cut, with Kanye dwelling on his issues with infidelity, spliced with a hookish chorus from GOOD Music signee Valee that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Migos track. Meanwhile ‘Ghost Town’, that aforementioned track that apparently left crowds at the record’s rural Wyoming launch stunned, loops in heavyweights like PARTYNEXTDOOR and Kid Cudi, but owes a great deal to its euphoric, rocky outro provided by another GOOD Music artist, 070 Shake. The fresh-faced New Jersey rapper and vocalist, who was pretty much unknown the day before yesterday, is likely being bombarded with requests for collaborations as we speak. Her verse is a moment of real clarity on a record that’s immediately impactful, if slightly underwhelming coming from a man known for creating vast masterpieces in the past.
It lacks the profundity of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the audacity of 808s or Yeezus, but there’s still something quite pleasurable in seeing Kanye West – modern music’s most abrasive personality – with his guard down, seeming like less of a deity for 23 minutes. ‘ye’ is succinct and easy to swallow, but those aren’t necessarily the hallmarks of Kanye at the top of his game. Nobody can deny this mini album flirts with brilliance, and feels like a pop cultural moment straight out the gate; we just wish there was a little more to it.