Kanye Leak Review: Shoot Up - Kanye West (ft. Bon Iver and Santigold)
by Mateo Rispoli
Listening to a leaked Kanye track feels like an invasion of privacy. His now nearly 20 year-long legacy in hip-hop takes the stage alongside his personal life, and the two are synergistic performers. In 2019, Kanye West represents more than the producer-wizkid that made the “Izzo (H.O.V.A)” beat and ushered in a new era of hip-hop. He’s a 24/7, borderline Truman Show-esque performance art piece. Though he’s acutely aware of that fact, his characteristically vocal and flagrant nature is only intermittently suppressed, usually when he focuses that energy on whatever is next. “Shoot Up,” we’ll call it, featuring Bon Iver and Santigold, plays more like his signature slapdash stream of consciousness tweet threads than a finished track.
2016’s The Life of Pablo changed the etiquette of album releases. The album debuted on February 11th, and took to streaming services 3 days late after multiple revisions with the only communication from the artist being a Tweet that read “Ima fix wolves.”
West called The Life of Pablo “a living, breathing, changing, creative expression,” and further revisions have been made in the three years since its release. With the unofficial release of “Shoot Up,” audiences of the Kanye Show get a look at the foundation of what has the potential to be a successful foray into alternative, one he heavily flirted with on 2018’s Kids See Ghosts.
The rather flat and distant sample that acts as the song’s chorus is from the B.o.B. track, “Shoot Up The Station.” Santigold sings, stuttered in post, “shoot up-shoot up-shoot up the station, tv’s dead, tv’s dead.” The drums are expertly sampled, reminiscent of the heavy-handed percussive slant of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010). A circle of dancing snares tangoes with accented high hats, and they wash everything in the mix. Add in a funkier bassline and organ and the beat would be welcome in the shuffle of a New Orleans funk jam. A two chord piano part peaks in during the chorus, Kanye singing along in unison.
The bass floods in, and a wall of synths court Justin Vernon’s vocals, harmonized in real time with what sounds like Engineer Chris Messina’s hardware and software synth suite, aptly dubbed “The Messina.” It gives Vernon’s voice a bellowing choral texture, familiar to fans of 2016’s 22, A Million. Kanye graces the track with some mumbled autotune ramblings, “come on, put your guns up,” leaning into “and if you’re tired of all the lies,” on repeat. Other audible lines include, “maybe we’ll get through,” “if I die tonight, but now I’m still alive.” It’s not much to go on, but the skeletal nature of this track reads as a demo, so if anything, what is on tape now is most likely (hopefully) a placeholder for verses yet-to-be-written.
As an instrumental sketch, “Shoot Up” is a successful proof of concept for the sound Kanye is pursuing. While an assumed Yhandi demo, there’s an equal chance that this is an outtake from The Life of Pablo. With such scant information, all details are pure speculation. In the event this track adorns the pits of a purple-taped minidisk, it’ll stand as a window into the creative process of one of the 21st century’s most controversial figures. If his viral Sunday Services are any indication, Kanye’s 2019 retreat is going well, and “Shoot Up” represents an inspired direction from a consummate innovator.