The month of Kanye has ended, but now the real work begins. Over the last five weeks, Kanye West has released a solo album, a collaborative project with Kid Cudi, and three records for other artists -- Pusha T, Nas, and Teyana Taylor -- that he produced and released under his GOOD Music label. In addition to his MAGA-supporting posts on social media and often toxic public interviews, it's been the most exhausting and bewildering period for the 41-year-old rapper since… well, the last time he released a record.
When The Life of Pablo dropped in February of 2016, many fans of the endlessly controversial rapper spent the rest of the year grappling with the record. The album's messy promotional roll-out, hyper-publicized production process, and the post-release tinkering by Kanye himself (best encapsulated by the phrase "Ima fix wolves") inspired a sense of ownership in listeners who went on to create their own versions of the record, dropping songs and rearranging the tracklist. It was art as widget. With even more music this time around -- and, if recent interviews are to believed, a possible 52 additional records coming at some point in the future -- the opportunities for playing armchair A&R are endless.
On the surface, the quintet of records that West has produced from his musical workshop in Wyoming over the past month feels like a rejection of Pablo's bountiful excess. Each was supposed to consist of only seven songs. (Taylor's KTSE, the last of the bunch, has eight tracks.) They would be intimate, provocative, and of-the-moment. Sometimes they were so of-the-moment that they weren't finished until the second they debuted, with West snapping the cover art for ye on his scenic drive to the release party. Taylor's record, that final one of the batch, is getting another upgrade soon because of sample clearance issues. The work is never done.
So, in the half-assed and impulsive spirit of the project, why not pick the best two songs from each record and make a decent 10-song sampler? It's a crowded month for pop music's A-list, with Beyoncé and Jay Z releasing their Everything is Love on June 16 and Drake's Scorpion arriving on June 29, so not everyone has time to sift through the clutter. That's what I've done with the Spotify playlist below, and further down you'll find some thoughts on which of these records are worth listening to in full and which ones should have stayed in the mountains.