#SWISH: So Help Me Kanye: the ongoing story of ‘SWISH’

A whole host of new songs and album hints have been dropped recently, but how far away does the ‘Yeezus’ follow-up actually look to be?

Even for Kanye West, the amount of twists and turns regarding the follow-up to 2013’s ‘Yeezus’ has been exhausting, confusing and compelling in the extreme. Since Kanye first hinted that a new album was in the works just six months after ‘Yeezus’ was released, album titles have been announced and then changed, all manner of songs, remixes and collaborations dropped, wildly cryptic hints given in interviews, petitions sent to the White House (yep), and still it’s no clearer whether ‘SWISH’ will arrive in a day or in two years.

A two and a half year gap (and counting…) between LPs might make it seem like this period has been a quiet sector of Kanye’s career, but the u-turns, surprises and constant subversion of expectation has made it potentially the most exciting. Since the album was announced in March – as ‘So Help Me God’ – the entire music world has been trying to piece together how much of what Kanye is currently exhibiting is directly related to the new LP – now supposedly called ‘SWISH’. With two new songs posted onto his Soundcloud this week, the new material is still flowing with ease, but the erratic nature with which these songs have been released points away from a traditional full-length arriving imminently. With 2008 album ‘808s & Heartbreak’ being heavily resurfaced at the moment as well, it seems like ‘SWISH’ could actually be getting further away from becoming realised. Other things seem to be occupying Kanye’s brain at the moment. No sign of a full-length yet, then, but it’s hardly been feet up on the sofa time for Yeezy either. Here’s everything that’s happened since ‘Yeezus’, and what it could mean going forward.

Macca

So Help Me Kanye: the ongoing story of 'SWISH'

After the first indication of any work post-‘Yeezus’ being thought about came from a radio interview in late 2013, the next new Kanye material proper dropped on New Years Eve 2014 (Kanye can do what he wants, remember), a collaboration in the most unlikely form - a track called ‘Only One’ with Paul McCartney. Although ‘Only One’ was never said to be tied to a new full-length album, it certainly started the metaphorical ball rolling regarding speculation as to where Kanye was going next. A lot of this came from the track’s style - a tender, emotional cut which harks back to ‘808s & Heartbreak’ with its all-encompassing autotune.

As if Kanye and Macca together wasn’t star-studded enough for one track, Rihanna was at the helm of the pair’s next collaboration, ‘FourFiveSeconds’, dropped less than a month after ‘Only One’. Another quiet track, this pair of tracks didn’t say much about the whereabouts of Kanye’s new LP, but more on the style of his material going forward - it was the polar opposite to ‘Yeezus’.

So Help Me God

So Help Me Kanye: the ongoing story of 'SWISH'

The first concrete news of an actual album being planned came in February. When Kanye dropped new track ‘Wolves’, ft. Sia and Vic Mensa, during his Yeezy Season 1 fashion show, a message adorned the wall of the studio: “This is track #1 on Kanye West’s new album”. Again, it recalled ‘808s’ in its style, and saw Kanye continuing to go soft and pop with his collaborator choices.

All that changed at the Brit Awards later that month though, in a performance it looks like people are still talking about eight months later. Accompanied by a host of upcoming British grime MCs including Skepta and Novelist, Kanye debuted new track ‘All Day’, a vicious hit that could easily have sat on ‘Yeezus’.

The week after this performance, news with real substance regarding Kanye’s next LP started flooding in. A title - ‘So Help Me God’ - was revealed, and followed the day after (2nd March) by a studio version of ‘All Day’, billed as the album’s first single proper.

Album title, studio versions of singles, TV performances all within a week: it looked like ‘So Help Me God’ was arriving, and quickly.

‘SWISH’

The first time it looked like the rollercoaster heading towards ‘So Help Me God’ was stumbling was when, in May, it was revealed that ‘So Help Me God’ doesn’t exist any more. Kanye tweeted that the album is now set to be called ‘SWISH’, confirming in the process that nothing regarding its release could be that concrete, or arriving that quickly.

This news set in motion a summer of confusion and lack of routine in the movements Kanye made, and what they meant for ‘SWISH’. Later in May, P Diddy confirmed he has a production role on the album, and a snippet of a new track, potentially from ‘SWISH’, was dropped during a DJ set by the most unlikely of holders to this sought after key - Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, under his DJ name DJ Windows 98.

People were already fed up of no ‘SWISH’ by August, when a petition was actually, really, truly sent to President Obama asking for the album to be released that month with over 100,000 signatures. Here we still are, though. Maybe the President’s hesitancy to comply influenced Kanye’s decision to announce he himself is going to run for Presidency in 2020 in an emotional MTV VMAs speech.

‘Fade’, ‘808s’ and the picture looking forward

As with ‘Wolves’ at Yeezy Season 1, Kanye decided to unveil another new track at his second fashion show. The track was ‘Fade’, featuring Ty Dolla Sign & Post Malone. Again, the track hasn’t been explicitly tied to an upcoming Kanye release, and thus continues the confusion regarding where we are with LP7.

The ambiguity grew with comments from Kanye later in September that ‘SWISH’ is “a two year painting”. Talking of ‘Fade’, he said: “that song I played has been a year and a half in the making and it may be still a year from being complete.” Clues, then, of a release date for ‘SWISH’ seem to actually be getting further away with the greater amount of material being showcased, and this trend continued this week, with two new tracks being released onto Kanye’s Soundcloud page. One is a re-work of ‘808s & Heartbreak’ track ‘Say You Will’, featuring Caroline Shaw. Together with Kanye playing the 2008 album in full at two Los Angeles shows, it shows he’s spending his time looking back rather than pressing on with a new LP. In the same vein, the second track, ‘When I See It’, is a re-work of The Weeknd’s Kanye-produced track ‘Tell Your Friends’.

Kanye seems currently content to drop whatever new track he feels like, to re-visit albums from nearly a decade ago, to re-work tracks from his friends, and to do what he likes in typical Kanye fashion. Kanye’s passion for releasing new music clearly waning, but the erratic nature with which these songs have been released points away from a traditional full-length arriving imminently. ‘SWISH’ probably looks further away now than when it was ‘announced’ back in May, and certainly less likely than ‘So Help Me God’ looked in March. The journey’s half the fun though, and this one’s been anything but boring.


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