By Francesco Morelli and Himanshu Jana
Kanye West’s new album Donda 2 is set to be released early next week, and the controversy surrounding yet another highly anticipated Ye album could not be higher.
This morning, the Chicago-born rapper, producer, and fashion designer announced through an Instagram post, that the project will be available on his own platform, Stem Player, on February 22nd. The 21 songs on the tracklist – also shared by the artist in another Instagram post – will not be added to his discography on any other platform, at least for the time being.
The Stem Player will give listeners the option to customize their listening experience. The player allows for the user to isolate and control the vocals, drums, bass, and samples within their chosen track.
These features, however, were not enough to justify the price tag on the platform’s subscription, which sparked a clear response from some fans: “I’m not going to pay 200$ for a billionaire’s album” a user stated in a comment under the post, “I wanna listen to it, but I’ll just wait for the leaks,” said another. Fan leaks might be on the internet as early as the release date, as Kanye has also announced a live show in Loan Depot Park, Miami, on the same day.
While fans struggle to comprehend the new platform and its price tag, Italian hip-hop producer and marketing graduate Luca Corallo makes perfect sense of West’s actions, “I think it’s just a good strategy to build hype around the album.” “He’s no stranger to this kind of marketing,” says Corallo. In 2016, West announced that his highly-anticipated seventh studio album, The Life Of Pablo, would only be released on Tidal, a subscription-based streaming platform. Yet, after a handful of days, the record appeared on all of the mainstream services.
Corallo also says that West, “has always shown the intention to present his products with an aura of ‘god-like exclusivity’ whether we’re talking fashion, music, or other collaborations”. According to Corallo, West is continuously associated with some kind of controversy. Currently, he is riding a wave of publicity following his divorce from Kim Kardashian, which then flowed seamlessly into the release of his documentary on Netflix. “What is true is that no one is as skillful in capitalizing on backlash as West is,” concludes Corallo.
With new drama arising every day from West’s social media accounts, some fans suggest that this unpredictability is part of what makes his music so special: “With every one of his albums he’s got a different persona,” says Brage Håvik, a lifelong Kanye West fan. He thinks that from a music perspective, it’s going to be hard to make exact guesses, but “he’s somehow going to hit the market”, says Håvik, even with a completely different product from what we’ve already seen. Håvik is also familiar with West’s peculiar marketing strategies and expects there to be more twists and turns before the album’s releases, even going as far to say he would not be surprised if the album ends up being postponed.
For now, however, and as always when it comes to West, fans wait with bated breath and will just have to go with the flow until the album’s eventual release.