Hours before the New Year, Kanye West dropped a track called “Facts.” It begins with a 26-second sample of “Dirt and Grime,” a soul-funk number by D.C. group Father’s Children. (The tune appears on Who’s Gonna Save the World, recorded in 1973 but unreleased till the Numero Group put it out in 2011.) A shorter sample of “Dirt and Grime” closes “Facts,” but not before Kanye gives a shout-out to Timothy Jones, aka DJ Timbuck2, the Chicago hip-hop linchpin who passed away last month at 34. Father’s Children and Timbuck2 are the only good things about “Facts”; everything else needs work.
Ye’s performance isn’t exactly lazy—to rise to that level, he’d need to have put a modicum of thought into what he’s saying. Instead he raps about the things he’s more interested in right now than rapping. He mentions expensive items he’s bought (couches, a $10,000 fur), toasts the accomplishments that have allowed him to buy those items (“we made a million a minute”), and throws shade at Nike (“Nike out here bad, they can’t give shit away”). Scattered references to Bill Cosby and Steve Harvey are among the few lines to suggest that Kanye has recently read something other than his shopping list.
For the most part “Facts” is an intermittent advertisement for Kanye’s Adidas line. The sneaker company released a couple versions of his Yeezy Boost shoes last month, and Kanye won’t let us forget: “Yeezy Yeezy Yeezy they line up for days,” he raps, and “I ain’t dropped an album but the shoes went platinum.” I hope this isn’t the kind of material he’d want to put on an album anyway. He puts a glib spin on the hook for Drake and Future’s “Jumpman,” but it lacks the infectious bounce of the original, and Kanye stumbles rather than springs when he delivers the line “Yeezy Yeezy Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman.”
At the song’s end, Kanye encourages listeners to “celebrate the life of Timbuck2,” the latest in a string of tributes to Jones from all over the world of hip-hop. The most stirring I’ve seen was Timbuck2uesday at Metro last week, a six-hour blowout that took its name from Jones’s weekly DJ series at Beauty Bar. YP, Twista, MC Juice, and Vic Mensa were among the surprise guests who performed in remembrance. De La Soul showed up toward the end and spent nearly half an hour juggling tracks and thoughtful reminiscences. Power 92 on-air personality and Heavy Hitter member DJ Pharris gave a tearful message as the 2 AM curfew came and went. The event’s life-affirming energy kept me awake even after I ducked out of Metro. Too bad Kanye couldn’t replicate a fraction of that vitality with “Facts.”