Point // Counterpoint • The Return of Kanye West's 'G.O.O.D. Fridays'
In 2010, Kanye West first delivered us G.O.O.D. Fridays: a series of weekly releases leading up to his fifth studio album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. By its conclusion, it amassed fifteen songs over the course of four months, featuring some of the biggest names in hip hop. For those of us who came up through our late teenage years with the release schedule; it held a lot of nostalgia.
With his new album Swish scheduled for February 11, the beloved series returns with a much shorter timeline. With its original run holding such a special place in our hearts, our staff is divided whether its resurrection is warranted. The topic sparked a new series of its own which we’re crowning Point // Counterpoint. Here, two members of our staff will take a stance on opposite sides of the issue and argue their point. In the case of G.O.O.D. Fridays, TheseDays’ Jake Krez and Eric Montanez face off accordingly.
Point: It's a bad thing, it feels hollow - Jake Krez
Just over a week ago, Kim Kardashian took to her Twitter account to make an announcement that Kanye West would be releasing new music. Serving as a further reminder that West is, in fact, married to the reality television star, the "surprise" revelation seemed to fall flat compared to the kind of hysteria that the artist's 'G.O.O.D. Friday' releases brought forth leading up to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The message from Kardashian wasn't aimed at the music lovers that grew up with 'Ye, rather at the masses, the pop culture fiends waiting for the next gossip column. While we'll always welcome new Kanye, one has to ask: has he finally begun to jump the shark?
The difference between Kanye's position in the world and the music industry has changed markedly since 2010. Most notably, he has emerged as a true style icon with his derelict campaign and influential slippers. Also, G.O.O.D. Music is far from the brand it once was, perhaps prompting the drop of the name altogether this time around. The first time, I remember hanging around my dorm room with my roommate before we went out that night to be the first with it on our shared iTunes libraries. This time around, things seem somehow more confused, less organized, and decidedly scattered. "Real Friends" and "No More Parties" snippet with Kendrick Lamar dropped via shaky ZipShare/Audiomack links and were replaced several times while West grumbled on Twitter. Despite a vastly improved infrastructure for distributing music, one that is for all purposes at his fingertips, the drop seemed to be botched. Unthinkable in the seamless lead up to MBDTF.
But it was only the first one, we can understand setbacks on putting something into motion.
Then this week happened. In a series of tweets, Kim Kardashian once again acted as the Yeezy spokesperson to let fans know that he was working on verses to his next hit on a plane to Europe and would miss the release date. While I get that this might not be a big deal for most, it is absolutely striking as someone who grew up idolizing the unfettered ambition and perfection of a guy like Kanye. To miss the second Friday completely? To have Kim break the news? To not even address the situation directly at all? I don't know, but I appreciated 'Ye much more when he was a musician first and an icon second, it appears he may have finally slid to the other side of his giant stage mountain, content to create crowd-sourced singles pimped by his reality-star wife.
At this point, the songs are great. "Real Friends" and "No More Parties in LA" are really good from most perspectives. However, the aesthetic that Kanye used to wear like a coat, the feeling his music and the power it held used to wield when it dropped has been diluted. Like Paris Hilton's run at the early side of the 2000s that gave birth to the monstrosity that is the Kardashians, Hollywood seems to have sucked a lot of the flair and interest out of one of the industry's biggest stars. SWISH will definitely be a great album, but it also might be the first crack in the armor for West as he enters a new chapter of his career.
Counterpoint: It's a good thing, it's setting the stage for SWISH - Eric Montanez
Yes, Kanye is in a very different place than he was five and half years ago. Both as an artist and as a celebrity. However this isn’t a case of now and then, rather a trend that’s been consistent through Ye’s career. Ever evolving in both categories, fans are reintroduced to Kanye every couple of years with a new set of cares and concerns at the forefront of his narrative. The man propels the music, and each album serving as a reflection of that chapter in his life.
Trying to put 2010 & 2016’s G.O.O.D. Fridays side by side would be missing the point. They both have the same primary goal: cleanse the palette and transition into the next chapter of Kanye West music. For Ye, it’s always been about taking people on the ride through a certain aesthetic, the brash humility of The College Dropout, the rise to pop stardom on Graduation, emotional introspection on 808s, and so on. G.O.O.D. Fridays is a way of setting the tone of a project, and giving us a map for the amusement park that will be SWISH. Imagine that monstrous meal of an album that MBDTF was without the appetizers that were G.O.O.D. Fridays. We don’t know what we’re getting from SWISH but this will help get the taste buds ready.
The reasons to be skeptical of the series’ sequels aren’t without warrant. Agreeably G.O.O.D. Music as a staff isn’t as illustrious as they were - however, it’s important to note that we never really benefited from the power house G.O.O.D. Music which came to fruition in 2012. That being said, the beauty of the original series didn’t lie solely on the labels roster, more so in the art and caliber of its collaboration. Just as the first batch of releases, round two has started off star-studded and wonderfully collaborative. With the second coming kicking off with production from Mobb Deep’s Havoc, Madlib, Metro Boomin and seeing features from Kendrick Lamar and Ty Dolla $ign, it doesn’t look like any magic will be lost in that regard.
Sure, a SoundCloud upload was botched and made for an unglamorous reintroduction to the series (seeing as “Facts” wasn’t known to be the kick off until after the fact) and "No More Parties in LA" didn't arrive until Monday. However, suggesting the first run of G.O.O.D. Fridays went flawlessly would be incorrect. In fact, “Monster”, “Devil in a New Dress”, “Christian Dior Denim Flow”, “Don’t Stop” and “Christmas in Harlem” each were reuploaded within days after their initial release to replace lower quality or unfinished versions. And though the last two drops haven't been perfect, the overall buzz surrounding these songs have quickly overcome their minor slip ups and set backs.
Like Jake, I’m equally nostalgic of the original G.O.O.D. Fridays. It provided a few of my all time favorite Kanye songs and came during my peak years being a wholehearted music fan. And while we might not have been hit as hard by the release of “Real Friends”, I watched 19-year-old Qari (of Hurt Everybody) spend hours backstage at our Metro show last week raving about how amazing the song was to anyone willing to listen to him. The excitement continued this more, as he called me to ask if I've heard "No More Parties in LA" and expand on how great it is. A reminder it’s easy to become jaded as years go by, especially with the mass amounts of music we filter through each day. With the series back on track and the album a only few weeks away, I’m genuinely excited for what Ye has in store for us. Only time will tell if this rendition of G.O.O.D. Fridays does justice to the original, I’m just glad we have the opportunity to hear the music and see if it does.