Hip-hop icon Kanye West has been laying pretty low since the 2016 tour following his seventh album, The Life of Pablo, abruptly came to a halt: He cancelled the final 21 dates and entered the hospital for exhaustion. In 2017, he featured on Drake’s “Glow” and Mary J. Blige’s “Love Yourself”; this year, he is credited as a co-producer on Migos’ “Bad Bitches Only.” And that’s about it. West’s focus has seemingly been elsewhere: With wife Kim Kardashian West, he collaborated on the Kids Supply children’s clothing line, not to mention raising their third child, Chicago West, born in January.
But anonymous sources have recently reported that West is back in the studio working once again. One unnamed associate went so far as to tell E! News that West wanted to release new music “very soon.” Here’s everything we know about the project so far.
It was once named Turbo Grafx 16.
Just weeks after releasing The Life of Pablo in 2016, West shared information about a new LP via Twitter. “My next album is titled ‘Turbo Grafx 16’ as of now,” he wrote. “Just on some super nerd vibes,” he added. “One of my favorite gaming systems when I was a kid.”
West goes through album titles like outfits, but Quavo of Migos posted a photo that seemed to reinforce the gaming system-theme in March of 2016. The picture included West, Migos, Big Sean, Lil Yachty and Vic Mensa – Quavo captioned it “Turbo.” Another Instagram picture surfaced around the same time captioned “Turbo Grafx 16 day 1;” this photo contained West, Mike Dean (who has played a role in every one of West’s albums since Late Registration), Kid Cudi and producer Plain Pat.
Although Kanye had announced around The Life of Pablo‘s release that he would put out a new album by the summer and three records a year forever after, two summers came and went without even a sign of a new record.
There were also separate but similar rumors that the G.O.O.D. Music compilation Cruel Winter would come out not long after The Life of Pablo in 2016. “Champions,” purportedly the first Cruel Winter single, arrived in June. In August, Travis Scott told Rolling Stone it was due out before the new year. However, no label compilation has been released.
West has reportedly spent time recording in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Rumors of West’s escape to scenic Wyoming – a state that rarely, if ever, pops up on the radar of music fans – first surfaced in May of 2017. “He’s far from any noise,” a source told Page Six. “He’s far from Hollywood and is very isolated right now. He wants to get back into his creative groove.”
Another source added, “He likes to work in remote places and be in the middle of nowhere as much as he can be. That’s his pattern. … He’s not in some ‘struggle’ to find his creative voice. Any creative endeavor he’s done, there’s a start to the process and he wants to figure out what he talks about. It’s a creative journey every time and he starts from scratch.”
Reports reemerged in March suggesting that Wyoming was once again serving as West’s creative sanctuary. “Kanye has been recording in Jackson Hole for the last week,” another unnamed source told E! News. “He has several producers, friends and his personal trainer who have all dropped into town to work with him.”
A separate source added that West is “really focusing on getting tracks done” and that “by being at the mountains, he doesn’t have many distractions and can have a more clear sense of direction for his music. That is why he usually escapes there when he is in the zone to get things done.”
A sprawling list of potential collaborators have reportedly joined West in the studio.
Since the days of 808s & Heartbreak, West has been famous for assembling albums by committee, corralling bits and pieces of beats and verses from a genre-agnostic group of collaborators and sewing them all together in a flurry of creativity.
After the early burst of photos showing Dean, Migos, Kid Cudi and others purportedly working on Turbo Grafx, the trail of clues went cold. In December of 2016, New York beat-maker extraordinaire Pete Rock shared video from time in the studio with West. Though Rock and West have long been mutual admirers, they’ve worked together infrequently – see the Watch the Throne deluxe edition cut “The Joy.” Also in December, Talib Kweli, who first worked with West over a decade ago, shared a picture of West with Yasiin Bey and Dave Chappelle. “2018 looking good,” Kweli wrote.
In May of 2017, G.O.O.D. Music President Pusha T reportedly joined West in Wyoming to help jumpstart the recording process. “Pusha T has been visiting,” an unnamed source told Page Six. “He inspires Kanye to write. Kanye’s trying to find his creative voice again, and he has people there to help him get, and stay, on track. He’s still a little off and is trying to get himself back.”
More recently, West superfans have been collecting a variety of unconfirmed clues about other artists visiting Wyoming, presumably to work with West. The-Dream, who has been contributing to West’s albums since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, was spotted in the Jackson Hole airport along with King Louie, a rapper from West’s hometown of Chicago.
Other photos of musicians enjoying wintery scenes have been used by fan accounts like TeamKanyeDaily as potential evidence that Travis Scott (who has worked with West since Yeezus), Pi’erre Bourne (known for his work with Playboi Carti), Wheezy (known for his work with Young Thug, whom West admires), Jeff Bhasker (a pop songwriting ace who helped out on 808s & Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) and A$AP Bari spent time in Wyoming. The latest unsubstantiated rumor, based on a snippet of an Instagram story from a photographer associated with Drake, suggests that he may also have visited Wyoming as well.
West also has plenty of unreleased older songs to draw on.
Around the release of The Life of Pablo, West tweeted that he had recorded roughly 40 songs apiece with Young Thug and another 40 with Kendrick Lamar. Migos have also claimed to have a pile of songs recorded with West, the majority of which have never been heard. When Ty Dolla $ign worked with West before The Life of Pablo, he claimed to have worked on nine songs, only some of which have surfaced. Lil Uzi Vert has said he has “like hundreds” of tracks with West, though the two have never appeared on an officially released recording. And there are longstanding rumors that West and Drake recorded part or all of an album together, but little of that material has come out.
Murder Inc.’s Irv Gotti Instagrammed a picture with West recently claiming they had some type of collaboration in the works as well. “Hip-hop is about to get something enormous,” Gotti wrote. “Like enormous. 2 Crazy.”
Even West’s label probably doesn’t know what’s going on.
West moves at his own pace. Steve Bartels, CEO of Def Jam, told Variety that “when we talk, we don’t really get down to the granular of where he’s going and how he’s flying there.” Bartels added, “Kanye is working, that’s been widely reported. … What’s great about our relationship is that I always know when it’s go time – because he wakes me up.”