Kanye West's Every Friday Progress Report: 'Real Friends'

The maestro mulls how fame trumps brotherhood in the first installment of his new weekly song drop

As Kanye kicks off the second installment of his G.O.O.D. Fridays weekly roll-out, we take a look at his strong latest offering, "Real Friends." Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty

Kim Kardashian confirmed today that Kanye West has relaunched his G.O.O.D. Fridays series in a new incarnation called Every Friday, which will culminate in the release of West's long-awaited new LP, Swish. We'll evaluate each track as it drops.

Kanye West's "Jumpman"-inspired Nike diss "Facts" dropped on New Year's Eve to widespread derision, give or take the occasional contrarian thinkpiece. But with the arrival of "Real Friends" and the attached snippet of "No More Parties in LA" — officially signaling the return of the G.O.O.D. Fridays concept — it seems likely "Facts" was intended to reset expectations. Much as his sneaker reputedly jumped over the Air Jordan, "Real Friends" easily leapfrogged the old-man-in-the-club routine of "Facts." It also bests Kanye's last collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign, the now-forgotten 2015 record "Fade," and ranks with some of his best recent work

Despite Kanye's penchant for ghostwriters and a stacked production lineup — the beat was made by Frank Dukes, Boi 1da, Sevn Thomas and Mobb Deep's Havoc, who was reportedly responsible for the drums — there's a convincing emotional authenticity to 'Ye's song of alienation. The track is compelling because of its ambiguity: Though Kanye feels detached from the people his success has left behind, the people who try to make their bills his problem, who've tried to extort him, the song is about the complex human emotional response to the unreliable bonds of friendship. There's a bitterness, to be sure, but it's offset by the sadness of recognizing that what had been a strong emotional bond is now merely an absence of one.

It's tempting to credit Ty Dolla $ign with bringing the x-factor here. "Real Friends" feels like the inverse of Ty's own "Time" ("I do it for my niggas"). That record is an impassioned tribute to loyalty; "Real Friends" is what happens when there is none. It's not an original concept, but it is a timeless one. The record "Real Friends" most directly recalls is Whodini's Eighties hip-hop classic "Friends." A more contemporary touchpoint might be Drake's "Energy" ("Got a lotta people trynna drain me of my energy").

Meanwhile, the snippet included at the song's close ("No More Parties In LA") is of similarly high quality, produced by Madlib and featuring Kendrick Lamar, who is a good match for the song's introverted theme. All in all, a strong start to G.O.O.D. Fridays, Season 2.

Rating: 8/10

Likelihood of track showing up on Swish: Low

Hit potential: Low

Previous Kanye album precedent: A little 808s, a little Late Registration