I'm ahead of my time, sometimes years out
Because the Swish hype train has no brakes, we'll do an unprecedented quadruple Kanye run. A bit ago I made a Top 15 Kanye Songs list, which I mostly still agree with, but the absence of this song is like, completely damning. When "Real Friends" came out, people were united in cheering "Ye's back!"... some just meant the week since "Facts", some meant "pre-Yeezus" (which, although I love that album to death, I can understand... it is pretty abrasive), but some - and this surprised me - seemed like they meant like, Graduation-era, or even further back, those Kanye "genwunner"s, who saw even "Stronger" as excessive, who had been lamenting has absence for a decade now. Sure, these people probably weren't celebrating his return with "Real Friends", but they made themselves known on these occasions. It's pretty annoying imo, like, where do these people get off?... but... when I hear this track, I can understand them.
I think if your attitude is that College Dropout and Late Registration were the high points of Kanye, this is probably just his objectively best track. The beat is like absolutely everything Kanye was doing that no one else was - the soul samples, the strings, those simple solid drums - but with a level of cinematic confidence that he rarely wielded in those days. You can hear it so clearly in the opening, that hard-panned, minimal introduction of the beat, you just want to clutch it, you want to shore up all the fragments of it, and it's sooo satisfying when the whole beat finally comes in, and when the strings come in, and the hook... and you know that he knows, that he's 100% sure that this is a good one, and is getting the exact reaction you're giving him, and he can just go from there, from that place of confidence, and keep leveling up.
I think this is the key dynamic that sets Kanye apart from other producers, this confidence/levelling, and you can see it really clearly in the production for this track. The sense of grandeur he imparts before the final verse, and then jumping back in with "I'm ahead of my time, sometimes years out", this is the very story of Kanye West. And the way he uses this godly production power to facilitate not just two great verses from him, but memorable guest spots from Cam'ron and Consequence... Cam'ron justifies his cult following with a fun, dense verse with blue chinchilla and the word "cerebellum", and Consequence lives up to his name by showing a measured, but beautifully flowing, story of the other side, with brilliant interjections of the song's title. It's impossible to separate the quality of these verses from Kanye's production, which is both playfully dramatic and seriously fun... It's difficult to get into words. I think the best example can be imagined from the instrumentation itself: picture a whole orchestra working very hard to play a precise and difficult piece, and you can tell that it's months of effort being put into into it, but it's also a really light and dancey piece, and, more than anything, they're having fun with it.
There was some other stuff I was gonna say but while I was writing this MORE EXCITING SWISH NEWS EMERGED! Like... it isn't called Swish anymore, but Waves, which was one of the titles on the tracklist... but now the tracklist has changed too! Woah!! What, uh, what happened to it being finished? This is the Kanye attitude too, that relentlessness... in the same way that he knows he's mastered level one, and can take stuff to level two, there's the drive that he has to get it to level, like, fifty. But, like the production on this track, there's a playful side to it. Like, do you see all the tags and stuff on the tracklist? Even though these are all professionals putting everything to the test, everything on the line, Kanye committing to "Album of the lifetime", the definitive image is something bursting with joy, with friendship. Oh, and I'm gonna commit to "Ultra Light Beam" being the BEST song ever actually let's do the standard STUPID SPECULATING ON TRACKS BASED ON NOTHING GAME:
1. Nina Chop - maybe like... based around a chopped up Nina Simone sample? Aggressive, kinda like "On Sight", but in a totally different sonic "texture". Maybe an inversion, where the soul interjections of Yeezus become noisy interjections here?
2. Faith (Father?) Stretch My Hands Pt. 1 Pt. 2 - some crazy 10 minute shifting emotional banger, where it starts of sorta traditional but then just gets more and more ranting and involved until he basically exhausts himself, and we hear the exhaustion too. His "Sing About Me"
3. Waves - TITLE TRACK (first title track in Kanye's history!!!) so you know it'll be hype. Probably really soundscapey, with a pulsing feel, sounding like nothing else. Autotuned singing a must. Like a "lush" version of Runaway
4. High Lights - Much more bright and energetic but still in the same "mode" of Waves. Maybe a "Flashing Lights" sort of pulsation feel?
5. 30 Hours - ACTUALLY 30 HOURS LONG, Bull of Heaven-style experimental drone. Hmm nah I think this'll just be a real straightforward triumphant banger, with YOUNG THUG!!!
6. No More Parties in LA - the bangers continue. MAYBE A BONUS VERSE from the GOOD Fridays release? Drake?? Scary! Scary!
7. Fade - We heard a leaked cellphone version of this, it was really dark and brooding and intense. Marks the "dark" half of the album, after the exhaustion of "No More Parties".
8. FML - LOL geez, like... probably a sort of tragicomedy? Lots of complaining about really ridiculous things that could only happen in his life, with a recurring hook of "fuck my life", idk. "Secret tragedy within" sorta thing.
9. Real Friends - yeeeeah we know this one. Idk how it could change from the GOOD Fridays track, but there's soooo many rappers that would sound good on this, I'd love if there was a feature. Like based on the signatures on this tracklist, the guests are gonna be STACKED, so I assume we'll see some pop in on places we don't expect. Ahhh, I'm so excited.
10. Wolves - okay okay, if "Ultra Light Beam" isn't the best track ever, this surely will be. I'm CONVINCED because it was the finale (or used to be) that this is actually gonna be like 8+ minutes long and have like three more verses. And it's gonna be the best thing ever, because the non-CDQ 4 minute version we have is already the best thing ever, too wild.
11. Ultra Light Beam - via spending several years of time in his studio making beats, Kanye has discovered a whole new genre of music that sounds absolutely nothing like anything else that you have ever heard before, like what if you lived in the 1700s and then someone played you Idioteque, that's what it'll feel like.
REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS, probably setting the bar too low if anything. The rapper Mick Jenkins had released an album called "Waves", and he responded to the title change with this, which is basically the most perfect response. It really feels like everything is golden now, everything is perfect, everything is a 3-point Swish. It really feels like some beachside party and we're climbing over the dunes and hearing the music in the distance. It has been said so many times before, on so many occasions, but let me say it again: What a time to be alive. I'll be so sorry when he's gone.