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WYOMING, PART 2

After a fifty minute ride North through more of the awe-inspiring wild landscape of the Teton Mountain Range, which is mesmerizing to behold, our group arrives at a ranch. People are mingling on a large grass lawn, and inside a gigantic barn some “country grub” was served—wings, brisket, ribs, mac ‘n’ cheese, washed down with beverages from several bars spread out through the ranch area.

Off in the distance in a meadow where horses are grazing, seven stacks of speakers about 15 feet high, booming. Soon after everyone arrives though, the mix of popular music that had been playing in the background goes silent—as the atmosphere prepares for the music we’re really in this remote place to hear.

The barn has several communal picnic tables where people are eating. The room of people is an interesting mix… not just the hip tastemakers, nerdy media types and artist buddies like Big Sean, 2 Chainz and Ty Dolla $ign, but also a notable contingent of Jackson Hole locals, in their flaring cowboy hats and big leather boots. A few CEO business types are peppered in too, dressed down in their button-ups. I think about how this truly reflects the multi-layered directions Kanye’s creativity takes him, and the wildly divergent people he must interact with on that journey, whether it takes him to the corporate boardroom or the country backwoods.

I sit down at a randomly chosen table and begin talking with people. I’m determined in a weird way to know who everyone is, and one of our table companions happened to be Eugene Kim, the CEO of Yeezy. I ask him what its like to be in Yeezyworld, and what this event is meant to project the most besides being an album release party. Because let’s face it, Kanye is much more layered in his approach and always has been—there’s meaning behind all the things he does, even if we don’t understand them. “He’s an eclectic collector of people,” Kim tells me, “and this is who he is. This room is a direct reflection of that. His generosity is also a big part of him, and that’s present here too, because this cost millions.”

I asked how much this event cost, and if Def Jam was kicking in for it.  Kim replied that, “every private jet that flew in here, Kanye personally paid for,” although some of the event was covered by sponsors.

But he did add in a plug with, “This is the most exclusive event in the entire world.”

It was a considerable feat, how they pulled all this off in a matter of days. Although departure was absolutely chaotic. Once we were on the ground in Jackson Hole, the sorting, routing, transporting and housing THIS MANY PEOPLE—over 400 total—at this short notice, was sort of extraordinary. I ask Kim for the main reason he works with Kanye.

“There is an honesty about him that is like a conviction, and there is never a filter,” Kim tells me. “He’s taught me a lot about my relationships, in dealing with situations—because as business person, that  goes against the grain in a way, but I’ve learned working with him, why that approach is more powerful.”

He goes on to point out how we know Kanye mostly from music, but the hidden part of his work is the other half of his empire—the apparel and fashion side, where he employs hundreds of people. Where he actively mentors creatives. “He’s giving in a way I wish more people knew about,” Kim adds. It’s a fascinating glimpse inside, particularly considering the lyrics we’re all about to experience. After a few hours of mingling, shortly before 10pm, we are ushered out into the meadow where the “Speaker Stonehenge,” as I nicknamed it, was circled around a blazing campfire in the middle, as everyone gathered around while a drone buzzed overhead, and the multiple cameras—there to chronicle the livestream—nudged between us to capture everyone’s reactions. Paul Rosenberg sat back in the cut puffing a giant cigar; Pusha T roamed around the fire looking for a spot; Kid Cudi stayed close to the stage. Desiigner—who is perpetually in the same jovial mood—comes around, Nas appears, Dame Dash goes by, Steve Rifkind wanders on the outskirts, as Def Jam’s Noah Sheer and Nicki Farag huddle together in the back.  

The feeling was communal. The same way it was when we were leaping under the levitating stage. Everybody (except me, regrettably) was properly sauced and stoned, and the energy was exuberant and fun. Large wafts of pot smoke billowed up into the air and were merging with the smoke of the bonfire. At exactly 10pm on the dot, Chris Rock gets up on a small riser and does an intro for the ages: “Rap music, hip-hop music, is the first art form created by free black men,” he bellows, “And no black man has taken more advantage of his freedom than Kanye West!”   Then, the music starts….

COMING UP: THE MUSIC

 

 

 

 

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