By Alvin Blanco
Leading up to his fifth album, Dark Twisted Fantasy, due November 16, as well as an EP, Watch The Thrown, featuring his his big brother Jay-Z dropping one week later, Kanye West is again building feverish anticipation for his work.
The MC has always been savvy when it comes time to release a new album. Before the release of Graduation he appeared on numerous remixes and 808s & Heartbreak benefited from the rapper/producer's insistence at taking a turn as a love tortured crooner.
But now in 2010 he is exploiting social media to the fullest via a Twitter account rabidly followed by fans and media alike along with his own blog. In late August, West announced via Twitter that he would leak new music every Friday via his blog up until Christmas.
To-date there have been seven official GOOD Fridays leaks from West, beginning with "Power Remix" boasting Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz and the next song to leak was "Monster" which features an all-star cast including Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver.
"'Monster' was definitely exciting because every person I spoke to had a different favorite verse," says Jake Paine, Editor-in-Chief of HipHopDX.com. "It's very brief, but Ross' verse is so crucial in setting the tone for the record and made it feel like an anthem. Additionally, I wanted to see how Kanye and Bon Iver would sound. 'Monster' was a way better fusion than I imagined and every contributor to this song impressed me. Monsters, Inc."
The next release after the "Monster" posse cut was the "Runaway Remix" that had fans scratching their head at the combination of Wu-Tang Clan and meticulously coiffured, pint-sized crooner Justin Beiber. West made up for the brave, pop friendly dalliance with the next week's leak "Devil In a New Dress," which featured production from Bink! and no guest appearances.
"The best GOOD Friday release was hands down 'Devil In A New Dress,' says Dart Adams of Bloggerhouse/BastardSwordsman. "This is what I expected Kanye to be creating when I heard he was crafting a boom bap type project and going back to his normal aesthetic. The track is classic Bink! and Kanye West is in rare form lyrically."
EW.com staff writer Brad Wete also commended Kanye's individual performance, noting its "Earnest, honest, and humorous raps," while adding, "The line, 'I ordered the jerk. She said, 'You are what you eat.' is classic Kanye."
West is never shy about collaborating, especially with his own artists, and the fifth leak "Good Music," showcases artists on the G.O.O.D. Music label roster with appearances from Common, Kid Cudi, Big Sean and one of its latest signees rapper Pusha T of the Clipse. The song also features the singing of former Gap Man frontman Charlie Wilson. Wilson would be a featured performer on the next week's leak, "Lord Lord Lord" along with Mos Def, another recent G.O.O.D. Music signing, Swizz Beatz and Raekwon.
"'Lord Lord Lord' is the one I've been bumping the most," says noted journalist Jesse Serwer (Time Out New York, XXL, et. al.). "It's just so hip-hop—the beat sounds like something Premier would have given Group Home. Charlie Wilson really got a chance to shine on that one. Charlie's still a viable artist who sells a lot of records still to older listeners, so it's pretty cool how Kanye's really giving him some exposure to younger listeners."
West continued the rotating guest list with last Friday's "So Appalled," which features Swizz Beatz, Jay-Z, Pusha T, newcomer Cy-Hi Da Prince and Wu-Tang Clan's RZA. Notable, while the song getting mostly high praise from fans, it's getting chagrin from MC Hammer. Seems like Hammer was none too happy about Jay-Z name checking him in his verse and making light of the famously dancing rapper's past financial troubles.
Jerry Barrow, Senior Editor at TheUrbanDaily.com gives the edge to the previous week's "Lord Lord Lord" for more critical reasons.
"Some fans dinged "Lord Lord Lord" for the re-use of the Brian Bennet sample but that beat is what edges it out slightly over 'So Appalled' for me," says Barrow. "Kanye's A&R skills are in top form getting Mos Def and Raekwon to join him. If only he'd subbed in Jadakiss for Swizz."
Swizz Beatz has been featured on three of the G.O.O.D. Fridays releases. This shouldn't a surprise since West has called him the greatest producer of all time but many point out that A.Key's husband's rhyming lags badly behind his production.
'"So Appalled" would be in contention with 'Devil In A New Dress' if Swizz Beatz's presence was wiped via ProTools," suggests Adams.
Nevertheless, Wete still considers the song top-notch.
"The best GOOD Friday release hands down is 'So Appalled,'" he says. "Each guest's verse is pristine. From Jay's umpteenth rhyme about little rhymers throwing rocks at the thrown to Pusha T's street talk to Cy-Hi—who might have stolen the show. His could've easy been an overlooked 16 bars in the company of those titans. But instead he coolly wowed me. And RZA's four-bar "f---in' ridiculous" rant at the end is so hip-hop."
Adds Barrow, "I think 'So Appalled' is dope but I deduct a half point for not having an actual verse from RZA and Kanye's verse is almost a year old. A full verse from RZA would make this undeniable."
What's for certain is with the upcoming release of Dark Twisted Fantasy, once again, and via good music not gossip, Kanye West has all of our attention.