“Don’t Stop the Party” is a song by American hip hop group The Black Eyed Peas. The song was written by members will.i.am, apl.de.ap, Taboo, and Fergie, along with Joshua Alvarez, and DJ Ammo, and was produced by will.i.am. and DJ Ammo for the group’s sixth studio album, The Beginning (2010). The song, described as “a hot club jam,” features will.i.am rapping in a thick, Caribbean patois.
“My Humps” is a song performed by American recording group The Black Eyed Peas. The song was written and produced by group member will.i.am for their fourth studio album Monkey Business (2006). It was released as the band’s third single from the album on September 20, 2005, due in part to the strength of downloads preceding the release. Musically, “My Humps” is a hip hop song that is structured as a duet between will.i.am and Fergie. The song sparked controversy because of its title and lyrics, which center on a woman who uses her breasts and buttocks to accomplish her goals.
“Without Me” is a song by American rapper Eminem from his fourth studio album The Eminem Show (2002). “Without Me” was released as the lead single from the album, and re-released on his greatest hits compilation album Curtain Call: The Hits (2005). “Without Me” is one of Eminem’s most successful singles, reaching number two in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and number one in fifteen countries. It is one of his most well-known and most recognizable songs. The song is included in the soundtrack for the 2016 film Suicide Squad.
No Sleep” is a song by American rapper Wiz Khalifa, released as the fourth official single from his debut major-label studio album, Rolling Papers. The track features production from Benny Blanco, and was written by Cameron Thomaz and Benjamin Levin.
“Ultralight Beam” is a plea, a confession, an anointment. It is gospel music that’s hollowed out. There is a choir and an organ, but they sound alone, as if transmitting from an empty heaven. Other voices tangle with faith in a time when God can seem most alive through the destruction of zealots; Kanye prays for Paris. Almighty death and inexplicable persecution cast shadows over this song, lingering in its empty spaces—these forces shape the stray glimmers that manage to break through.
Future and the Weeknd went in very different, very well-documented directions in 2015. Eschewing pop fame, the Atlanta rapper immersed himself in codeine and the dense trap beats of his pre-Pluto ;days. The Toronto singer, on the other hand, largely shed the sparse sound of his famed ;Trilogy in favor of MJ-worshipping, ;Max Martin-heralded pop success.
But the Weeknd did maintain his trademark destructive behavior. In this regard, he and Future are kindred souls. They’re self-aware yet unapologetic, and operate best in the shadows. On “Low Life,” Future drags the Weeknd back into the depths from which he had hardly receded. “I just took some molly, what else?” Future confesses from the onset, as if there’s no alternative. The Weeknd simultaneously pulls some melody out of Future Hendrix, who never really starts or stops singing. Together, they find a middle ground of deadpan lyrics and palatable sonics. The Metro Boomin and Ben Billions-produced beat creates a similar contrast with echoey vocals or piano chords layered on top of drill snares. Nothing is surprising to Future and the Weeknd. No behavior is deplorable. They both sound natural and expressive on “Low Life,” free to act and emote however they’d like.
Celebrity is a funhouse mirror. It amplifies certain characteristics of those who live within its frame. Kanye West became world-famous several times over during the last decade, and certain parts of his public persona seemed to swell in response.
There was the ego, always there, but now ostensibly justified by success. There was the sensitivity, easily turned to bitterness and aggravated by those who didn’t like seeing a black man defend a black woman at the expense of a white woman. And there was his grief, for Donda West and perhaps for other relationships. These elements metastasized into a potent artistic combination that yielded three very different albums.
In retrospect, the first of those albums, 808s and Heartbreaks, marked a farewell tour. No more, it seemed, were listeners to be granted access to Kanye’s family business, at least not the business of those who weren’t fated to live (or actively living) beneath all of the lights. And his sound, once so warm, grew colder, culminating in the icy sweat of Yeezus.
But in 2016, the gates have cracked open. The release of “Real Friends” (and a snippet of “No More Parties in LA”) today has fans screaming that the old ‘Ye is back. In its subject matter, its sound, and most crucially its vulnerability, “Real Friends” does share many features with the music Kanye made before 808s. Pivoting off MF Doom’s “Deep Fried Frenz,” West airs his guilt over—what else?—his extended family and old friends, as well as his deep anger with certain relatives, an elaboration of the lament on the 808s track, “Welcome to Heartbreak.” One story he shares, about having to buy back a computer stolen by a cousin, is a miniature study in anguish, as emotionally exhausting as “Only One” and far less effortful.
But if this track evokes the artist that fans think of as old Kanye—an impression enhanced by its cover art—then it’s also one that makes enormous use of what he’s learned since Graduation. After six listens, the most memorable lines are those sung with Auto-Tune. (After a dozen, everything is of a piece.) And West’s attitude has little in common with the buoyant outlook of his youth. “Real Friends” is heavy, grizzled, and sad. The track may be warm, with Kanye’s own production enhanced by the beautiful looping influences of Madlib (who produced the snippet at the end) and Dilla, but it’s the opposite of joyous.
As it stands, the song is tagged on Soundcloud with its title, #realfriends. But when it first was posted, the “friends” was missing. The only word left to describe the song was the one that, fair or not, will feel the most fitting for those who are rejoicing to have this version of Kanye West back: Real.