Powered by the momentum of two recent, critically acclaimed albums, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch the Throne, his collaborative album with Jay-Z, the notorious Kanye West has not rested, and is set to release his latest compilation any day now. If you follow those in the know (read: me) on Twitter, you’ll already have been introduced to some of the leaked lyrics, many of which focus on his impending fatherhood. (In case you’ve been living under a rock, ’Ye and Kim Kardashian are expecting a baby in July.)
Rumors that the new album is titled Her Beautiful Dark Twisted Fetus are unconfirmed, and insiders say it’s more likely that West will go with the title No Work for a Child, a take-off of his infectious hit single (with Jay-Z) “No Church in the Wild.” Indeed, the first lyrics we received were from the new title track, which opens the album with these ambiguous lines: “Lil’ babies with their moms / What’s a mom to a kid? / What’s a kid to applaud? / What’s applause to a non-performer, who don’t perform for anyone? / Will he make it out alive? Alright, alright, no work for a child.”
The structure of these lyrics will sound familiar to any fan of “No Church in the Wild,” and the new song certainly relies heavily on its predecessor, with a few notable exceptions. Soft bongos have replaced the throbbing drums that were the signature of the original, and the opening lines, performed by Frank Ocean on the original track, are, curiously, performed by famed children’s singer Raffi. What West is actually getting at in these opening lines is up for grabs, though it may suggest a certain pressure on his newborn child to perform, only to remind himself (alright, alright) that children can’t be put under the same expectations as megastar rap-gods like himself.
The maturity of these opening lines is almost as impressive as what comes next. West actually puts himself in the mindset of his newborn child, rapping, “I’m out here bawlin’ / I know you hear my weeps. / Barney was a dinosaur, Daddy makes beats / Mommy made explicit vids, keep her family off the streets.” While some may think he’s gone a step too far here in referencing the sex tape that spawned Kardashian’s initial stardom, you can’t say Yeezy lacks imagination. The rest of the song is notable for its jumps in perspective, giving West a chance to voice his thoughts on the nine-month process while he’s stood by Kim’s side: “Cold gel on her skin made a stripe like a zebra / I call that baby fever” and, later, “Sonograms and sore heels / Pregnancy is mad real / Water breakin’ at 5 am / I hope her shoes survive that spill.” His display of sensitivity, particularly in his concern for Kardashian’s very expensive shoe collection (do you know how much those Louboutins cost?), marks impressive personal growth for someone once called “a jackass” by President Obama.
It begs the question: Has fatherhood made Kanye soft? Some may say West hit his artistic peak with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which Pitchfork called “the ultimate realization of his strongest talents” and Rolling Stone referred to as “his best album.” But West is doing what he does best on his forthcoming album—breaking into new territory and breaking all of the rules. Though we’ve only heard a few lines from “Powder” (think diaper rash, not cocaine), West may be the first rapper in history to have written a song from his unborn baby’s perspective: “I’m livin’ in that womb of Kardashian, doin’ something glam for it / Bringin’ paparazzi even better than that ass do it / Screams from her fan base, got a nice ring to it / You know not every little baby get a theme music. / No one babe should have all this swagger / Four months left, I’m already a bragger.” While it may call up a single from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, it’s certain that this is one of West’s most innovative songs to date. The pan flute and driving lullaby in the background provide this track its unique edge. And West hasn’t shied away from his tradition of sampling other artists on his forthcoming album either, which reportedly features the croonings of Tony Bennett, Bon Iver, and Snoop Lion (the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg).
It’s not clear when No Work for a Child will officially drop, though vague and confusing recent Tweets from West’s account suggest it could be as soon as next week, though he could also have been referring to his plans to egg Taylor Swift’s new house when he Tweeted, “Just wait for it this thing is gonna be so fresh you wont even know what hit ya!!!! GAME CHANGER!!!!”