NEW YORK — Hypebeasts and hip-hop fans alike bum rushed the halls of Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. Dressed in Yeezy Boosts, skinny jeans and the occasional camouflage jacket, fans excitedly predicted the direction Kanye West would take with his seventh album The Life of Pablo before it streamed worldwide.
“I heard that this album is the ‘old Kanye,’” I overheard someone say. "I wonder if there will be more Jedi-style clothing tonight," another considered. West, also working to be taken seriously as a clothing designer, effectively kicked off New York Fashion Week by literally clearing out the competition.
Several designers, Marissa Webb, Adam Selman and Anne Bowen, were all forced to reschedule when West made the last-minute decision to combine his two passions by unveiling his Yeezy Season 3 collection with a performance from Italian artist Vanessa Beecroft.
As folks began taking their seats, a giant circular area covered with black tarp appeared to be covering the floor area.
“I’m about to play y’all the album. Feel free to dance, move,” West said as his voice filled the stadium.
Stage hands dressed in black ripped off the tarp to reveal hundreds of models on two stages wearing his new collection.
The models - that reflected an extremely diverse selection - included people of all ages, races and sizes. The fabrics of the clothes were vibrant reds, maroons, tans, burnt oranges, rich creams, tree greens, and camouflage patterns. Most of the models were in custom combat boots, some were in heels. As the men ripped off the black plastic cover, the crowd whooped and hollered - as the models stared expressionless back at the stands.
The 38-year-old rapper, producer and fashion designer changed the album name over and over again before this day finally came: So Help Me God, Waves, SWISH and then finally, The Life of Pablo.
Looking up at the scoreboards we saw the man of the hour — West stood at a DJ booth on the floor of the stadium surrounded by friends, Pusha T, Kid Cudi and the rest of the familiar faces of the G.O.O.D. Music family. West was dressed with a baseball cap and his own merchandise on — a long red t-shirt with “I Feel Like Pablo” written across the front. The shirt is already selling on eBay for $300.
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The debut of The Life of Pablo [which sold out in only ten minutes], was not only seen and heard by the crowd in attendance in New York City, but by fans in 23 countries around the world. The album was live streamed in 700 theaters worldwide through Jay Z’s streaming service TIDAL. The show also included a performance from Italian artist Vanessa Beecroft — who has worked with West on his past two fashion shows, and also served as the art director for the 2010 Runaway film.
The music reflected West’s style — sample heavy, and choir vocals, which is something he’s been known for since College Dropout, his first album. It felt like everything we have known the Chicago-native to be throughout his career. A mix of many different parts of his musical evolutions — all the ways he has grown as an artist over the years. The drum heavy beats, the soulful vocals and harmonies, as well as his own auto-tuned vocals, just like the ones we heard on 808s and Heartbreak. Features included various music industry heavy hitters – Rihanna, The Weeknd, Kirk Franklin, Frank Ocean [who we’ve been anticipating an album release from for some time now], Swizz Beats, Future and others.
Naomi Campbell graced the stage as well, decked out in all black, with a black mink coat on — to “Freestyle 4.”
Cameras flew through the air, capturing various shots of all the models, placing approximately 20 million viewers inside The Garden, according to DefJam Recordings. West stopped various times to speak with the crowd, expressing his appreciation for everyone who worked on the project and showed up at the city's famous sports arena.
“New York City — tell me how you feel, did I deliver my promise on the album?”
The crowd roared in response.
“Tell me how you feel on the clothes this season,” he continued. And once again, they erupted in applause and cheers.
Neat the show's end, West provided one last surprise for his audience — he's creating a video game featuring his late mother Donda West "traveling through the gates of heaven.”
“If you’re gonna be an artist you have to do what's in your heart — and fight for every dream that you may dream,” he said. “I just want to bring as much beauty to the world as possible.”
West ran the preview of the game twice, an animated visual of his mother flying throughout heaven with other angels.
As the album party came to a close, West looked out and said with a grin, “I’m going to go backstage to be with my family,” and thanked everyone again for being there.
The album will soon be available to fans through Apple Music and iTunes, although a release date has not yet been determined.
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