Over the past five years, Kanye West had become the most grating artist that I follow on a constant basis. His social media, his on stage rants, his antics and, most importantly, his less than stellar music. In my book, he’d gone from a beloved living legend to an annoying member of the Kardashian family doing Kardashian things and making tons of ehh music. As such, I copped a ticket to see Kanye’s Yeezy Season 3 unveiling and The Life Of Pablo premiere in a local theater almost out of spite. My mind wasn’t exactly made up beforehand but my thoughts were, “I know I’m going to hate this so I’ll go and write about it.”
Except I f*cking loved it.
The crowd to the live broadcast was exactly what you’d expect for a Kanye event, not quite “Fuccboi Heaven,” but Yeezys and Supreme box logos – both real and fake – were abundant. There were some notable exceptions – a mid-40s dad playing chaperon, a first grader whose mom played the role of cool mom and took him out of school for the day so he could bear witness to the church of Kanye and a few other outliers. The line was well over 50 deep by the time I arrived 45-minutes early. They were mostly quiet but I got plenty of side-eyes for my snarky Kanye jokes throughout the afternoon.
Eventually, we were whisked into the theater and greeted with a half-hour of crowd shots and footage of people’s feet before we saw anything of substance. The theater was about 75% full and the environment was nothing like a typical movie. Chatter was constant, and browsing through your phone was not taboo but practically encouraged. This was a social event, not a gathering at a theater for quiet viewing. Suddenly, the screen lit up with a warning, the show would be starting soon. Some 15 or so minutes after that out strolled Kanye in a gigantic red long sleeved T-shirt and a Yeezus hat and the show began.
What appealed to me immediately was the pure spectacle of it all. Yes, Kanye hosted a fashion show at Madison Square Garden and that’s exciting enough, but even he had to know the fashion aspect of everything was secondary. Every second Kanye and his merry band of friends were shown wildin’ out near the aux cord was exponentially more entertaining than any of the footage of the actual show – save for Young Thug falling asleep – and it wasn’t even close. Not only that, but this was all essentially an album listening party, a common industry function, except Kanye invited the entire world. Literally.
🌹#TheLifeOfPablo 🌹 #IFeelLikePablo #IFeelLikeYe #DONDA #YZYSZN #SlimeSeason #SLZYSZN
A photo posted by Eric V. (@eritremblay) on
The theater aspect only added to the grandeur of the entire situation. A week earlier, Drake had pulled off a similar feat when had the world gathered in unison with their ears pressed to the radio speakers like it was 1954 just to hear him debut new music on OVO Sound. Kanye took the model and injected it with steroids and HGH. People were glued to their computers, sitting at The Garden and lining up in movie theaters hours in advance worldwide just to watch him plug in his computer and press play.
Despite the shitty audio quality, the experience was enthralling and, more importantly, the music delivered. It was exciting, energetic and Kanye at his most appalling and combustible. He was blunt, braggadocios and no topic was off the table. Maybe the musical backdrop won’t be so amazing out of that setting. Maybe in the car the production won’t pound like I like. But, for the first time in five years, Kanye delivered on the mic.
The first 10 minutes of the stream made for what was easily the quietest theater I’ve ever been inside of in my life. Not a cough, a whisper or a crackle of someone chewing on their popcorn. After initial applause, it was dead silence until Chance The Rapper uttered the line “When they come for you I will shield your name.” After the loud “Ooooh” from the crowd, they immediately settled back into silence while they soaked the moment in.
Eventually, Kanye and his Taylor Swift drama would shatter the glass and erupt the crowd into laughter that continued for the rest of the afternoon. Every outlandish Kanye punchline was met with the requisite laughter, hoots and hollers. Each new guest was met with gasps and every energetic moment made the crowd bounce in unison. When Kanye finally christened himself the Ghetto Oprah and started handing out furs and big booty b****es to everybody, the crowd response was so loud that it drowned him out.
Eventually, the show ended abruptly, just as Virgil got the aux cord and was set to get the Garden bouncing. After some groans, there was a mass exodus out the theater and everybody went on with their respective Thursday afternoons. We’d witnessed history, yes, history. Other artist will try to replicate it with similar events soon but Kanye will always be the one who broke new ground and filled a random movie theater in Sacramento on a Thursday afternoon to watch him play some music. He did this in theaters in 26 countries throughout the world. The music was good and Kanye was back.
On the way out the theater, the cool mom who took her first grader asked if he had a good time and he said “I liked the music but the people just standing there was boring.” That makes two of us, little man. That little guy doesn’t know it but he’ll remember that day forever and, when he tells his buddies about it later, he’ll brag about how dope the album was and how fun the day was. Kanye is creating memories for fans, and finally the music is back to making those memories pleasant.
For the first time in a long time, I don’t “miss the old Kanye.” Nope, I’m enjoying the current one just fine.