Kanye West’s irrepressible The Life Of Pablo album campaign reaches fever pitch with a live stream launch from Madison Square Gardens, Getintothis’ Cath Bore reports on a wildly odd evening from FACT in Liverpool.
In a strange turn of events, we’ve come to expect our pop and rock stars to show humility and modesty. We demand it. For the world’s biggest music stars it’s become a pre-requisite. To toe the line. Play party politics. Of Kanye West the world’s biggest hip hop star; he of rambling opinions; he with the ego-stretching-out in jaw breaking fashion should rein it in – rein it in into a never-ending yawn…
And yet, he upsets people, does Kanye. If we put all the people signing tiresome online petitions about him back to back, they’d fill about twenty Madison Square Gardens. It’s from there tonight he hosts a playback event for The Life of Pablo, his first album in three years. The event streamed in cinemas around the world; I’m at Liverpool FACT, watching it on the big screen.
He does nothing by halves.
Kanye and Kayne trending,
As the debate gets convoluted,
Glastonbury all chanting nigger
As though the toxic N-Word is diluted
Glastonbury’s audience, happily chanting back at to Kanye West as a response to his call, chilled me. The method is the message, and it sailed right over heads. Tonight, his audience of 20k fans at Madison Square Garden and those at the full to capacity event at FACT, get him. Everyone’s a fan and excited to hear the new record, having hungrily searched out teasers on Soundcloud over the past weeks.
Just before it all starts, there’s a shiver of excitement. The Kardashians enter Madison Square Garden, statuesque and splendid, walking past a massive tarpaulin covering something mighty in the middle of the floor.
The Kardashians are in white fur from head to foot, with Kanye’s wife Kim as queen. ‘Can I have an “amen!” from the church,’ grins her husband later, admiringly.
A slighter figure than I expect emerges next, in a soft cherry red sweat shirt, with a black baseball cap over his eyes.
‘I hope he isn’t going to be wearing THAT,’ says the woman behind me. ‘I expected something a bit more…you know.’
He turns his back to the camera, like he’s heard her. Kanye West has “THIS IS A GOD” on the back of his shirt.
Kanye hugs his mates and connects the most battered laptop I’ve ever seen in my life up to the mixing desk, says his hellos and plays the album. The tarpaulin in the centre of the floor slides off and slithers away, to reveal hundreds of models, standing silent and still, impassive. They’re wearing West’s new clothing range, Yeezy Season 3. We’re given close up shots of the clothes and boots, all part of the show, while we listen. Kanye mentions adidas a lot tonight. They get a whole lot of bang for their buck.
He says The Life of Pablo is a gospel album and I’d go along with that. On it, he preaches long and hard. He baits his detractors. He takes the piss. Of course he was going to do that. Did we ever really imagine any different? “I still think I’ll have sex with Taylor Swift, I made that bitch famous” is a provocation, of course. Immediately, I imagine tomorrow’s headlines, in capital letters. He references his wife’s love of wearing fur, too. And his ego, he may as well – everyone else does.
Yet this album shows him collaborating, with an easy confidence and respect. That says a lot.
Afterwards he begins to talk, gets emotional. It’s not scripted, but he’s not rambling either. He talks about how this album was a tough one to make, gets moist eyed. It’s important to create what you want, no matter what he says.
He turns churchy and sincere, thanking everyone. I’m welling up a little myself, and tell myself to get a grip. West’s audience tonight lap it up, The Life of Pablo loved. As they should, it’s an energetic, bold record, with points of tender loveliness.
Kanye West is passionate about everything. He’s like a thrilled kid, once he gets a subject he runs with it and smiles beatifically, goes all boyish and sweet. “To be creative director of Hermès is a dream of mine. I just want to bring as much beauty to the world as possible,” he reveals later on, getting really excited at the idea like he’s just thought of it.
He’ll probably do it, too.