The trials and tribulations of Kanye, Twitter and the release of “The Life of Pablo”

Charles Siler, Contributing Reporter

Did you know it’s Yeezy Season? I did, because about a week ago, I turned on the notifications on my Twitter for Kanye. That means that when Kanye tweets, I get a notification. A notification for every tweet. Every single one.

I turned them on after spending a class period gleefully watching Kanye berate Wiz Khalifa on my timeline over a misunderstood acronym. It was the quickest 50 minutes of my life. When it was over, I had a feeling that there was more to come, and I didn’t want to miss out. Since then my phone has obligingly alerted me to each new tweet of every new Kanye rant — and oh, how he has ranted. 

In the last week he’s addressed topics from his childhood dreams of selling out Madison Square Garden (“On February 11th these dreams come true”), to butt stuff (“I stay away from that area all together”), to Kylie Jenner’s Puma deal (“1000% Kylie is on Yeezy team!!!”) to—this one will leave a bad taste in your mouth — Bill Cosby (“BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!!!!”).

But even if you were smart enough not to follow Kanye on Twitter, Yeezy Season is inescapable. In February he’s put out his new album, “The Life of Pablo,” released his new fashion collection, “Yeezy Season 3” and sold $25 tickets for fans to watch a live-stream of him playing music off his laptop.

But his Twitter, more than any of those, has been at the epicenter of “Yeezy Season.” Kanye’s feed is a more exciting place to be than Madison Square Garden or Mike Dean’s studio or Kanye’s Parisian castle or, if we’re being honest with ourselves, the album itself. 

Don’t misunderstand: “The Life of Pablo” is a good album, maybe even a great one. Like “Yeezus” and “808’s and Heartbreak,” on first listen it sounds weird—maybe you like it, maybe you don’t, but we all agree it’s weird—and, also like those albums, it will be easier to understand in retrospect.

The genius of “808’s” was only recognized last year, seven years after its release, when some guy at Pitchfork, the publication that originally gave it a 7.6, the lowest rating it had (and has) ever given a Kanye project, realized that it had influenced literally every hip-hop album since. The lesson here being: trying to understand and evaluate a Kanye project the week it comes out will only make you look dumb.

Maybe because of the album’s intimidating weirdness, the conversation around it still hasn’t focused on the music. Instead, it focuses on everything but the music: the title changes, the delays, the shifting track list, the bizarre cover art.

And Kanye’s Twitter was at the center of all this, deliberately or incidentally inciting anger, elation, disbelief. Discussion of the album has been informed by our reading of Kanye’s Twitter. For whatever reason, he showed us how the sausage got made—last minute mixing, included and excluded songs, #BlameChance—and people see messy process reflected in the work. People are mad about Tidal, mad about the listening party in New York and they’re really mad about Wolves. Even though ‘Ye has been playing songs off the album for more than a year, there seems to be a consensus among the album’s critics that the project was rushed, that it lacks in lyricism, that, unlike his last three albums, it doesn’t have the cohesive feel of a project with a purposeful vision behind it.

I’m not going to say those critics are wrong; like I said, I’m not writing here in judgment of the album. To a point, I agree with those who call Kanye immature, egotistical, even arrogant, and I can see how “The Life of Pablo could look something like the work of an excited and entitled child.

On the other hand, I saw him warble his few auto-tuned bars on last week’s “Saturday Night Live,” and I watched as he stepped back when Chance the Rapper, the emerging heir to Kanye’s Chicago-born genre-pushing throne, took the floor. Standing in the corner, ‘Ye didn’t look like an egotist upstaged. He looked more like a happy older brother, grinning deliriously as Chance powerfully performed his verse. When the performance ended and Kanye freaked out announcing the album was online (it wasn’t), I actually laughed out loud—because Kanye did look like a child, albeit a slightly overzealous one. More than a lack of organization, what defines it all—the Twitter, the album rollout, the album itself—is simple enthusiasm, an eagerness to share what he’s created with the world, however silly and disorganized—and, yes, childish—the act of sharing it might be.

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