Kanye West knows how to put on a show. The rapper-designer-mogul proved this yet again by premiering his Yeezy Season 3 collection and his seventh album The Life of Pablo at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Friday (Feb. 11).
The star-studded event, which was live streamed at theaters across the globe and via TIDAL, was attended by his wife Kim Kardashian, daughter North, and their family members, as well as Jay Z, 50 Cent, Jennifer Hudson, Lil’ Kim, Pusha T, Travis Scott, Vic Mensa, 2 Chainz, and Lamar Odom.
During the nearly 90-minute event, ‘Ye played the album from top to bottom and revealed the featured guests. Rihanna, for example, delivers stunning vocals on the Nina Simone-sampled “Famous.” Elsewhere, Chance the Rapper drops potent bars on the spiritual “Ultra High Beams,” and The Weeknd helps bring “FML” more depth. Young Thug, Frank Ocean, The-Dream, Kid Cudi, Kirk Franklin, Kelly Price, El DeBarge, and Ty Dolla $ign are among the other acts on the album.
Guests aside, Kanye’s lyrics were also striking. “Freestyle 4” is a “wake-up” call as Mr. West addresses police brutality. “Hands up, we just doin’ what cops taught us,” he raps on the track. “Hands up, hands up, and then they shot us.”
Yeezy’s rhymes about himself were also thought-provoking. “Father Stretch My Hands” proved to be as emotional as promised. The song touches on West’s “Through the Wire” car crash, his relationship with his father, and his late mother Donda West’s passing. Later, ‘Ye revealed a video game based on his “mom traveling through the gates of heaven.”
Other lyrics were less serious, but also worth noting. On the Young Thug-assisted “Highlights,” Yeezy offers up his take on gossip fodder. For instance, he jabs Ray J (“Yeah, he might’ve hit it first / Only problem is I’m rich”). He also talks about Rob Kardashian’s Blac Chyna relationship (“Blac Chyna fu**in’ Rob, helpin’ him with the weight”) and Diddy’s altercation with his son’s UCLA football coach. But his shot at Taylor Swift made the most noise (“I made that bitch famous”).
The album, of course, wasn’t the only Kanye premiere. Yeezy Season 3 was accompanied by a performance by visual artist Vanessa Beecroft. Supermodels including Naomi Campbell, Veronica Webb, and Alek Wek filled out the giant stage. Symbolism filled the air as they raised fists, threw up middle fingers, and peace signs. Some of the models danced, while others shed tears.
Following the performance, an introspective Kanye took the mic. “This album is really a gospel album,” he told the crowd. “It’s been a hard struggle and I feel so happy, so much joy to be able to actually follow my dreams without people shitting on me.”
After thanking his family, adidas, and “big homie” Jay Z for their support and addressing Nike (“Fuck Nike!” chanted the crowd), Kanye offered up this ethos: “I just want to bring as much beauty to the world as possible.”