Kanye West Uses “Facts” to Flex on His Successful, Album-Free 2015

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Braggadocio, the boastful hubris commonly found in hip-hop lyrics, is a delicate art form, and no one does it quite like Kanye West. Any rapper can flex on how many cars, diamonds, or disposable women they possess, and even Jay-Z’s Basquiat and Warhol boasts sound like trite nouveau riche signifiers. But few can self-deify like Kanye and still sound earnest, and that’s part of what makes a track like “Facts,” which Kanye surprise-released on New Year’s Day, compelling.

Building on a sample of Father Children’s “Dirt and Grime,” “Facts” borrows the flow from Drake and Future’s What a Time to Be Alive track “Jumpman.” Drake and Future are ostensibly friends of Kanye, but in the ancient code of chivalry that is MC knighthood, flipping another MC’s style (and doing it better) is the ultimate way to show them up. But “Facts” is really more of an “I told you so” in song form, aimed squarely at Nike and the rest of Kanye’s fashion deniers (“I done told y’all, all I needed was the infrastructure”).

We’re still waiting on Swish (or whatever his new album will be called), but he’s still moving units (“I ain’t dropped the album but the shoes went platinum”), and is happy to tell us about it. With the relative success of his Adidas line, it doesn’t really make sense for Kanye to still be salty about the end of his Nike collaboration. Nike may have had trouble moving all its retro Jordans after increasing production, but they still had a banner year, and Adidas is giving Kanye anything he wants. But this has always been the fuel to his fire — his creative life force seems to be sustained by “the haters,” and as the Grammys pile up and music critics continue to consume ravenously most anything he makes, he has to look farther and wider to find them.

This has become a little easier since his marriage to Kim Kardashian, the flagship brand in the Kardashian empire that is fueled by any and all attention, negative or otherwise. So when Kim drops an app with custom “Kimoji,” he flexes on her behalf (“Plus Kimoji just shut down the app store, uh! / And we made a million a minute, we made a million a minute / (We did)”). He does the obligatory name-checks du jour (Bill Cosby, Steve Harvey), and gives his NBA friends some love (James Harden, Nick Young). It’s all very entertaining, but feels quite cursory.

The music itself is fine. The production from Metro Boomin and Southside is somewhat muted, and mostly just gets out of the way of Kanye’s proselytizing. It would be surprising to find this song on his new record, whatever it ends up being called; it mostly just serves to remind you that Kanye is still feeling himself, and that he thinks you should be too. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see if the fashion fuel for the hate game is enough to power him to create another classic.