Kanye West may well be the most constant newsmaker in all of music over the last few years — the last few months loaded with evidence that West is operating in a league of his own.
After a December release date was penciled in for his next album, “808s & Heartbreak,” he informed his label Def Jam he wanted it released as quickly as possible and got it moved up to Nov. 25.
Having declared last year to never appear on MTV again, he closed this year’s VMAs with a performance of his single “Love Lockdown,” which at that time had not been heard elsewhere.
To unveil his album to the industry, he made sure the listening party was the most discussed event in Hollywood by holding it in an art gallery in which the “art,” created by Vanessa Beecroft, was about three dozen nude models.
And to top it off, he announced he will be ready with his next release in June.
In a business that demands — and too often tolerates — gaps of years between releases, West is a throwback to the days when rock and R&B artists engaged in relentless recording and touring cycles. “808s & Heartbreak” will be his fourth album in four years. He continues to produce, do remixes and appear on other artists’ records as well. And in a world of underperformers, West’s albums are about the only ones that can be counted on to deliver sales in the millions.
After the invited audience heard the new album, which is heavy on the use of Autotune and soul samples and short on rap, West said, “You can’t judge me on this because it’s a reflection of my heart and soul. It’s like judging a grandmother’s love.”
West launched an international tour in late October that will find him performing in China, the U.K., Europe and Australia. In April and May, his Glow in the Dark tour played 34 dates — mostly arenas — in North America. That spring tour grossed $31.6 million, according to Pollstar magazine, making it the top-grossing hip-hop tour of the year.