Gold Digger aside, Kanye West's last album was a big ol' bag of bollocks. A self-aggrandising ego stroke, with little of the insight, wit, or playfulness of his stand-out debut, The College Dropout.
Clearly, West thought so too. He reneged on his promise to release three albums in three years and went back to the drawing board. Now he's ready to emerge from his hip-hop hidey hole, and has "leaked" (released) an official mixtape featuring some of his new tracks.
At first, it seems as though he's retreated slightly from the egomania that caused him to proclaim "I'm carrying the whole of hip-hop" in 2005. "I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny. And what do I do? Act more stupidly," he confesses in the first couple of minutes.
But he can't restrain himself for too long. By the half-way point, he has launched into a three minute diatribe about being misquoted in the press. Boo fucking hoo, you big girl.
The songs are rather good, though. West hasn't been refiling through obscure racks of dusty vinyl for his samples - I spotted Daft Punk, Deee-Lite and Peter, Bjorn and John amongst the backing tracks - but he has always been an excellent producer, twisting familiar hooks into audacious new shapes like a clown making a daschund out of a balloon [stop murdering this metaphor right now - ed].
The best tracks, however, are the non-West ones. Lupe Fiasco wrestles Thom Yorke's Eraser into a spooky hip-hop pressure cooker on Us Placers; Kid Sister goes day-glo on her ode to varnish, Pro Nails; and Common once again proves his lyrical genius by dropping in a reference to Finding Nemo on The People.
My guess is that West is behind all three of these tracks (he appears as a guest on two of them), but by contrasting other rappers' flow with his own - rather dreary - delivery, he ends up giving weight to the argument that, College Dropout aside, he should have remained behind the mixing desk.
Download links: (the file keeps getting deleted, so you might have to do a bit of searching on technorati if the links have expired)
Hip Hop Planet
The Rap Up
RJ's GFX and Music
The Leak Source
My Hip Hop
01. Kanye West - Friday Morning, May 25th, 2007 (Intro)
02. Kanye West - Stronger (Snippet)
03. CRS (Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West & Pharrell) - Us Placers
04. GLC - I Ain't Even On Yet
05. Kanye West - Can't Tell Me Nothing
06. Common feat. Kanye West - Southside (Snippet)
07. Common - The Game
08. Kanye West - Porno (Interlude)
09. 88 Keys feat. Kanye West & Malik Yusef - Stay Up (Snippet)
10. Talib Kweli feat. Kanye West - In The Mood
11. Bentley feat. Pimp C & Lil' Wayne - C.O.L.O.U.R.S.
12. Kid Sister feat. Kanye West - Pro Nails
13. Kanye West - Young Folks
14. Kanye West - Interviews (Interlude)
15. Common - The People
16. Big Sean - Get'cha Some
17. Consequence - Don't Forget Em
18. Sa-Ra - White! (On The Floor)
19. Ne-Yo feat. Kanye West - Because Of You (Remix)
20. T-Pain feat. Kanye West - Buy You A Drank (Remix)
21. Kanye West - Throw Some D's (Interlude)
22. Kanye West - Throw Some D's (Remix)
23. Tony Williams - Dreaming Of Your Love
24. Really Doe feat. Jennifer Hudson - Magnetic Power
25. PM - Hater Family