It may be too easy to say Kanye West is the Donald Trump of hip-hop. Neither can avoid putting their foot in their mouth in public. While many roll their eyes when West co-opts a Grammy mic to deliver some incoherent egomaniacal rant, just as many cannot wait to hear what he does next.
Also like Trump, West is a master of PR. For four days only, fans can get a first taste of his soon-to-be-released seventh studio album, SWISH, which does not yet have a release date. At Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma), starting on 25 July, the video All Day/I Feel Like That, a nine-minute live performance of two tracks off the record, will play during regular museum hours.
West is known for collaborations with high-profile artists, notably Takashi Murakami on the animated Good Morning video and George Condo, who did the cover for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This time, West has partnered with the Oscar winning film-maker Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years A Slave.
The result is an unedited, handheld take of West in a warehouse at the Chatham dockyard in Kent, a relic which dates back to 1567. The video had its world premiere in March, at Foundation Louis Vuitton during Paris Fashion Week, but it has not been shown since then – though a six-minute bootleg version is on YouTube. It will become unavailable again once the Lacma “pop-up” installation closes on Tuesday.
Fans in Yeezus T-shirts gathered at 10am to see the first screening, which had an audience of roughly 50. McQueen’s trademark wide shots and his strong eye for composition were nowhere to be seen. Shot entirely in an empty loft space with a desaturated palette and natural soft lighting, the video features West in widescreen format, dancing, dodging and weaving through All Day, a song about going from the streets of Chicago’s South Side – West was raised in the suburbs – to the big time, and doing it his way.
“Let me run to see who came undone,” he raps. “You’ve been right in my face. Let me run ‘til you’re off my case.”
West then squats, catching his breath, as the camera searches for a compelling angle. According to the wall text in the gallery, the video “plays upon the relationship between the camera and the subject. As in a meeting between the bull and the matador, it remains uncertain who chases whom.”
There is a spontaneous quality to the footage, which really documents a semi-energetic performance. West pauses to breathe a lot. It seems, however, to take all McQueen has just to keep his subject in frame. After a private preview with West and McQueen, the director told the Los Angeles Times they shot only three takes and used the third.
As the nine minutes come to a close with the anthemic refrain “I feel like that”, the singer slumps to the floor, feet splayed, eyes closed. A voice in the background reads text that might have been written by Franz Kafka: “Trouble remembering things, feeling easily annoyed or irritated. Afraid of open spaces, going in public. Thoughts of ending your life.”
The camera hovers over West as if he were drained but victorious after a death-defying battle. The audience sees a bald guy in a T-shirt catching his breath.
There has been no word yet on when SWISH will drop, but an 8 July Reddit feed included a fan who posted what he claimed was a low-quality recording of the entire album, including tracks like Always, with Bruno Mars; All Day, featuring Allan Kingdom and Theophilus London; Can You be Real, with Big Sean; and the rumored collaboration with Paul McCartney, Piss on Your Grave. That track would be in addition to Only One, which was released earlier this year and also featured the former Beatle.