A raging fire blazes in the center of “Speaker Stonehenge”—seven stacks of surround sound out in the wide-open space of a grassy Wyoming meadow. The rumble of bass tones pierces the atmosphere as the first song begins to fill the night air. It’s Kanye talking, no rapping voice, and the words are startling.

“The most beautiful thoughts are always besides the darkest.
Today I seriously thought about killing you.
I contemplated, premeditated murder.
And I think about killing myself, and I love myself way more than I love you so…”

Few artists are better at knocking us off our center than Kanye West. He’s masterful at bending pop culture and public conversation; passionate about convincing people to go his way and committed with endless energy to accomplish that end. In that context, not only was Jackson Hole a chess move ripped from the pages of Sun Tzu on how to demobilize your enemies, but the ye project overall seems meant to disarm everyone, really, with its vulnerability. Even the personal confession as the artwork speaks to it: I hate being Bi Polar, it’s awesome.

The manic mind of Kanye, no ghostwriting, purely his say. “That’s my superpower,“ he raps, “ain’t no disability.” 

“Imagine if someone recorded and then broadcasted every single thought you had in your head at the very second you had it, and you were held accountable for every one of those thoughts years later, no matter how fleeting,” said Yeezy CEO Eugene Kim, when we discussed how easily Ye’s constant stream of consciousness, which is fundamental to how he moves in the world, leads to being misunderstood.   

Kanye is acutely aware of this disconnect, rapping on “Wouldn’t Leave,” ‘When I’m thinking like George Jetson but sounding like George Jefferson, then they questioning my methods then.’

West, turning 40 this Friday, is sharing intimate head banter here, and a Self that is currently operating as small-case ye—no caps, fall back, love-focused. But a mission intact:  seven songs with sonic foundations rooted in MBDTF and Yeezus, directly addressing life challenges not outside the norm of what anyone would have at their official midpoint of life, from the scary ability to conjure dark inner thoughts (“I Thought About Killing You”), to the anxiety of raising a daughter (“Violent Crimes”), the struggles of self-inflicted marriage stress (“Wouldn’t Leave”) and the fight for peace of mind (“Yikes”).

It’s a diary of sorts, and not outside the realm of possibility to imagine that recent uproars may have motivated this artist to reshape a whole narrative to directly answer the chorus chanting “canceled,” but it may be meant as one slice of a larger whole—with the entire artistic statement here being every G.O.O.D. Music album he’s behind—a full-circle thought with the four quadrants encompassing DAYTONA, ye, Kids See Ghost and Teyana Taylor

(Since Nas is like Zeus, think everyone would agree, he’s his own circle).

Kanye has always channeled through various muses: 2018’s happen to be Pusha T, Kid Cudi, Teyana, Ty Dolla $ign, John Legend, Charlie Wilson, Francis and the Lights, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Jeremih, Def Loaf and 070 Shake. All part of how he vibes uniquely in the moment.

I live for now, I don’t know what happen after here
Plus, what was meant to be was meant to be
Even if, publicly, I lack the empathy
I ain’t finna talk about it, ‘nother four centuries

After the listening event ends, the ranch party empties out into transports and driven an hour back to be sorted in our hotels for the night. A low key after-party at a town square spot called Cowboy Bar—a laidback affair that was mostly mingling with curious, kindly locals—went on into the wee hours of the night. Kanye casually rolled through unexpectantly, wandering in with a few companions, chill.

The theme is being free, like Chris Rock pointed out, “No black man has taken more advantage of his freedom.” Perhaps Ye needed everyone in his open space of Wyoming to get it. An assembly of people ventured to try, traveling from the far corners of the globe—Paris, London, even Australia—at the drop of a hat in a shroud of mystery to hear an album in a field. It was defiantly surreal. Presentation: Ye consistently brings it whether he’s glowing in the dark, apocalyptic-chic, or on levitating stages. That's central to how he communicates.

As the plane lifts over endlessly stunning Teton Mountains, now famously enshrined as the cover art for ye, I think about the interesting checkmate of Wyoming overall and ponder in amazement on how Ye pivoted to disarm with a charm offensive. LOL emoji! The entire plane is decked out in free merch, and stowed beneath every seat is that new box of Yeezys he made sure everybody got before they boarded to go back home. Like his “dragon energy” brother Trump, there’s a deep need to be liked, to capture the zeitgeist, yet he doesn’t give a fuck if you like him. Unlike Trump, however, Kanye’s honest. Unflinchingly so. Singing on “Ghost Town”:

“No half truths, just naked minds, caught between space and time,
This now, with the world in mind.”


Part 1: Dispatch from the Yeezy Plane

Wyoming, Part 2


Maren! Luke! Carly! (4/19a)
Who's next? (4/16a)
"RAPSTAR" is accurately titled. (4/16a)
It's exclusive, but you're invited to come on in. (4/19a)
"Fearless" takes flight. (4/16a)
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?

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