Kanye West Ruined Fridays Forever

Kanyefridays

(This article originally appeared on The 405)

Wherever you reside on the spectrum of Kanye West opinion – visionary genius, arrogant narcissist, or somewhere in between – it’s difficult to deny his impact on hip-hop, and pop culture as a whole. He’s arguably the most important artist of his generation – he reinvigorated a stale genre, spawned a whole host of imitators, and as well as selling millions of albums worldwide, he’s won 21 Grammy Awards. All of which is well and good, but it doesn’t excuse his most heinous crime: Kanye West has ruined Fridays forever.

Don’t get me wrong, walking out of work on Friday evening still feels great, but cast your mind back to 2010. Inception came out in cinemas, there was the World Cup in South Africa, and the word “selfie” had yet to become a thing. It was a wonderful time to be alive. Most importantly though, it was the year that Kanye launched GOOD Fridays, where he gave away a new song every week from mid-August up until the November release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, with an additional Christmas song in December. Friday is still the light at the end of the tunnel, but back then there was the added bonus of new music from Kanye on top, which can’t be topped.

He wasn’t the first rapper to offer fans new music each week – Crooked I rhymed over popular beats for his “Hip-Hop Weekly” series in 2007 – but this was something entirely different. The freebies weren’t merely throwaways; they were events. We got to hear Kanye, Jay Z and The RZA on the same track, there was Pusha T rapping over a ‘Ye beat for the first time, and we were treated to an appearance from Child Rebel Soldier – the much hyped, rarely heard supergroup comprised of Kanye, Pharrell Williams, and Lupe Fiasco.

Every week there would be another ridiculous line-up of artists, and the anticipation would only build throughout Friday as Kanye tweeted updates and pictures from the studio. A lot of the songs were actually recorded on the day they were released, which led to the occasional delay, but that spontaneity and energy was evident in the music.

Even though they were given away, many of the songs were as daring as Kanye’s best work. ‘GOOD Friday’ and ‘The Joy’ saw a return to the soulful sound his fans will always yearn for, but then there was also a surprising track with Justin Bieber, back when he was still a dweeby kid, before he emerged as the last true rock star. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver must have been one of the unlikeliest people to appear on a rap song, but there he was on ‘Monster’, and it was astonishing.

Of course, Kanye didn’t only release these songs out of the kindness of his heart, but to promote his fifth album as well. The Taylor Swift incident made him Public Enemy No. 1, and the weekly series was a peace offering, an attempt to get the public to take him back, to love him again. He didn’t, and won’t, win over everyone, but GOOD Fridays helped to put the focus back onto the music, instead of his childish antics.

They also shone a light on the artists signed to his GOOD Music label. Admittedly, Cyhi the Prynce and Teyana Taylor haven’t done much of note since, but after their contributions to ‘So Appalled’ and ‘Christmas in Harlem’ respectively, stardom seemed imminent for both of them. Kid Cudi’s ‘Christian Dior Denim Flow’ verse is one of the most important achievements so far this century, and not even Big Sean could spoil these songs. Honestly, the 15 GOOD Friday tracks would have made a much better compilation than Cruel Summer eventually proved to be.

Every week there would be another ridiculous line-up of artists, and the anticipation would only build throughout Friday as Kanye tweeted updates and pictures from the studio. A lot of the songs were actually recorded on the day they were released, which led to the occasional delay, but that spontaneity and energy was evident in the music.

Even though they were given away, many of the songs were as daring as Kanye’s best work. ‘GOOD Friday’ and ‘The Joy’ saw a return to the soulful sound his fans will always yearn for, but then there was also a surprising track with Justin Bieber, back when he was still a dweeby kid, before he emerged as the last true rock star. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver must have been one of the unlikeliest people to appear on a rap song, but there he was on ‘Monster’, and it was astonishing.

Of course, Kanye didn’t only release these songs out of the kindness of his heart, but to promote his fifth album as well. The Taylor Swift incident made him Public Enemy No. 1, and the weekly series was a peace offering, an attempt to get the public to take him back, to love him again. He didn’t, and won’t, win over everyone, but GOOD Fridays helped to put the focus back onto the music, instead of his childish antics.

They also shone a light on the artists signed to his GOOD Music label. Admittedly, Cyhi the Prynce and Teyana Taylor haven’t done much of note since, but after their contributions to ‘So Appalled’ and ‘Christmas in Harlem’ respectively, stardom seemed imminent for both of them. Kid Cudi’s ‘Christian Dior Denim Flow’ verse is one of the most important achievements so far this century, and not even Big Sean could spoil these songs. Honestly, the 15 GOOD Friday tracks would have made a much better compilation than Cruel Summer eventually proved to be.

It wasn’t just his own acts that were given the platform to shine either. As well as the icons mentioned earlier, Nicki Minaj’s rise to rap’s most exciting talent began with her electrifying feature on ‘Monster’. Remember when we all got carried away about J. Cole? Listening to his ‘Looking for Trouble’ verse partly explains why that “new Nas” tag was thrown around so prematurely. Mos Def and Cam’ron reminded everyone how outrageously gifted they are at putting words together, while Raekwon joined Kanye and Bieber on the ‘Runaway Love’ remix, proving that Wu-Tang really is for the children. Kanye linked up with Charlie Wilson to spectacular effect on the overwhelming ‘Bound 2′ last year, but here he used Uncle Charlie like Sriracha sauce, adding him to several songs to make them that much more potent.

If there was an issue with GOOD Fridays – other than Swizz Beatz’ struggle bars on ‘Lord Lord Lord’ – it was that a few of the songs ultimately proved to be too special. After realising that he’d been handing out gold, Kanye included ‘Monster’, ‘So Appalled’, and ‘Devil In A New Dress’ (with a new, career-best verse from Rick Ross) on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Add those three songs to the singles and leaks, and more than half of the album had been heard long before it eventually came out, which slightly diminished the first few listens.

Really though, we were being completely spoiled. Future generations will ask us what it was like to experience GOOD Fridays, and we’ll regale them with wide-eyed tales of that magical era. We were blessed with regular doses of brilliance for a brief moment in time, absolutely free of charge, and ever since there has been a void. Human civilisation might well have peaked back then, but now the tantalising prospect of a return to those halcyon days has arisen.

There have been rumours of a new Kanye album this summer for a while, and they were seemingly confirmed when a Roc Nation statement announced that his Australian tour dates (scheduled for May) would be postponed so that he could finish his next album.

Cyhi the Prynce also emerged from the wilderness earlier this year, personally promising a comeback for GOOD Fridays, presumably ahead of the upcoming album’s release. There’s a chance Cyhi is dramatically overstating his own influence here, and I may reading too much into this, but Fridays could be returning to their former glory in the near future. It’s all in Kanye’s hands. No one man should have all that power.

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