Kanye West previewed a big chunk of his upcoming fifth album at Facebook’s corporate headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. last night. He didn’t play finished tracks from an iPod, or perform any typical concert. The suited rapper simply climbed on a table and spit verses from four new tunes, a cappella, for what looks like a fluorescently lit conference room full of employees. It’s the biggest glimpse we’ve gotten yet of West’s highly anticipated disc, for which his label has yet to announce a confirmed title or release date.
Crisp footage of West’s unconventional performance made it to YouTube lickety-split, of course. So what can we glean from his latest lyrics? Check them out after the jump (clips via Rap Radar, some NSFW language) and see.
West opened with a song of unknown title. After being interrupted by a ringing phone – seriously, Facebook employees, Kanye West is giving you an exclusive private performance and you’re not on vibrate? – he launches into what he describes as “a fun rap.” “Kill the hypocrisy/This is an aristocracy,” West rhymes. “I’m Socrates/But my skin more chocolatey.” That’s gotta be the best Socrates namedrop since the Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury, if not Wu-Tang Forever.
Another clip shows West debuting verses from two songs. The first one may or may not be called “Devil in a New Dress.” It opens with a second-person monologue of escalating intensity – “You’re my devil, you’re my angel/You’re my heaven, you’re my hell” – that builds to a forceful proposition: “Lost in this plastic life/Let’s break out of this fake-ass party, turn this into a classic night.”
Next in that same clip is a song that’s likely titled “Chain Heavy.” This one’s anger carries a more political flavor. West drops fleeting references to Hurricane Katrina (“they tried to tell me my chain broke the levee”), the building of the pyramids, and “burn, Hollywood, burn.” He mentions the rank racism that his VMAs moment brought out in some sectors of the public (“I got called n—– on Twitter so many times”). It ends with an instantly quotable couplet: “This is the making of a masterpiece/So we broke out the chains and told our master, ‘Peace.’”
A third clip features a song apparently called “Mama’s Boyfriend,” in which West flashes back to his own perspective as a five-year-old watching his recently divorced mother start dating again. “I’m my mama’s boyfriend/I’m her little husband,” he shouts. “Keep your hands off my mama.” The remembered pain is raw and vivid – all the more so when West starts thinking about whether he, as an adult guy, is so different from his mom’s old boyfriends after all. Lots of rappers these days talk about their emotional baggage, a trend that West helped bring back to the genre’s forefront years ago. Yet even today I don’t think anyone else would reveal quite so much of themselves on record as this. Listening to the words of “Mama’s Boyfriend” feels like overhearing a therapy session. Call it Freud-hop.
West thanked his audience in a blog post today: “Many times in life I’ve had to deal with moments of doubt. And as it’s been a minute since I’ve performed any fresh material in front of an audience, this could’ve been one of those moments… but it wasn’t. Your energy was a gift so electric, so genuine, that it really helped me give my best.”
What do you think of Kanye’s surprise Facebook performance? Which of these songs sounds best to you? Sound off in the comments.
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