Will Kanye West’s Ambitious Five-Album Blitz Pay Off? Our Writers Answer Five Big Questions
The campaign will also include his first solo album since 2016's hotly debated The Life of Pablo, a highly anticipated full-length collaboration with his one-time protege Kid Cudi, Nas' first studio album in six years and the sophomore effort from Teyana Taylor.
Is this closely-packed slate of major projects too ambitious for even West, particularly in light of the negative attention some of his recent statements and actions have garnered? Which of these albums will shine the brightest, and with such a fast pace are any at risk of being lost in the shuffle? We asked our writers these and other burning questions.
In order, which of these albums are you most and least excited to hear?
Tatyana Jenene: Pusha has always been one of my favorite rappers from the new millennium. It's still exciting to hear his growth in life while sticking to what his fan base knows him for best - drug rap. I believe Teyana is one of the most underrated R&B stars today. She can actually sing, her tone is crazy. She deserves national attention and a fair shot. My relationship with Kanye is complicated, but I'm looking forward to new music by him. I'm looking forward to Nas the least, not for any particular reason, except that six years is a long break, and we have no idea what to expect.
Jacinta Howard: I'm most excited to hear the Nas album because he's the poster child for "great rapper who doesn't know how to pick beats." He definitely benefits from working closely with one or two producers. He's at his best when following a theme, and seven songs all produced by Kanye should be concise enough for him to come up with something dope. Well, unless the beats are wack. In which case, yikes.
I'm probably least excited to hear Pusha T's just because I think it will be good (possibly the best of the bunch) but I don't expect him to push the envelope much. Teyana Taylor's project would be next -- I'm not really sure what her sound is, honestly. So, maybe she'll gravitate toward something specific with this record and have a huge breakout moment sonically. I'm least excited to hear Kanye because his own beats and rhymes haven't been good or at all interesting since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Daryl Nelson: Nas, Kanye's solo album, Pusha T, Kids See Ghost, then Teyana Taylor. Nas' LP is first, because I always wanted to hear him on an album that was produced by just one producer, especially since the LP he was supposed to drop with DJ Premier never came out.
Ye's album is second because at the very least, I figure it'll be over the top inventive. Pusha comes in a close third, because I love his intelligent street rhymes, especially over Ye's beats. Kids See Ghost and Teyana's albums come in fourth and fifth, because they'll presumably be the least hip-hop sounding of the bunch, and I'm a hip-hop guy.
Trent Fitzgerald: Well, after Pusha T’s phenomenally great album DAYTONA, I would love to hear West’s new solo album and Nas’ project. Although, I’m not convinced that ‘Ye is producing the entire Nas album. I can’t imagine Nas not letting his longtime collaborator Salaam Remi bless him with a few joints. I’m not interested in Kanye and Kid Cudi’s joint album, Kids See Ghosts.
Sharee Hereford: 1) Kanye - because the beats alone on his latest single (if you want to call it that) is fire. Plus after all this tweeting, I want to know if the bars will match up.
2) Nas - He is a rap king, I know his lyrics will be on point and he will have a message.
3) Teyana Taylor - Taylor is super talented and her music has been underrated for some time, I want her to come with some dope beats that match her voice and I'd be hype if she spit a few bars as well.
4) Pusha T - It's been a minute since he released an album, I want to know what he has to say.
5) Cudi- I'm looking forward to the wave he is going to create with his music.
Do you think it’s a good idea to put all of these albums out at once, or will some or all get lost in the shuffle?
Jenene: Streaming has given us the option of listening to music at our own pace. I don't think any of the projects will get lost in the shuffle, because fans will always revisit their favorites from the bunch. I think the quick releases and short albums are a significant and smart adjustment to the way we currently intake music.
Howard: I think it's fine. Music is consumed much faster these days and this is a cool gimmick. If the music is good, it'll last. And these artists all have fairly different audiences too. The fact that all the projects are seven songs each also increases the possibility of them being memorable.
Nelson: It's not a good idea, I think some of them will get lost in the shuffle. Music comes and goes so fast these days, I think it would've been better to put them out one month apart.
Fitzgerald: t’s a horrible idea to put them out at once. I think Kanye should space them out -- maybe two weeks apart so rap fans can fully digest each project.
Hereford: I don't think it's a bad idea to put all these albums out so closely, because everyone is talking about it. There is a chance a few of the albums will get lost in the shuffle - however, they are all bringing something different to the table. I do hope each of them drop multiple singles for radio and release their music videos in a timely fashion, that will help them stay in the spotlight.
Have Kanye’s recent political statements affected your enjoyment of his music, and / or your anticipation for his new record?
Jenene: Absolutely. I don't think he has a clear understanding how dangerous his statements can be. The daughter of a slave, Ruth Odom Bonner, just died at the age of 100 last year. We're not that far removed from slavery, and to say it was an option is asinine and disrespectful to our ancestors. I blocked him before that because he was trying to sell some awful plastic blue sandal, but for him to align himself with Trump because Obama hurt his feelings is childish. This is the same Trump that took out an ad in the New York Daily News asking for New York to bring back the death penalty for the Central Park 5 case. The same Trump who encouraged police to be more "rough" during arrests. Kanye wants to be edgy and different so bad, but doesn't realize how harmful and hurtful it is to his fans who have been by his side since "We Are the Champions."
Howard: I don't see how you can say anything as goofy, misinformed, and flagrant as the comments Kanye has made and have it not affect the enjoyment of his music -- especially when he's known as an artist who, in the past, has had smart commentary/perspective on culture, and socio-political issues. I can admit I'm curious to hear what his production is going to sound like. It's times like these when I really wish artists would just stay off social media, man.
Nelson: Not really but that could change. Most times, I can look at a musician like a chef and just focus on what's being created. Meaning, I can still enjoy a plate of food the chef prepared, even if he or she said something I hated.
Fitzgerald: Kanye is Kanye - he’s a blowhard. His political views left a bad impression on me, but not so much that I want to #MuteKanye. I just hope he sticks to the music and leave his political beliefs to himself. He delivered a few subtle lyrical jabs about backlash on the Pusha T track “What Would Meek Do?”
Hereford: When he first started dropping his "free thinker" tweets I vowed never to listen to his music again. But I'm a big fan of Kanye so I've been looking forward to his new release for quite some time. After several conversations with friends, I think I can separate the art from the artist and still enjoy his music.
Six years later, what’s your take on Nas’ Life is Good?
Jenene: One of his best to date, an excellent example of what "grown" hip-hop should be.
Howard: I still think it's one of his best albums, and helped set a tone for "grown-man rap"—not giving him the all the credit – Scarface and Stic.Man both did it before that record and Phonte and Royce recently took it to the next level. But he had really good production (because he mostly worked with only two producers) and had a cool theme that he followed. That's typically a formula for success for artists of any genre. Obviously, it takes on a new tone with Kelis' allegations. He should probably go to counseling.
Nelson: I think the album has some incredibly solid moments, and there's songs that I still play all the time, like "Accident Murders," "No Introduction" and "Queens Story." If I had one critique, I wished it sounded a little more cohesive, in terms of the production — which is why it'll be interesting to hear what Kanye does on Nas' new LP.
Fitzgerald: Life Is Good is a fantastic album. It's not as stellar as Stillmatic and God’s Son but it's certainly not a disappointment. Like I mentioned before, he and producer Salaam Remi are like Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones in their prime – when the two work together, they produced classic hits. So while I’m interested in hearing what Kanye is going to bring on Nas’ new album, there has to be tracks produced by Remi on it as well.
Do you think the recent domestic violence allegations against Nas will have a negative affect on his career?
Jenene: LOL, no. Hip-Hop doesn't care enough about women – especially Black women – for it to hurt his career. Women who speak out against men in entertainment are looked at as opportunists, and gold diggers instead of victims. And the accused's behavior is rarely checked by their peers. I do expect him to address it in a song, though.
Howard: Nah — especially if he's vulnerable and is honest about what went down on this album. I think that's key in this age. Miles Davis is still considered a genius. So is Biggie. Now if the album is wack, yes, it will play more of a role. You can't do s---ty things and make s---ty music too.
Nelson: I think it'll have a small negative affect but it won't topple his career or anything. But these things are really hard to call. So far, in my opinion, the backlash hasn't been that loud, yet that could change at any second. We'll have to see.
Fitzgerald: The short answer -- No. Until there is physical evidence (a police report, an arrest, photos, etc.) of these allegations, I think Nas’ influential legacy in hip-hop is still intact.
Hereford: I don't think the recent domestic violence allegations will have a negative effect on his career. I say this because hip-hop culture (no matter how much I love it) still does not view issues like domestic violence as bad behavior. Some of our biggest icons in hip-hop have had domestic violence-related issues and it hasn't put a dent in their careers. The culture of hip-hop is very misogynistic and until women (in numbers) come forward and say this is problematic behavior, stories like this will be a headline for one day on blogs – and then business will go on as usual.
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