All it took was two words for Kanye West to drive millions of fans wild with anticipation: "June Eighteen." He left it at that – but all signs indicate that West's tweet was the unofficial announcement of the release date for his sixth solo album, which will arrive less than a month before he's due to become a father. West has been living in Paris since at least January, recording in secret at the hotel Le Meurice (which is so deluxe it's known as "the hotel of kings") and local studios.
In late April, West visited Def Jam's New York offices – pregnant girlfriend Kim Kardashian reportedly in tow – to preview the disc. Sources familiar with the project say it's even darker and more twisted than 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, with one song that drew comparisons to Nine Inch Nails.
The track list for the album is still being finalized, but the all-star crew of artists who have joined West in the studio is a who's who of music in 2013, ranging from Daft Punk and Skrillex to underage Chicago MC Chief Keef and members of Odd Future. "It was very raw," Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter says of one recent session with West. "He was rapping – kind of screaming primally."
Further details are being closely guarded. "You know I'm not going to tell you anything about that crazy-ass boy!" 2 Chainz recently said. "Just know that Mr. West has some dope [music] on the way."
Longtime collaborator John Legend, who recently spent a couple of days working with West in Paris, agrees. "His only goal in this whole thing is to make something beautiful – that's his North Star," says Legend. "From a very early point, back in 2001, Kanye believed that he had something that the world needed to hear. A lot about him has stayed the same."
This story is from the May 23rd, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.