Everything You Need To Know About Kanye West’s WAVES

A breakdown of the album formerly known as SWISH.

Everything You Need To Know About Kanye West’s <i>WAVES</i>   Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

In theory, Kanye West is releasing an album on February 11, less than three weeks from now. The road to this record has been confusing, full of feints, false starts, name changes, cryptic interviews, and big-name collaborations that would be tent pole tracks for most artists but turned out to be SoundCloud loosies for Kanye. Here’s everything we know so far.

It’s now called Waves.

The name for Kanye’s seventh solo album has gone through several iterations—including So Help Me God and SWISH—but as of last night, the rapper announced on Twitter that it’s going to be called Waves.

It has eleven songs.

A handwritten tracklist tweeted earlier this week suggested that the album was ten songs. But that was Swish—this is Waves! A new list went up last night and was updated this morning. Now the album looks like it will contain 11 songs. This is the fewest songs Kanye has put out on any album other than Yeezus. The additional tune is titled “Ultra Light Beam,” and the first track also got renamed.

It’s divided into three acts.

The new tracklist is much more exciting than the last one: it’s multi-colored and it includes some annotations in addition to song titles. At the moment, Kanye is thinking about the album in three sections. Act 1 contains the first three songs, while Acts 2 and 3 split the remaining eight tunes between them.

After that, we get into more nebulous territory...
Kanye will reveal more of the album at an upcoming Yeezy Season 3 event in Madison Square Garden.

Yesterday a ticket page appeared for a Kanye Yeezy Season 3 event in New York City on February 11. It appears that tickets will also be sold to watch a broadcast of the to-do in various locations around the world. Though a representative recently told FADER that this event will not be a concert, the event's poster says that the event will feature "world premiere of the album Waves in its entirety."

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Waves is likely to have a lot of features.

Kanye’s albums always come jam-packed with guests. So far, the MC has previewed four songs that appeared on the handwritten tracklist—“No More Parties In L.A.,” “Fade,” “Real Friends,” “Wolves”—and each of those included at least one guest, whether it was Kendrick Lamar, Ty Dolla $ign, Post Malone, Sia, or Vic Mensa. The latest handwritten missive also included the signatures of the Dream, A$AP Rocky (who appeared with Kanye last year on Rocky's album At. Long. Last. ASAP and Pusha T’s Darkest Before Dawn), Chance The Rapper, and Doug E. Fresh.

On the production side, Kanye’s tweets have implicated Swizz Beatz, Madlib, Boi-1da, Havoc, and Frank Dukes. Mike Dean's name appears on the increasingly difficult-to-read piece of lined paper that Kanye is using to drop hints.

Of course, any of these collaborators could be chopped at any moment. But even as Kanye’s sound and approach have changed on recent albums, his interest in collaboration has not, so it’s safe to assume there will be plenty of help. In 2015, he also linked up with Madonna, Big Sean, the Weeknd, Rihanna, and Travi$ Scott.

There could also be a collaboration with Young Thug.

Kanye and Young Thug are on the record as fans of each other’s work. In since-deleted tweets from earlier in the week, Be El Be, who has directed several of Thug’s videos, suggested that he thought the rapper might appear on Kanye’s album. In an interview with Sway In The Morning, Thug was more elusive—he admitted the two had worked together, but would not commit any more details.

Kanye is working hard.

Travis Scott told Billboard, “this motherfucker is going all in. That nigga ain't sleeping, the nigga ain’t eatin.’ It’s lit; he’s just focusing on this album; he really wants this album to be the illest.” Yesterday, Young Thug declared, “[Kanye] has a real work ethic. If I was in his position, I’d still work, but I wouldn’t work as hard as him. He work[s] every day like he’s an upcoming rapper. He’s serious.”

People keep saying Waves is good.

Kanye likened the record to a “a sonic painting getting better every week.” Theophilus London heard an iteration of the album last summer and claimed, “its HI Key over for everybody. Everybody.” Pusha T suggested, “Everything I’ve heard is phenomenal, and it has nothing to do with any of the other records that were released before... He's super meticulous about the messaging about his album, but you guys are in for a treat.” On Twitter, Kanye later called it “the best album of all time” and the “album of the life.”

January 27, 2016
Everything You Need To Know About Kanye West’s WAVES