Kanye West drops his seventh album Friday, and it’s currently titled with the acronym T.L.O.P. He’s revised the name a few times, though, and when he tweeted the latest change early Tuesday morning, Kanye offered a prize to the person who guesses what the acronym stands for: a pair of his newest Yeezy shoes plus tickets to Thursday’s rollout for his Season 3 fashion line. Kanye has booked Madison Square Garden for the event, which also serves as the premiere of his new album. The whole thing will be broadcast in movie theaters around the world, including two in Chicago, though the cheapest seats are $25. (For $35 Kanye will throw in a download of the new album, and a $581 package adds a T-shirt, hoodie, and jean jacket.) Tickets for the screenings at City North 14 and River East 21 are sold out, but you can still reserve a spot at Evanston’s Century 12 and CineArts 6.
T.L.O.P. is the fourth name for Kanye’s album. First came So Help Me God, then Swish, and late last month he switched it to Waves. Given his mercurial temperament, who knows what changes he’ll make before the album comes out. Kanye has recently picked fights with Wiz Khalifa and subtweeted his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose, and just yesterday he inexplicably proclaimed his support for Bill Cosby. I’m starting to think T.L.O.P. stands for “Troll Lots of People.”
Days before he changed the name of his album to Waves, Kanye posted a photo of a track list scrawled on a notepad to Twitter; within a week he’d uploaded two new photos of the same sheet of paper, and each time the mess of handwriting around the track list had grown thicker with half-legible scribbles, presumably written by people involved in the album. But it wouldn’t surprise me if, once things get down to the wire, Kanye removes some songs and adds others. And I wonder if the album will include “All Day.”
That single came out in March 2015, one of a series of tracks Kanye dropped last year. It got nominated for two Grammys—best rap song and best rap performance—and the awards ceremony is Monday. “All Day” includes contributions from a crowd of people, and much of its charm comes from Kanye’s ability to bend such a large, talented group to his will and make it subservient to his voice. Recently I’ve come to especially appreciate the contribution of Minnesota rapper Allan Kingdom.
Kingdom won me over with his 2013 single “Achilles,” and I’ve since kept tabs on him, though I couldn’t quite pick out his voice in “All Day” till I saw him perform the song while opening for Kirk Knight at Metro last month. Kingdom’s limboing warble on the hook is a large part of what makes “All Day” resonate after West has had his way with it. The talent Kingdom displays here and there on “All Day” is all over his recent mixtape, Northern Lights, which dropped during the dead period in early January.
Kingdom’s poise and vocal dexterity on the mixtape show his determination to move toward pop without ditching the foibles that make him interesting. When he raps, he reshapes familiar words till their core syllables are barely recognizable, and one of my favorite moments on 2014’s Future Memoirs is when he sounds like he’s rapping in reverse on “Evergreens.” He displays the same flamboyance throughout Northern Lights, though his choices are bolder—he further embraces the things that make him distinct. The hook for “Monkey See” is straightforward and unfussy, with Kingdom drawing out his words to land with force, but he adds colorful flair to his half-singing, half-rapping.
Northern Lights is among the albums from this year I’ve returned to repeatedly, and in general I perk up when I see Kingdom’s name attached to any song. So when I saw that he appears on Hibernation, a new EP by Closed Sessions producer Boathouse, I had to give it a listen. Not that Kingdom is the only reason for me to tune in—anything bearing the Closed Sessions seal of approval is required listening for me. Opener “Far” features two of Closed Sessions’ recent signees, Evanston MC Kweku Collins and Cleveland rapper Kipp Stone, though this is a Boathouse release through and through. His instrumentals meld glowing synths with tapestries of percussion—svelte, speedy beat loops and limber drums treated with echo. Everything moves at a dreamlike pace but hums with lively electricity.