M.I.D. Summer: Three takeaways from the Wyoming sessions
Chaos begets excellence in the strange world of Kanye West. At least it used to. It's similar to T'Challa's advanced body armor: the more negative blows Ye's accumulates, the stronger his kinetic energy becomes when working on the latest composition. History has proven that he thrives in a chaotic environment, which is often self-made by spewing outlandish statements or ranting on stage psychotically.
We've seen this narrative play out several times over his solo career. It's like a Sixth Sense for Kanye loyalists: he just made an ass out of himself publicly...but that means he's about to drop some fire for the summer. From the Mike Myers headjerk (once) to the Taylor Swift incident (twice) to the public scolding of media personalities (the keyboard need an infinity sign), Kanye has never shied away from controversy. It's the catalyst that drives the conceptually forward-thinking music creative that's within. Until 2018.
This method showed signs of deterioration during the manic frenzy that was The Life of Pablo era in 2016. Although it was widely considered to be a lower-tier release in his catalog, TLOP provided flashes of brilliance like the chilling and cinematic "Ultralight Beam" that reminded many fans why they put up with Kanye's bullshit outside of the music.
Even the shaky rollout that was all-but-off-the-rails culminated with one of 2016's biggest events in entertainment: Yeezy Season 3, a runway show that doubled as an album release party for 18,000 people at a sold out Madison Square Garden. Lasting memories were created there while his ignorance off the boards was brushed to the side (but not forgotten).
We're a little more than a month removed from the last release from the Wyoming Sessions and it's becoming increasingly obvious that the self-proclaimed genius had failed with his experiment in the grandest of ways. "Failed" because of the collective lack of care for the final execution of the projects. "In the grandest of ways," because of the collateral damage he caused along the way (see: "Slavery was a Choice" and M*GA/Dragon Energy).
When he announced the lineup of five consecutive weeks of new releases - Pusha-T, himself, Kid Cudi & himself, Nas, and Teyana Taylor - while primarily handling the production as well, it was safe to assume that G.O.O.D. Fridays were finally back.
Compared to Hawaii and the glorious run in 2010 resulting in a classic album, the Wyoming Sessions proved to be weird cousin Arnie from Hey Arnold: recognizable, but awkwardly shaped and dull. Aside from the whole Drake fiasco, it was hardly a Cruel Summer from the vaunted G.O.O.D. Music camp. But it wasn't a complete trainwreck.
Here are a few thoughts I had about the "experience" overall:
1. Pusha-T was the Trojan Horse of the experiment
DAYTONA had to work. As the pace car for this five-week circuit, it had to be damn near perfect; to many, it lived up to expectations. If the long-awaited true follow-up to My Name is My Name was anything less than stellar, the already mild anticipation for the rest of Wyoming would have dried up even quicker. Serving up the purest brick of Peruvian white, the G.O.O.D. Music President delivered his best solo project to date with DAYTONA; raw, cut with no filler whatsoever.
Ye & Mike Dean really shined with the minimalist production paired with gritty sampling to create a menacing atmosphere. His delivery is grimy, yet relaxed and confident like it hasn't aged a day since Lord Willin'. Most importantly, there were no stale bars or wasted lines from Push; similar to a technical boxer accruing points over the course of a fight to earn the decision in the 12th round, as opposed to the knockout artist getting winded by the fifth bell. For an added measure to retain maximum attention towards Wyoming, there was "The Story of Adidion."
Terrance and Aubrey have traded their fair share of subs in years prior (essentially over a BAPE hoody), but after the scope of the battle was lined up with "Infrared," Drake quickly responded with a clip that has presumably in the chamber for a while, saved for a moment like this. "Aight, bet," said the Virginia Beach native and proceeded to expose a lot of shit about Drizzy that the public wasn't privy to (sidenote: you're allowed to enjoy Scorpion AND still think "YOU ARE HIDING A CHILD" is hilarious too. Let these jokes breathe).
There's an unconfirmed report from a credible source that Ye learned about Aubrey's now-public son when he brought Drake to Wyoming for a writing session. If this is true, it's very possible that Kanye gave this ammo to Pusha-T, strategically use him as a conduit to create a huge controversy for maximum attention. If so, it might be time for Kanye to reevaluate his promotional tactics. The numbers and metrics may have inflated because of it, but is a (supposed) shady move like worth a loss of credibility, Ye?
2. Nas and Teyana Taylor deserved better, especially Teyana
Teyana Taylor signed to G.O.O.D Music in 2012. Since then, she's had 1. a few placements on Cruel Summer; 2. released VII, a solid, but under the radar studio album; 3. an incredibly skilled and sexy performance for the "FADE" music video. Limited as they may be, she has shined with every opportunity given to her and has been patiently waiting to show the world why she should be considered a true force in RnB. An album executively produced by arguably one of the most important producers since the start of the millennium was supposed to launch her to that height.
Keep That Same Energy deserved a traditional and proper rollout, complete with lead singles and visuals to match. Hell, at the very least, she deserved a completed album. Waking up to texts from friends, the day after it was supposed to drop (!), when it didn't, to realize it wasn't the final version you thought was coming out (!!), should never be the way to first hear your "completed" album. Teyana sang her ass off on KTSE, but the production and final mixing arrangment felt incomplete.
And with Nas, I don't know. Maybe Escobar Season was experiencing Climate Change 'cause this ain't it, chief. And he knows that. The album felt rushed and disjointed, as if the lyrics were recorded acapella and blindly matched to beat stems at the last minute, without any final input from the artist.
On the process of recording with Kanye. “Wyoming was weird.” 😅 pic.twitter.com/5dX9cv5auB
— Eric Diep (@E_Diep) July 27, 2018
When I heard the news about NASIR, I was expecting seven "We Major" level tracks. That bar was set way too high. But it looks like a more carefully thought out, traditional hip-hop project from Nas is coming soon:
And another Nas album on the way. He has been in with Swizz Beatz and RZA. pic.twitter.com/E9uaZLvi0o
— Eric Diep (@E_Diep) July 27, 2018
3. Rev. Ty Dolla $ign and 070 Shake are co-MVPs of the Wyoming Summer League
Not much to say about Ty; in 2018 he has definitively cemented his status as an RnB star with his incredible run over the past three years, a run that started with Free TC. Many jokes flew about the mediocre nature and output of the Wyoming Sessions, but none of these shots landed in the vicinity of $. Say what you will about Kanye, but he's a veteran at utilizing his guest features as elements on instrumentals in bold and sublime ways. Ty Dolla $ign's harmonizing and gospel-esq vocals stole the show on "All Mine," "3Way," "Wouldn't Leave," and "Freeee (Ghost Town Pt 2)."
070 Shake, however, didn't have an established base prior to the Wyoming experience. Being a relatively unknown artist, the New Jersey native had the most to prove, and, when called upon, brushed off that chip on her shoulder with ease. She undoubtly made a mark with a distinct and haunting vocal presence on "Santeria," "Ghost Town," and "Not For Radio,"; songs that feature Push, Ye, Cudi, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Nas, and Diddy. Not a terrible way to start off one's career. If she's not shelved as a background artist only brought out for experiments (*coughs* Teyana deserved better), then the sky's the limit for Shake's future with G.O.O.D.
Kids See Ghosts did take us a little over a year-and-a-half to just get it tight and where we wanted it to be... Months went by, and we just kept working on it and chiseling away at it. It was funny to us when people were talking about how the album was rushed or last-minute. I knew what it took. I was there the whole time. - Kid Cudi for Billboard; July 2018
Many consider Kids See Ghosts as the most well-round project to come out Wyoming. Stripped of excessive arrogance, Kanye and Cudi (whose hums were in peak form) created a powerful 7-track diary of sorts, detailing their bouts with depression and mental health. The primary influencers of Mike Dean, Plain Pat, and Dot the Genius, as they've done on previous work (i.e. 808s & Heartbreak, Man on the Moon) made the duo sound as sharp as they've been in the past decade. Thoughts can be birthed quickly and finalizing the product could take 7 days, but that kind of focus to make sure that the arrangement of sounds and performance from the lyricists/singers normally isn't overnight.
It can work for some, but it's not for everyone. Aside from Kanye playing active defense against the opening track's attempt at not sounding like a trainwreck, KSG had a sense of completeness that ye (lyrics scrapped and recreated in 8 days), KTSE, and NASIR did not have.
Music opinions are subjective and number ratings are arbitrary but if I'd have to rate the Wyoming experience, it'd be 2.5/5; the 2 representing the successes (DAYTONA and KSG), the .5 representing the half-baked ideas of the other 3.
Each collection arguably had at least one song with replay value beyond 1-listen:
1. Push's grizzly and boastful "The Games We Play" (No jewelry on, but you richer than everybody // You laugh a little louder, the DJ say your name a little prouder //And we don't need a globe to show you the world is ours);
2. "No Mistakes" featuring Charlie Wilson (I'm definitely gonna need an hour-long Kanye-less version that loops Uncle Charlie's chorus like what someone did with the horns from SpottieOttieDopaliscious);
3. A therapeutic Cudi glides on "Reborn" which featured a Kanye that suddenly remembered how to rap his ass off on a Graduation era type of feel for the overall song;
4. "Bonjour" feels like the perfect soundtrack to sail along the Amalfi Coast to, boo'd up, with a never-ending glass of expensive alcohol in hand, without a care in the world. NASIR deserved 6 more of these.
5. From the raps and to boldly sang vocals, Teyana bodied her performance on the sample-driven and orchestral "Rose in Harlem." KTSE suffered the most from "demoitis," but she, as best as she could, rose to shine from the fractured cement better known as the Wyoming Sessions;