Kanye West Plays New Music, Embraces Radio at Industry Event: 'Of Course I Want to Be on Radio!'
A Rihanna collaboration was among songs previewed during surprise appearance at Wednesday's iHeartMedia Music Summit.
People are sleeping with one eye open in case Kanye West releases new music, and that moment seems to be fast approaching.
On Wednesday, West previewed new music from his seventh studio album at the iHeartMedia Music Summit at Burbank, Calif.'s iHeartRadio Theatre, according to a source at the event.
After Def Jam CEO Steve Bartels started his scheduled presentation — talking about upcoming records from Big Sean, Alesso and Axwell /\ Ingrosso — he suddenly announced: "I wanna stop this and turn it over to one of the great iconic rock stars of our time: Kanye West."
Kanye walked out with his laptop to a stunned room and picked up the mic — then, noting the size of the room, put it down and asked if everyone could hear him and proceeded to speak for around 45 minutes without a mic.
A theme of his talk, which was a bit stream-of-consciousness and included a lot of joking around, was innovation — what he called his "responsibility to innovate" and not repeat what he'd done before. He spoke of bringing in soul beats on his early records at a time when gangsta rap was prevalent, and the dichotomy of being signed to Roc-a-Fella and wearing a backpack in 2004. Because he was addressing radio programmers, he spoke at length about how he'd brought unlikely songs and topics to urban radio with "Jesus Walks" and "Through the Wire" from his first album, and then later in his career discovered Daft Punk and EDM and brought those influences into his music with "Stronger" and again with 808s and Heartbreak, and how he hears that album's influence on a lot of urban radio today, even though it wasn't his biggest-selling album.
"This little talk I'm giving is going good so far," he said at one point, "so I have to risk being Kanye" — meaning he'd have to mess it up.
He also doubled back on a statement he made onstage at Governors Ball in 2013: that he didn't want to be on the radio. "I was joking!" he laughed. "Of course I want to be on the radio!" He said "Black Skinhead" was another innovative record that he wished radio had embraced, and sang some of it a cappella.
He talked at length about his experience of working with Paul McCartney on "Only One." The song came together with McCartney jamming and Kanye freestyling, and West said he only realized when he heard the song played back that "my only one" was the meaning behind his first name.
He discussed what a sexy song the Beatles' "Come Together" is, and how he was in complete disbelief when Paul stood across from him and played the bass line. He also recalled jokingly asking the Beatle, "What was pussy like in the '60s?"
He then sang some of "Only One" a cappella, and you could hear a pin drop in the room.
He finished by playing one new song: a duet with Rihanna (title unknown) that featured acoustic guitar and a big, soaring chorus and melody with a massive hook. He then slammed his laptop shut and walked offstage to a standing ovation.
Perhaps the Rihanna song is the collaboration that also features Ty Dolla $ign and McCartney that Ty mentioned to Billboard in early January. "Me, Rihanna, 'Ye and Paul [McCartney] got a song about to drop as well," Ty Dolla $ign said. "It's gonna drop soon. I heard they shot the video recently. I don't know what the final title is, but I know it's crazy, so just be looking out for [it]."
This article originally appeared on Billboard.com.