Kanye West’s new album has had three official titles to date -- So Help Me God, SWISH, and Waves -- but he's been finding it hard to commit to one. A week after wife Kim Kardashian polled her Twitter followers on potential names for the project, 'Ye announced there "may be a new secret album title."
Will Kanye ultimately change the name of the record back to So Help Me God based on Kim’s poll results -- So Help Me God took 46 percent with a staggering 440,000 votes -- or is the title one he's been closely guarding for years?
To help answer this question, we’ve ranked nine album titles Kanye's been associated with. Some are rumors, some are hoaxes, and some are conspiracy theories. But one of them might be Kanye West's eighth.
Waves also happens to be the most recent name used for Kanye’s next album, apparently dropping on February 11. It’s also remarkably generic -- it could easily be the name of any album by any artist at any point in history.
The Beach Boys could’ve put out an album called Waves. Stevie Wonder could’ve put out an album called Waves. Limp Bizkit could’ve put out an album called Waves.
Kanye gave us albums with names like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and 808s & Heartbreak. We deserve more creativity than this. And anyway, the title has baggage. Wiz Khalifa clearly took issue with the title Waves, crediting Max B with creating “the wave,” which (along with tweeting the initials “kk”), caused Kanye and Wiz’s epic-yet-avoidable beef over what amounted to a misunderstanding. Waves isn’t worth it.
Thank God/Drums And Drugs
This is mostly a creation of the conspiracy theorists at kanyetothe.com, where the forum members seem more passionate about posting wolf emojis than deconstructing the origins the rumored album title. The title feels Kanye-esque, but the drug reference sounds more like an A$AP Rocky track than something Yeezy would put out. (It also happens to be an El-P lyric.)
Black American Psycho
In late 2012, a microsite appeared at blackamericanpsycho.com teasing a Kanye West project with an album title and a release date attached. It certainly felt like it could be a real Kanye project, with the reappropriation of a lily-white piece of pop culture like Bret Easton Ellis’ satire of the materialistic culture of the '80s.
It wouldn't have even been the first time Kanye referenced American Psycho; he even once told Ellen Degeneres that the video for “Love Lockdown” was inspired by Patrick Bateman, saying “You know at the end of the movie [that] he didn’t really kill anyone. [I just liked] the clean aesthetic and the way he was all about labels. I wanted to express all of that in the video.” (He seemed to be joking. The video’s a great watch.)
However, in popular culture, American Psycho has been lost to wannabe Patrick Batemans bros who missed the book and film’s ironic possibly feminist take on money, masculinity, and misogyny, and we’re ultimately not 100 percent sure on which side Kanye would fall. But last we checked, Kanye was still celebrating his preposterous wealth and calling out ex-girlfriends on Twitter.
Ultimately, Black American Psycho was revealed to be a hoax. The site’s creator posted a message saying, “This website is in no way affiliated with Def Jam Records or Kanye West. The Black American Psycho title and the 10.23.2012 release date are fictitious. I created the website a while ago as part of a school project. I apologize for misleading people, I did not expect the site to generate so much traffic and be taken seriously.” So, not real. But still a better title than Waves.
The upcoming Waves was titled SWISH from May 2015 to January 2016. Kanye ultimately didn’t even seem very tied to the SWISH title, saying, “I might change it again but that’s the name now.”
And on the surface, SWISH seems like a lightweight title, with the aforementioned genericness that could ultimately be applied to any basketball-loving artist. (SWISH would make a great title for an Action Bronson album.) But there’s a deeper meaning with the title SWISH; Kanye’s stated that the album is about “embracing the music, embracing joy, and just being of service to the people.”
The record is supposed to be a return to his more pop-oriented roots (especially after the in-your-face punk-rap of Yeezus), created to show that Kanye can write perfect songs whenever he wants to. Calling his album SWISH is equivalent to his claims that it’s “not the album of the year,” but the “album of the life” (claims that he's since walked back).
Waves won’t be the greatest album of all time. But we can hope it’s a swish.
Cruel Winter, the supposed follow-up to Kanye’s Cruel Summer compilation, was teased by Q-Tip and Pusha T on this very website in 2012.
Since then, it’s been more of an urban legend. As Complex noted:
"The project was often shot down by members of the clique, even though Travis [Scott] maintained that until 'Kanye West says it's not coming out, it still is.' Pusha, who at times has denied the album's existence, once said that he had over 20 verses for Cruel Summer, and the ones that weren't used could possibly end up on Cruel Winter. Common said it was never coming out and was more of a rumor than anything else."
Let’s be honest. Between Kanye solo albums, anytime anyone from the media talks to someone on G.O.O.D. Music, they’re going to ask about Cruel Winter. It only makes sense. Every time Kanye puts the band back together, we get a “Clique” or a “So Appalled.”
Cruel Summer isn’t a perfect album, but it gave us some of Kanye’s greatest posse cuts. The title Cruel Winter represents all our favorite G.O.O.D. Music artists going back to the lab. Why wouldn’t we want more?
So Help Me God
This is the original title for Waves, dreamed up all the way back in March 2015, and the winner of Kim's poll.
So Help Me God sounds like it'd be for an album that's more of an extension of Yeezus than SWISH or Waves and it came complete with its own logo featuring a 13th century symbol for the Virgin Mary, which had the conspiracy theorists buzzing. (Is Kim the Virgin Mary? Was Donda?)
Ultimately, based on “Real Friends” and “No More Parties in L.A.,” Waves seems to be a lighter album than the one implied by the title So Help Me God. “All Day” would’ve fit on So Help Me God; the others don’t.
Rich Black American
In 2013, a screenshot made its way around the internet that supposedly showed the iTunes tracklist for a Kanye album called Rich Black American, the followup to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The photo showed features from Beyonce, Pusha T, Big Sean, Frank Ocean, Florence Welch, and Skrillex, with songs that had been floating around the internet like “Perfect Bitch.”
And really, Rich Black American is a fantastic title. It could theoretically be the final album in the series begun by College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation (more on that later), or it could easily be a more thoughtful meditation on what it’s like to be a wealthy African-American in modern society. (Watch The Throne could’ve easily been called Rich Black Americans.)
It’s the album title that aims high; like Yeezus or My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the name alone implies you’d be in for something big. Ultimately fake, but who says Kanye wouldn't be interested?
God Unwilling was the rumored album title for CRS (Child Rebel Soldier), Kanye’s supergroup with Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell. CRS only had a couple tracks to their name -- “Us Placers” (featuring a Thom Yorke sample), “Don’t Stop” (released during G.O.O.D. Fridays), and the remix to “Everyone Nose” by N.E.R.D.
Based on singles alone, God Unwilling could've been epic. “Us Placers” made waves after its inclusion on Kanye’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” mixtape and received rave reviews from critics, and “Don’t Stop” was one of many instant classics released during the pre-My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy era. People will probably keep asking Lupe and Pharrell about it for the rest of their careers. Some thought CRS could've been the "greatest group ever." God Unwilling, like So Help Me God, a title that invokes religion while bending an existing expression to Kanye's cynical worldview.
The fact that we never got the CRS record with Kanye, Lupe, and Pharrell in their peaks is one of the biggest missed opportunities in music of the last decade. Out of every lost Kanye project, this one hurts the most. Let's hope one day we get an album named God Unwilling, with Lupe and Pharrell in tow.
Good Ass Job
Good Ass Job is the Holy Grail. Everyone who’s been on the emotional journey with Kanye from The College Dropout to Late Registration to Graduation is waiting for the magnum opus that will complete the quadrilogy, the grand conclusion.
Unfortunately, after the release of Graduation, Kanye’s mother Donda passed and he broke off his engagement with former fiancée Alexis Phifer, and we got the groundbreaking 808s & Heartbreak instead. After 808s, he told us that he came up with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy because “I didn’t want to do the Good Ass Job thing and have to stick to the skits and everything that went with that.” And you know what? He was right. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is probably Kanye’s magnum opus, and the world is a better place with it in it.
But we still want Good Ass Job. J. Tinsley at The Smoking Section once wrote:
"Maybe 'Good Ass Job' remains a possibility. Life after Graduation is all about finding yourself, screwing up, screwing up some more, maybe settling down, starting a family and, if you’re lucky, landing the job that makes waking up at the crack of dawn worth battling traffic every morning. Maybe Kanye’s at the point in his career where he’s rotating from job-to-job in search of the level of success he fantasized about when life was simpler.”
Good Ass Job is the best lost album title. Hopefully Kanye still has it in him.