It has been over three weeks since Kanye West’s latest promised album, “Jesus Is King,” was supposed to drop. In the days leading up to the purported release, West began cryptically retweeting and posting hints about the album. He even performed at a series of private events in Detroit, Chicago and New York to promote his newest “masterpiece.”
This is not the first time West has missed a delivery date. He is notorious for releasing music after its due date. However, in the past, the quality of his music improved because he took more time. Most famously, he delayed the release of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” angering executives and his label. The album, buoyed by smash hits “Monster,” “Power” and “All of the Lights” surpassed even the most optimistic of expectations and was lauded by critics for its visionary production — which West spent his extra time refining.
With “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” West had a plan for his music and executed it well. However, the strategy for the release of his two latest announced albums, “Yandhi” and “Jesus Is King,” seems more haphazard and aimless. This lack of clarity raises the question of whether West purposefully stirs up press for his albums, knowing he won’t release them, or he just has no discernible sense of direction and works on his music at his own pleasure. In other words, is he a genius or just crazy?
This question has been hotly debated amongst fans and critics ever since West started tweeting in a Faulkner-esque stream-of-consciousness style, such as how he needed a meeting with Tim Cook (the CEO of Apple) and that Mark Zuckerberg (the CEO and co-founder of Facebook) should invest $1 billion into his ideas. It’s difficult not to laugh when reading statements like these, but the way that West acts makes it seem like he really believes his artistic prowess and fame earn him a spot at the table with these titans of industry.
This is the enigma of West; we don’t know what to think of him. He’s undisputedly a brilliant producer and musical mind. However, his latest antics erode the trust between him and his fans. With each album due date missed, fans become less and less likely to check if his next album will actually appear online. His strategy, if one can call it that, may generate interest in his work in the short term, but is doing long-term damage to his reputation and music sale potential. Frustration is rising among his fans on social media.
It is impossible to judge West’s intentions, especially without broaching the sensitive topic of his mental health, which he has struggled with, but it is possible to evaluate the repercussions of his actions. West is so famous and possesses such a devout following that he can randomly throw out release dates and not meet them, mislead fans and tweet platitudes without losing money — in fact it might even make him richer. He still rakes in millions from his clothing and shoe lines, which serve as his primary source of income.
West’s position as an artist, then, is one of privilege because of his success. A lesser-known musician or influencer does not have the leeway to act in this manner. They would lose their record deal with their label and support many fans if they refused to release promised music. Some might argue that West has earned the right to take liberties with his announcements and releases. He may not have a fiduciary duty towards his fans — he didn’t sign a contract with them — but he certainly has a moral obligation to not lie about his music. As West fans, we should hold West accountable, but it’s not prudent or worthwhile to boycott his music. If you feel lied to or betrayed by West or another artist, go ahead and don’t listen when it’s released. However, if you still want to tune in, you can rest easy knowing that he’ll likely pay the price down the line in the form of reduced livestream revenue for his album launches and decreased music service stream totals, as fewer fans will trust him enough to watch or listen on his supposed release dates.