Kanye West's top three recent leaks
A lot of this new material -- slated for 808s and Heartbreak follow-up Dark Twisted Fantasy and a West/Jay-Z collaborative EP tentatively titled Watch The Throne -- is, frankly, absolutely fucking fantastic, stacking up well next to classics like "All Falls Down," "We Major," and "The Good Life," merrily harkening back to the salad days when listening to Kanye West show his ass in public was actually fun.
Gimme Noise pared down with the new joints to three indispensable keepers, so you don't have to.
(So sorry "Power." Better luck next time, "Runaway," "Lord Lord Lord," and "Good Friday.")
1. "Devil in a New Dress"
It's easy to underestimate or undervalue this cut. Producer Bink's steamy, sultry production -- somewhere between chanteuse fare and boudoir soul -- clouds the ear without really trying, making itself the song's alpha and omega, conjuring liquid-y shadows drifting in corners and decorative silk scarves and burning Havana cigars. In other words, if you're not really listening -- really hearing this -- it's easy to lose sight of the fact that West is rapping bowlegged circles under, around, over, and through this gorgeous beat. "Dress" is basically West attempting to draw out a mute, sulky girl Friday; he fails, but he manages to inject humor, humility, and humanity into a scenario every guy finds himself in at least a hundred times, rapping cautiously and carefully around his prey.
Pull-Quote: "Hood phenomenon/The LeBron of rhyme/Hard to be humble when you stuntin' on a Jumbotron."
Whaaa?: The random, sorta-adlib shout-out to Satan, purported lord of the underworld.
Watch for: The well-designed Ma$e, Dior, and Scarface quips.
2. "See Me Now" feat. Beyonce and Charlie Wilson
So this is basically 'Ye showing his ass, which happens a lot in rap, but it's a little different when it's West, at the top of his game, with Beyonce and Charlie Wilson driving the hooks and choruses. (Is it weird hearing Beyonce, in fulsome West-sock-puppet mode, throwing n-bombs around and clique-talking? Yeah, it is.) There's a relentless positivity to this song, to its surging brass and surreptitiously looped core backing vocals and vaguely urban-gospel ennui; if your entire family had just been eaten by wolves, this jam could still make you crack a smile.
Pull-Quote: "He just walked in Nobu like it was Whole Foods."
Pull-Quote You Will Reference, Ad Nauseum, for the Next Few Weeks: "If you fall on the concrete, that's yo ass fault/If you pass on a Kan' beat, that's your last thought."
Watch For: The self-aggrandizing Christ/Magic Johnson riff.
3. "Monster" feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver & Nicki Minaj
The funniest thing about the whole Eclipse craze is how everyone - from teens to artists to huge evil faceless corporations to make-up companies to television networks to you name it - is leaping, with no shame, onto the vampire bandwagon. On "Monster," Rick Ross and Jay-Z eagerly wade into the garlic averse fray, the former gruffly declaring himself a "no-good bloodsucker" and the latter identifying himself with less merchandizable beasties ("Sasquatch, Godzilla, King Kong, Lochness, Goblin, Ghoul, a zombie with no conscience") before shouting out haters and lesser-thans and wannabes as "vampires and blood suckers." West's verses are heavier with versatile money-talk, but there's a brillo-pad gruffness and hunger that's scary in a really good way. Everyone's on fire on "Monster" -- Bon Iver's coda is downright shivery -- but it's Nicki Minaj who steals the show, on some fuguing-out Hal Incandenza/Rain Man shit that's gotta be heard to be believed, because pull-quoting doesn't do justice to how bonkers and on-point she is here.
The Whaaa?: "Have you ever had sex with a pharoah?/I put the pussy in a sarcophagus."
Watch For: Minaj kinda aligning herself with M.I.A., I think. Maybe.
The Takeaway: Were you, like me, waiting for the moment when it was okay to finally start taking Nicki Minaj seriously? Her bashing-it-out-of-the-park moment? This song is totally that moment, squared.