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Kanye West’s Yeezus: what we know so far about 2013′s biggest hip-hop record

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  • published
    11 Jun 2013
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Kanye West's <i>Yeezus</i>: what we know so far about 2013's biggest hip-hop record

It’s the year’s biggest hip-hop record, but if you feel like the pre-release hype for Kanye West‘s Yeezus has left you confused, then don’t worry – you’re not the only one.

In West’s own words from last night’s New York listening party, he “had to learn about giving no fucks at all” to make Yeezus, and “he has a new strategy, it’s called ‘no strategy.’”

Which isn’t to say that Yeezus hasn’t had a press campaign behind it: there’s been appearances on Saturday Night Live, projections of videos on surfaces worldwide and a torrent of speculation regarding the album’s content, production, personnel and more. Here’s what we know so far about Yeezus, before its release on June 18 through Def Jam.

The Numbers

West’s tracklists have got smaller over time, and at 10 tracks long, Yeezus is West’s most concise-looking album to date (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and 808s and Heartbreak both clocked in at 13 tracks, Watch the Throne at 12). What we don’t know, however, is how long Yeezus‘s tracks are – released 2 years and 7 months ago, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy only featured 2 tracks shorter than 4 minutes (‘All of the Lights Interlude’ and ‘Who Will Survive in America?’), so there’s no guarantees that Yeezus listeners won’t be in for a long ride.

A track from Yeezus, ‘New Slaves’ was broadcast in 66 locations worldwide last month, and if the fact that the album is being released without cover art or pre-orders sounds familiar, that’s because 7 years ago Mos Def did something similar with True Magic. It’s Kanye West’s 6th solo album, and was mostly recorded in Paris, a city with a population of approx. 2,230,000.

The Personnel 

Yeezus features a combination of familiar friends of Kanye’s and new names. Hudson Mohawke, one half of TNGHT, is part of West’s G.O.O.D. Music roster, contributed to Cruel Summer‘s hit ‘Mercy’, and has been premiering various new Kanye cuts at recent live shows – including this track, which features Kanye going H.A.M. on the Autotune over a blend of Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ and TNGHT’s ‘R U Ready?’. Pitchfork and NME both claim that the Yeezus listening party featured a track that used TNGHT’s ‘Higher Ground’ and ‘Strange Fruit’, so we’re guessing that either the TNGHT part of the track was eventually changed (a possibility, as Kanye’s reported to have been tweaking the album as late as last week), or that it’s an ID mistake on the track’s second half. ‘Strange Fruit’, it’s worth noting, is one of music’s most famous anti-racism songs.

Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon memorably featured twice on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and he appears again on Yeezus, with a track titled ‘Hold My Liquor’ that also features Chief Keef (NME today have speculated that Vernon may appear on a second track, too). Rick Rubin is confirmed as executive producer, while it was confirmed last night that Daft Punk worked on “three or four” songs. We found out earlier this month that the duo were listed as co-composers of ‘Black Skinhead’, while Music Week claim that ‘On Site’ and ‘I Am a God’ both feature Da Punk. Speaking to Rolling Stone earlier this year, director Michel Gondry teased a Chris Cunningham video for one of the Punk / Kanye collaborations.

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