“All Day” is One of Yeezy’s Strongest Efforts this Decade

The best track ever produced by Velous, Kanye West, Diddy, Charlie Heat, Mike Dean, French Montana Noah Goldstein, Plain Pat, Travis Scott, Allen Ritter & Mario Winans.
By    March 10, 2015

Paul Thompson’s master plan involves slapping Internet aggregators. All day.

 “Don’t really matter what I made, boy, you know I still go wild.”

Kanye West doesn’t have ghostwriters. Those anonymous, nefarious scribes that hang like specters over your favorite emcees don’t haunt West, because you can check the credits and the publishing splits and the Grammy on Rhymefest’s nightstand. For all the righteous outrage at his egotism, Kanye takes a disparate group of the most talented collaborators alive, molds their contributions into a cohesive, auteurish whole, then gives each party credit. So the guy isn’t pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes. And his talent has always been in appropriation—I was just listening to “Izzo” in Silver Lake yesterday when I found out it sampled a song by a band called “Jackson Fire.” It was soul, then it was europop, then it was Chicago house. Now it’s grime. “All Day” is just another step in the Westian lineage of flipping; it just so happens to be one of Yeezy’s strongest efforts in the 2010s thus far.

Two weeks ago, when he debuted the song at the Brit Awards’ live telecast with flamethrowers in tow, Kanye’s self-censoring was delightfully incomplete. Skepta and nearly two-dozen grime emcees and producers crowded the stage in black masks and hoods (don’t read the comments on news sites). Kanye rapped about eBay price points and didn’t apologize for having expensive shoes. It wasn’t like the first half of the Grammys. It was antagonistic the way Yeezus and the “Bad Boys For Life” video are antagonistic. He rapped about couture—It’s Ye, nigga / Shopping for the winter and it’s just May, nigga—as if it were life and death because he believes that it is.

“All Day’s” writing is tight and economical in the way Yeezus seldom was, even at its high points. Turns like “You an actor, you should be on Broadway, nigga / ‘Cause you do shit the broad way, nigga / Your bitch got an ass but my broad way thicker” are “My Way” and “Half Price” clever, with enough misanthropy to match this decade’s diamond dental implants. (Sade shade has been excised because this is a family website.) The line between Louis Farrakhan and Dikembe Mutombo is as kinetic as it is confused. Even the hook uses its self-imposed limitations to drive home the song’s capital-P politics: “How long you niggas ball?,” “(Swish, swish) How long they keep you in court?”and “Tell your P.O., (how?) how long you been high?” are all questions with the titular answer. Kanye’s fellow Chicagoans are being murdered by the dozen. His shoes are going for $20,000 on eBay. It’s all shoehorned into two verses. It all moves haphazardly forward.

Kanye went domestic for the almost-patois bridge, tapping St. Paul’s Allan Kingdom, he of The Stand4rd fame and Plain Pat management. But East London’s absence is excusable; “All Day,” like Kanye’s best solo work, moves ten degrees left (or right, actually—back to accessibility) of its stylistic forebearers. It pulls in enough other elements to feel like a true synthesis, and therefore new. Just as “Through the Wire” wasn’t exactly “Never Change,” “like a light-skinned slave, boy / We in the motherfucking house” is not a line that could have been ripped from Boy in Da Corner.

Everything Kanye West has done since Taylor Swift is a sort of performance art, and “All Day” is no different. A Beatle drops by for a below-the-marquee coda on a song that barks the word “nigga” nearly fifty times in four minutes. Yet it’s also a return to the profound, goofy, and endlessly quotable formalism that marked his best records from a decade ago. Just because French Montana has a composition credit doesn’t mean this isn’t part of the master plan.

We rely on your support to keep POW alive. Please take a second to donate on Patreon!