Kanye's summer project: 5 album productions in Wyoming
Kanye West’s production career shows off the same prowess of his vocal career, with West having produced over 100 singles and albums since the 1990s. Over summer 2018, West worked with four artists to release five albums intermittently under the labels G.O.O.D. Music and Def Jam Recordings — namely Pusha T, Kid Cudi, Nas and Teyana Taylor.
The artists worked with West in Wyoming, where he predominantly produced seven-track albums. The brevity of the albums, confirmed by Pusha T, was meant to prove that albums don’t have to be long to be good: “Man, if we can’t kill you in seven songs, we don’t really need to be doing the music,” he said on Beats 1 radio.
Pusha T’s DAYTONA, the first release of the summer, stands as a proud reappearance for the old-school rapper before beginning his presidency at G.O.O.D. Music. Four of the album’s songs — “Infared,” “If You Know You Know,” “What Would Meek Do?” and “The Games We Play” — debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart, marking a high point in his career.
DAYTONA adds not just another notch on the belt of West’s production history, it also reveals the roots in Pusha’s rapping style. Spinning old-school, literal and personal lyricism to match newer precedents set by West in his production, DAYTONA marks a sharp incline in Pusha’s own solo work.
Pusha’s success with the album, however, can be measured not in equivalent album sales — which totaled 76,500 first week — but in clout. DAYTONA was drenched in controversy between Pusha and his long-time adversary Drake following the spotlight on his hotly contended “Infared,” one of many diss tracks exchanged between the two rappers. While it created a lasting buzz, West’s production still brought the album to life and with the attention brought by its notoriety, DAYTONA become a short-and-sweet testament to both artists’ careers.
West’s next release, ye, stood as one of his most out-of-realm albums yet, though closely followed the downward trend in careful curation with the rest of his discography.
Careless design, however, shows little obstacle for the album’s emotional success.
Opening with his euphoric “I Thought About Killing You,” ye shows a rare glimpse into his mind, whose public life has been gathering increased negative attention and speculation.
ye ultimately reflects more on West’s mental health rather than musical talent in and of itself. While the album touches on the topic of his mental health, proclaiming bipolar disorder as his “superpower,” he also fails to elaborate on the brief album. Nevertheless, filled with symphonic, distorted and tender hits, like “Wouldn’t Leave,” “Ghost Town” and “Violent Crimes,” the album provides listeners with a touch of otherwise far-removed artist’s reality. ye gathered 208,000 equivalent album sales during its first week.
West and Cudi’s KIDS SEE GHOSTS followed hot off the tail of ye in what could be considered its haunting B-side. KIDS SEE GHOSTS features an atmospheric sound echoing the raw feel of ye, with a step further into more coherent curation, but total chaos through the two artists’ darker lyricism. “Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2),” “Feel the Love” and “4th Dimension” reflect the same manic, unhinged quality of ye, leaning now into the deeper and repeating distorted sounds.
Both of the artists’ acknowledgements of their own mental health helped produce the album in the public eye as not only a work of bravery — regardless of its messy curation — but as a work of quality. KIDS SEE GHOSTS finished off its first week with a total 142,000 equivalent album sales.
Nas’ Nasir is one of West’s more interesting productions of the summer in regard to proving his flexibility. It, however, falls flat for many long-time listeners of Nas, who might have expected more following a lengthy hiatus propped up with the promise of a completed album. While it’s unclear whether the album was created in light of this long hiatus or as a quick collaboration with West, the album’s first-week sales totaled 77,000, thinly passing DAYTONA.
Featured hits like “Adam and Eve” and “Cops Shot the Kid” inspire the rousing, forward lyricism typical of Nas, with West’s samples igniting the project and placing him squarely in 2018.
The rest of the album, however, proves to be more interesting than well-done, speaking strongly to an experimentation between the two artists, rather than a product of deeper lyrical and musical consideration. For many seasoned listeners, the album will belong to West, not Nas.
Taylor’s K.T.S.E., or Keep That Same Energy, proves to be an expression of the upcoming Taylor’s prowess as a rhythm and blues artist, though she was left understated in the grand scheme of West’s summer productions.
With K.T.S.E. as her sophomore album and the last album of the Wyoming series, it highlights Taylor’s ability to seamlessly blend between her soulful, heart-wrenching sound in songs like “Hurry” and the fervent rawness of West’s production in songs like “No Manners.”
The album, however touching, went down as the least successful release of the Wyoming Sessions, with first week equivalent album sales totaling a measly 23,000. While Taylor has hopefully yet to see her peak, K.T.S.E. brilliantly ties up a beautiful sophomore as well as a final release for West’s Wyoming summer.