Kanye West Shares New Sampha Collab, Ethers Rock Producer Bob Ezrin

What, you thought Kanye West was going to stay out of the news cycle for a few days? You clearly don’t know Kanye West. Right now, there is nobody better at soaking up all the attention in the room. Even when West is being low-key, he’s still making news.

Case in point: Noisey reports that West played a small show last night at the Los Angeles club 1 OAK. While onstage, he played the studio version of a new track called “Closest Thing To Einstein,” a collaboration with the UK post-soul singer Sampha. Someone made a low-quality audio rip of the song, and it’s a warm and meditative track that references West’s recent media travails, including his Twitter outbursts and his confession about his own personal debt. Below, listen to that audio rip and watch video of West debuting it:

Man, that “We Don’t Care” reference? Maybe that song will end up on a new version of The Life Of Pablo, or maybe it’ll be another G.O.O.D. Fridays track, if West is serious about keeping up with those. Either way, I hope we get to hear a proper studio version; that sounds like a good song.

Also last night, West jumped on Twitter again, going off on the veteran Canadian rock producer Bob Ezrin. Ezrin is someone who’s worked with people like Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, and Alice Cooper, as well as, more recently, Kanye collaborators 30 Seconds To Mars. And in the Lefsetz Letter, a boomer-driven music-industry email newsletter, Ezrin wrote a recent screed about how much he hates West and the idea, put forth in a New York Times article from critic Jon Caramanica, that The Life Of Pablo is less a finished album and more an “unending data stream.” Ezrin didn’t like that. (He also admitted that he hasn’t heard The Life Of Pablo.) Here’s what he wrote:

Kanye in the NYT? WTF???

I feel like opening with “What kind of crazy, fucked up world is it where this guy is considered to be culturally important!!???” But that’s your line.

Sure, he made some great music for himself and others. But in spite of what the aspirationally-cool media keeps saying about him, unlike other creators in his genre like Jay-Z, Tupac, Biggie or even M.C. Hammer for that matter, it’s unlikely that we’ll be quoting too many of Kanye’s songs 20 years from now. He didn’t open up new avenues of public discourse like NWA, or introduce the world to a new art form like Grandmaster Flash, or even meaningfully and memorably address social issues through his music like Marshall, Macklemore and Kendrick. In my opinion, his productions are his best work – and I admit I’m jealous of several of them – but I don’t think he’s on quite the same level as Timbaland and Rick Rubin among several others. His songwriting – meaning the stuff with melodies – is sophomoric at best. I was embarrassed for Sir Paul – one of the greatest Artists of our era – by their collaboration, though it was pointed out to me that this got him his highest chart position in decades. So I guess he didn’t mind. But I kind of did!

Instead Kanye’s greatest achievements have been in the form of excessive behavior, egomaniacal tantrums and tasteless grandstanding. What he is a true artist at is living his life out loud – and shoving it down the throats of the rest of us whether we give a shit or not. He’s like that flasher who interrupts a critical game by running naked across the field. Is that art??? Maybe it is. Maybe as Caramanica says, life as “an unending data stream” is a new art form. But should it be, honestly? Hell, Forbes named this guy one of the 100 most influential people IN THE WORLD in 2005 and 2015!! Seriously??? Influencing WHAT exactly?

In the review of the endless new album, Caramanica wonders if “being slightly finished is the new finished.” And that just makes my blood boil. The great musicians, writers, poets, rappers, performers, dancers, players, conductors, directors and producers work all their lives for that one moment of complete perfection – that one brilliant performance, that one perfect song, that one enduring and life-altering work. 10,000 hours is peanuts in comparison to the real amount of time spent by true artists in their lifelong pursuit of excellence. But no one else that I have seen is this happy to have the audience watching all along the way. They are working to the culmination of something; to the exquisite feeling of completion that comes from working and reworking until that moment when their creation, or their performance, is as good as it could possibly be. This guy is just feeding the media machine and I’m not even certain to what end. Maybe he JUST needs the attention, like that flasher, and isn’t happy unless he’s the center of it.

What galls me the most though is the thought that he and others – especially the media – might actually BELIEVE that he’s an artist. With a capital “A.” That what he’s doing is of any real consequence besides for the sheer train wreck gawker value of it.

I don’t even know why I’m so angry about this. Except maybe I lament for a world where being truly, world-shakingly excellent at anything – at least in the field of popular music if not elsewhere – is no longer absolutely necessary. You can be a star today just by creating a public life that people pay attention to. That’s it. All you have to do is be interesting or likable or shocking enough and you can have your 15 minutes of fame…even if that means that no one will remember you or what you’ve done in just a few years. Line ‘em up. How many “popular artists” have come and gone in just the last decades. In my mind (which is a pretty busy as often too judgmental place, I will admit) real artists make stuff that changes the world and LASTS.

I haven’t heard it yet. Is that what The Life of Pablo is? If so, then I take it all back.

I just needed to rant to someone.

Cheers,

B

West evidently struggled to keep things civil on Twitter, but he still let Ezrin have it:

Pusha T put it a little more succinctly:

And that’s your Kanye update until later today, when he’ll doubtless do something else.