Kanye doesn’t shy away from darkness or drama on his eighth solo album, written and recorded while holed up with an extended circle of friends and collaborators amid the snowcapped mountains encircling Jackson Hole, Wyoming. As expected, he mentions recent controversies—including that notorious “slavery was a choice” comment—and possibly sparks some new ones, name-dropping the #MeToo movement and Stormy Daniels. Even those headline-grabbing asides, however, don’t overshadow what are arguably the most candid lyrics of Kanye’s career. His mental health is a constant theme: Kanye confesses to suicidal and homicidal thoughts within the album’s opening minute, then admits he’s bipolar on “Yikes”—but proclaims the condition is “my super-power…ain’t no disability.” He praises wife Kim Kardashian for standing by him through “the worst times” (“Wouldn’t Leave”) and reveals how his daughters have changed his views about women (“Violent Crimes”). Like G.O.O.D. Music president Pusha-T’s DAYTONA, released a week prior and produced by Kanye in Wyoming, the album has just seven songs, most under four minutes—his most focused and concise project yet, even with yet another impressive, sprawling guest list (Kid Cudi, Ty Dolla $ign, Nicki Minaj, Charlie Wilson). And the production, as always, is often remarkable: Kanye’s political beliefs may have changed, but his ear for skillfully chopped-up samples and uplifting, gospel-informed vocal arrangements hasn’t.
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