Kanye West released “Facts” just a few days ago, talkin’ bout how he jumped over Jumpman and we weren’t feeling it. It was too derivative, we thought, he sounded jealous instead of celebratory. Now, he’s reinstated his GOOD Friday initiative and we’re paying attention. This one’s different for so many reasons, but, more importantly, the sound is all Ye’s. But, is it good? Let’s tell you why it’s his most honest work in quite a while.
Is Kanye’s “Real Friends” Really Good?
Ural: Ladies and gentlemen, the always adventurous and honest Ye´ everyone wanted is back. Lyrically, this is the most poignant he’s been since My Beautiful Twisted Dark Fantasy. The rhymes regarding having to pay a cousin $250,000 for a stolen laptop featuring various compromising videos is the most jaw-dropping thing I’ve heard from Yeezy since “Blame Game.” Past Graduation, West has done a great job of articulating the nuances of the black elite and “Real Friends” continues that trend. One can almost hear the real heartbreak in having a distant relative call with the typical “Hello, how’s it going” introduction before asking for something. This level of detail is something he’s been doing since College Dropout.
Having Ty Dolla $ign assist through slick lyrical exchange through his almost signature throaty vocal chops really add something magical. This is just as much a testament to $ign’s writing abilities than West’s. He “Couldn’t tell you much about the fam y’all, I just showed up for the yams y’all,” means that LA’s current hook making king gets it.
Most importantly, the instrumental is a full step above both “All Day” and that fairly horrid “Jumpman.” Yeezy plays conductor as Havoc’s hard hitting drums compliment Frank Dukes and Boi-1da’s slick piano loop. Anyone turned off by his more disjointed production from Yeezus can be put to rest. However, the sparseness remains despite some added color. This is the “real Hip Hop” Ye´ that many traditionalists claim to miss. Add the short snippet of the Kendrick Lamar featured “No More Parties In LA,” and SWISH may actually sound exciting. And wait, is that Madlib helping with production?
Andre: The journey of backpack rapper to the greatest artist of our generation has been meteoric and emotional for Kanye West. This chapter of the Tao Of Ye´ is the “now what?” part of the hero’s journey. So all of your dreams have come true, now what? Your wife is the benchmark from which beauty is judged, but so what?
What began on College Dropout’s “Family Business,” Yeezy’s family life has been a large part of his musical oeuvre, and you can get a temperature of how he’s feeling by listening to him talk about it. Now, seemingly, with everything at the tip of his fingers he’s despondent about losing the importance of those familial ties while talking about how things change once you get too rich and too famous. It’s brilliant. It’s resplendent. The loops are sumptuous and discordant to match the tone of the piece.
And haven’t we all been there? 3 a.m., scrolling through our phones wondering who you could call with something heavy on your mind. And who could you call, really? Most of us don’t even have three or four that would pick up the phone. It’s not a terrible thing, I guess. People need their sleep. But this is the power of Kanye West: to be able to talk about a personal thing that, in his hands, becomes universal.
When he’s at his best, Ye´ is able to connect us all by allowing our most personal feelings to be represented by his. He’s a mirror, then, for our darkest thoughts, our most intimate emotions. He accomplished that on “Real Friends.” Maybe we shouldn’t worry about SWISH, then, after all.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.
Ural Garrett is a Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.