THE TOPIC: Kanye West's "Power" (The First Single From His Forthcoming 5th Album)

Note: The version of "Power" which leaked is apparently an unfinished and unmixed iteration of the song, unintended for public consumption by the artist. That said, it has been made widely available via the Internet and sparked debate, regardless of its state of readiness.
LEAKED: 5/28/2010 at 2:29 AM by HipHopPremieres / FDL_
THE CONSENSUS PANEL: Miss Info (MissInfo.tv), John Gotty (The Smoking Section), Combat Jack (DailyMathematics.com), Robbie Ettelson (Unkut.com), Eskay (NahRight.com), ILLIONAIRE (YouHeardThatNew.com), Elliott Wilson (RapRadar.com), Dallas Penn (DallasPenn.com), Legend (OnSmash.com), Jake Paine (HipHopDX.com), Paul "Gooch" Cantor (PaulJCantor.com), Andrew Noz (CocaineBlunts.com), Nigel D. (RealTalkNY.net), Maurice Garland (MauriceGarland.com), Jayson Rodriguez (MTVNews), Nation (ItsTheCalm.com & NahRight.com), Peter Rosenberg (RosenbergRadio.com), Meka (2DopeBoyz.com), Jeff Rosenthal (ItsTheReal.com), Low Key (YouHeardThatNew.com), and Noah Callahan-Bever (Complex).
AVERAGE RATING:

See mini-reviews from each panel member below...

PANELIST: Miss Info, MissInfo.tv
REACTION: "Wow! Prayer circle claps, motherland chants, rock-n-roll samples, electro-synth, Dwele hooks, plus that kickdrum knock?! As for the lyrics, I love the fact Ye somehow makes 5 stages of loss into a street-to-club-to-stadium banger. Denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and, finally, 'at the end of the day, goddamnit, I'm killin' this shit.' I tried to maintain my usual cynicism, but this song made me do the Peanuts dance. All day. As for the timing of this 'leak,' it feels so right, I almost wonder if Kanye did it himself. Long weekends, big summer concerts....and a lil' bit of thank me now ; )"
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PANELIST: John Gotty, The Smoking Section
REACTION: ''I just needed time alone with my own thoughts, Got treasures in my mind but couldn't open up my own vaults.'—I love my Gemini brother because he encompasses all that we are. Our duality. The ability to be extroverted and introverted at the drop of a hat. Funny, yet serious. The same exuberance and emotion that ultimately led to his self-sanctioned sabbatical are the same characteristics that make this song work. He injects a sense of humor into his words and commands the song's cadence, melding words that others might not be able to fit into a line. Above all, I tend to believe the rhymes he spits to be honest and true because he's always showed us that side of his Gem. A good first showing for Good Ass Job."
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PANELIST: Combat Jack, DailyMathematics.com
REACTION: "I've known Kanye since back in the second half of the '90s. When he was solely a beat smith, we signed him to Deric 'D-Dot' Angelettie's production company. When he told me personally back in '01 that he was going to start rapping, I was like, 'Riiiiiight,' only because I couldn't picture dude as a rapper. He was too corny to be a dope rapper. Because of my 'Ye prejudice, I admittedly slept on College Dropout and Late Registration. As dope as those albums were, I couldn't get around seeing, hearing son rap. It looked like he was trying too hard. Please believe I became a believer on that Graduation album. That album was too strong to deny, plus, I'm not a hater, never that. 808s & Heartbreak was a disappointment, only because now that I was amped to hear dude, he goes and drops an emo album. My friend Dallas Penn loved it though, to the point that I envisioned him wearing a Kanye West nut scarf to bed, and nightly, for how much he (Dallas) jocked him on that experimental body of basura work. Funny thing is right after 808s, Kanye spazzed out. From 'Run This Town' on, dude got progressively better on each and every track he spit on. Like he's evolving as a rapper, but at a mutated pace. In all my rap years, I've never seen anyone improve this much as a rapper in so short a time, at so great a rate. Like if he was an X-Man, his name would be Rappo, or Rapper X, you know what the fuck I'm, talking about.

'Power' is just another step in dude's mutant-like rapper evolution. I mean, what? The beats is Michael Moore, meaning sicko, the hook 'And then they (Go) And then they (21st century schizoid man),' whatever the eff that means, that shit is sicko too. And just because. Then the raps, 'Fuck SNL and the whole cast,' drunk driving, did he reference tripping off the powder? If he did, I mean, cocaine use was so 1980s in hip hop, and not advocating drug use, I don't do blow, but if 'Ye did reference snorting 'ye, just fucking wow. In a good way. Kanye West is sounding like the most liberated and free rapper out today. Down to the ending, where the chorus says, "Now this'll be a beautiful death, Jumpin' out the window, Lettin' everything go". Is he being figurative about how jumping out the window means dope or is this nigga really talking suicide? It don't even matter because 'Ye mos def jumped out the window with this bitch!"

RATING:
"Read my lips, one, two, three, four, mother fucking FIVE is what 'Power' gets, bitches."
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PANELIST: Robbie Ettelson, Unkut.com
REACTION: "This beat is not bad by any stretch of the imagination...in fact it kinda bangs, up until the horrendous 'artistic' solo three and a half minutes in, which is the audio equivalent of a really bad batch of acid. As for the rambling verses—in the immortal words of Carlito Brigante, 'Here comes the pain!' I forgot just how shitty Kanye can be at rapping when he's having an off-day. He sounds like your drunk uncle rambling incoherently over a plate of BBQ at one of those compulsory family functions that you wish you'd skipped. Shots fired at Saturday Night Live? Woah, edgy. 'Power' is the kind of pretentious, self-indulgent navel-gazing that I can imagine Bono from U2, Sting and the guy from Coldplay would all enjoy listening to during their daily yoga sessions or over a soy-milk Frappe."
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PANELIST: Eskay, NahRight.com
REACTION: "When this first came on and I heard all of that chanting, I was like, Oh no, what is this shit gonna be. But I'll be damned if it didn't all come together by the time it was over. There were little things here and there that I wasn't crazy about, but since this is supposedly an unfinished leak, I'll reserve judgment. Ye's back on his bullshit though, that's for sure. Somewhere about halfway through the second verse he completely blacks out. His flow on this reminds me of the old, hanging-around-with-Mos-Def flow he used to have rather than the playing-Connect-4-with-Bey-in-Ibiza flow that I was expecting from him on this album. Also, I don't know why, but I was expecting his return-to-rap single to be something slower and more deliberate, like a 'Can't Tell Me Nothing' or something. But I guess that's my bad for thinking Kanye would do what was expected of him."
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PANELIST: ILLIONAIRE, YouHeardThatNew.com
REACTION: "Raspy flow, check. Potent delivery, check. Braggadocious lyrics, check. Jungle-type drums over a crazy sample...Martin Louie The King Jr.'s first offering from his forthcoming album Good Ass Job (is this still a working title?) consists of all the elements in a true Kanye West banger. The shit we've been waiting on for like months. I mean, let's be honest here, 'Ye can virtually rap about absolutely nothing and it'd still get a couple hundred listens on our iTunes Playlists. And let's not forget about how much win this one's gonna be for Dwele."
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PANELIST: Elliott Wilson, RapRadar.com
REACTION: "Although this premature leak is unmixed, Kanye's 'Power' sounds pretty polished. It's a sonic punch that's soul-searching and stirring. Packed with Mr. West-esque popular idioms ('With some light-skinned girls and some Kelly Rowlands') and moments of reflection ('Goodnight, cruel world, I'll see you in the mornin''), this'll more than satisfy fans fiendin' for a post-autotune return to his rap roots. No Preemo or Pete Rock, newcomer S1 is behind the boards and the King Crimson sample is killer—makin' just one listen an impossibility. Although the suicidal thoughts drenched bridge is a tad disturbing, this is a riveting rollercoaster ride. Welcome back, Mr. West."
RATING:
"4.5 (Pre-Plain Pat). 5 (Thereafter)."

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PANELIST: Dallas Penn, DallasPenn.com
REACTION: "This what the fux I'm tom 'bout. That Eminem single you sent out was great for retahds and losers to get dressed to, but this shit here is what a Wall Street daytrader showers to in the morning. All ego with no apologies. Like Jordan shooting free throws with his eyes closed.

One day in the near future someone will uncover 808s and wonder how our culture produced that futuristic album but couldn't follow up that movement. Kanye dialed his shit back to put this together and its still gonna be a crazy single. The live instrument concert version will be off the hook."
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PANELIST: Legend, OnSmash.com
REACTION: "The beauty of Kanye West as an artist is that even through all the turmoil that surrounds him, the music will ultimately reflect how he feels. That raw emotion is what fuels his creativity. 'Power' is the musical equivalent of a blog rant wrapped up with a side of 2 middle fingers and a braggadocios 'F U Very Much' PSA to the critics. At the end of the day, he still feels he has something to prove. What better way than to put his money where his mouth is and address it the best way he knows how? The music. And it's still all good though. You can count on him changing the game, yet again, come September."
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PANELIST: Jake Paine, HipHopDX.com
REACTION: "'Ye really reclaims his stadium status with this surefire anthem. The first and second verses are a rich, Ron G-blend of lyrical food and liquor, but the third 16 loses a lot of the momentum and sacrifices substance for show-off-manship. With all the discussion about DJ Premier and Pete Rock's involvement, I certainly am not expecting Good Ass Job to sound as electric as this preview. Letting Dwele handle the last full minute of the record was a clever choice too, as this song really gets a chance to set in, and pound its chest for being unconventional. I'm welcome to hearing this all summer long blasting from cars at the light out front—which began this morning."
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PANELIST: Paul "Gooch" Cantor, PaulJCantor.com
Note: Paul critiqued the song before knowing that the leak was an unmixed version. Looks like he was right on!
REACTION: "The first thing that struck me about 'Power' is the production, as the instrumental track clearly matches its namesake. I imagine S1 (who's an incredible beatmaker in his own right) submitted something to Kanye with the basic flip of samples cribbed from King Crimson's '21st Century Schizoid Man.' Kanye probably had all the extra instrumentation (electric guitars, handclaps, pianos, etc) added to build on the basic track, then wrote and arranged the song. This is not the first time Kanye's dipped into some prog rock for inspiration (see: Jay-Z's 'Run This Town' original sample). And as opposed to the syrupy soul samples he culled from in the beginning of his career, prog rock, which is almost an amalgamation of a whole bunch of genres while still retaining its rock edge, seems to suit his current vocal tone, his subject matter and the dynamic of his whole 'I don't give a fuck' aura much better these days.

While I dig the lyrics of the song, in its angry post-apocalyptic description of the rapper/rockstar lifestyle, I don't think this is Kanye's strongest vocal performance. He's got some super impressive lines ('I don't need your pussy, bitch I'm on my own dick,' and 'I just needed time alone with my own thoughts, got treasures in my mind but couldn't open up my own vault') but they get lost in the mix. They're not loud enough. Not distorted enough. There are moments where they vibrantly bounce over the rolling bass line and staccato drum pattern, and others where they're buried under guitars and pianos. I find it strange that Kanye, who for the most part always makes sure he's front and center, would choose to almost play a supporting role on his own song. Because the highlight here is not so much him, but the music itself (which is why I spent so much time championing it above).

In 2010, due to the nature of the record business, the mix of a record is such an undervalued commodity. But with 'Power, let's keep in mind this is not some random song posted on a blog or featured on a mixtape. This is a single by Kanye West, arguably the most important performance artist of our generation. If I had my druthers, I'd send this particular tune back to the studio for a better mix, with Kanye's vocals more present, so I can feel his lyrics more. Because he's saying some real shit. I just can't really hear it! Still, should nobody take my advice (who the fuck am I really?), I think 'Power' is a really great record that sonically and thematically builds upon what he started on 'Run This Town,' which is a very big-sounding and decidedly rock-influenced treatise on post-fame, fame. It's brash. It's angry. It's in your face. It's made for stadiums. It's wild like rockstars who smash guitars. Let it rock."
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PANELIST: Andrew Noz, CocaineBlunts.com
REACTION: "In a lot of ways this track feels like a distillation of everything Kanye's been trying to do for the duration of his career (808s aside). It's dancey but sample-driven (OMG KING CRIMSON), noodly and musical but also very boom-bap, and it's all about that trials of Kanye theme that he so often drives into the ground. But like his best work in the past, it's compelling despite his ego. Or because of it. The one noticeable flaw lies in is the actual quality of the rapping. He made great strides as a rapper on Graduation (his last rapped album) and maybe he just had better ghostwriters then, but this is a return to his earlier messy style. He's got a sloppy flow, and makes gigantic structural sacrifices in favor of content (the whole 'Obama's nation' thing is a cute idea but it's so awkwardly executed). It's a lyrical regression, but again, an oddly welcome one. It's Kanye doing Kanye."
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PANELIST: Nigel D., RealTalkNY.net
REACTION: "Great come back track for Kanye. Gives us a preview of the tone of the new album, no more sad stories about females and auto tune, we got the old Kanye back. The line about the custody battle for his inner child was a gem."
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PANELIST: Maurice Garland, MauriceGarland.com
REACTION: "This is a jammin' ass suicide, er, 'surviving' note. But nah for real, this is a good re-introduction to the world. Dude makes stadium music, for real. Not sure if I'd want a whole album of songs like this on Good Ass Job, but I dig how he managed to address the last 8 months in just under 5 minutes. In a day where too many new rappers with not a lot to say rap about themselves like they are the damn Dos Equis man, it's actually refreshing (for lack of a better word) to hear some self-conscious rap from a guy who we know is actually interesting (for lack of another better word)."
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PANELIST: Jayson Rodriguez, MTV News
REACTION: "This is superstar rap. Only a few MCs can delivery like this, with this type of impact, and the list of those that can is actually getting smaller, even with the addition of Aubrey Graham. 'Ye has to have the most important narrative in hip-hop right now, taking the baton from Jay-Z and Eminem, who, for years, wrote new chapters about their lives each release, detailing their pasts, introducing the characters from their upbringing, and weaving all that together in incredible three-minute arrangements. That's all Kanye's terrain these days. From the personal turmoil he channeled for 808s to his post-recovery relapse that saw the introduction of Amber Rose and Yeezy's VMA stunt/melt-down. We. Know. The. Story. But 'Ye is narrating it for us with lucid perspective on 'Power.' He knows he's the bad guy in the mainstream eye, but I also think what makes 'Power' so ill is that he's understanding that he's not the underdog anymore. It's not 2003 and 'Through the Wire'-era is over. His rants aren't artistic angst, they've become bullying. So, he backed away from the spotlight and peeped the Matrix, Neo-style. Went to work. Stayed to himself. Then dropped the hot ish. This is his Mike Jordan moment: his skills and his knowledge of the game are colliding and the championship run is really about to begin."
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PANELIST: Nation, ItsTheCalm.com & NahRight.com
REACTION: "This is not what I imagined the new album would sound like. Maybe because I was expecting it to be harder lyrics or beats right off the bat. I guess what he's saying on the song is a good mix of controversy with a little bit of flashiness, but you'd think he'd either go all the way there if he was gonna address things, or just ignore it on the single and save it for a tucked-away album cut. Everyone seems to like it though, so maybe I just expect too much from the guy because he's already made momentous songs like 'Can't Tell Me Nothin'' in the past. I wanna give it a 4 out of 5 simply because we're hearing something new from Kanye and because I have faith in what is to come."
RATING:

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PANELIST: Peter Rosenberg, RosenbergRadio.com
REACTION: "The record is dope. It should be stated that I have the highest expectations possible for this album, so while it didn't give me the chills—it's a great appetizer. Ye will not disappoint."
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PANELIST: Meka, 2DopeBoyz.com
REACTION: "With all the fervor over the many Drake leaks and singles, nobody was expecting a Kanye single to come out of nowhere. A trademark staple of all his albums, 'Ye is trying out a new sound and the result this time around is a stutter-stepping, rock-tinged mishmash of celebratory handclaps and ethereal chants. Kanye's raps are still the same: riding the beat in his signature  'uncomfortable-sounding comfort zone' style with unassuming punchlines. I can dig it."
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PANELIST: Jeff Rosenthal, ItsTheReal.com
REACTION: "You think Kanye's a baby, America? It takes about nine months to make a baby, and—as 'Power' shows—it takes about nine months to take the baby out of Kanye. Or, in another way, this is why you don't put baby in the corner: he'll come out looking like Pacquiao. SNL strangely gets the worst of it, even though Jay Leno showed more cowardice in asking him for his dead mother's opinion.

Heavy is the head on which the crown sits, and—while Kanye has/had a big head—he didn't deserve your blame. For that, I so appreciate his fuck-all attitude: 'How 'Ye doing? I'm survivin'/I was drinking earlier, now I'm driving' might be the most telling line. And that beat! It samples '21st Century Schizoid Man,' which is so smart in title and in sound. You want an apology? Apologize yourself."
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PANELIST: Low Key, YouHeardThatNew.com
REACTION: "To be completely honest, and though they claim the track was a leak, I think the release was executed via Team Kanye. OK let me cut it out before they get pissed lol. But in all seriousness, whether the track is incomplete or not, this is the perfect way to return. A reflective ode to every event (almost every event) that's affected him in the past 8 months is a genius way to reassure his core fans that he hasn't missed a beat.

Speaking of the beat, S1 and Yeezy make a nice little duo. The chant/claps really allow this beat/song to skip a couple notches from being just a released track to being labeled as an "event." This is College Dropout/Late Registration/Graduation/808s all mixed in one. If I had to deem this a Coldstone Concotion, I'd call it 'You're Welcome.' Oh and no shots, but Dwele does nothing for me on this.

A text I got the morning 'Power' was released: 'This isn't even a toe in the water.' *Clutches iTouch*

Looks like we found Yeezy."
RATING:
"3.6 (1 point deducted for it not being mixed)"
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PANELIST: Noah Callahan-Bever, Complex.com
REACTION: "I fell in love with rap a long time ago because it managed this really incredible balance of being on the one hand dangerous, confrontational, and urgent, (like punk rock) and on the other, melodic, rhythmic and even catchy (like pop music). However, as the years have gone by, as a genre, the scales have largely tipped towards the later considerations. Needless to say, the love affair has been strained of late. That said, every once and a while you get a record that perfectly rides the line and it just feels great. To me, 'Power' is one of those records. It's rap! It's pop! It's hard! It's musical! It's topical! It's universal! He's stunting! He's funny! He's serious! He's thinking! Feel me?

The success of 'Power'—and what about it that really points to growth in Kanye as an artist—is he managed to combine the hard, distinctly rap thoughtfulness of 'Can't Tell Me Nothing' with the pop accessibility of 'Stronger' while managing to lose 'Stronger''s fist-pumping, semi-cringe-worthy kitch-factor. This sates all the things I'd hoped to hear from Kanye upon his return.

As for the nit picky criticisms of the mix, etc..., I don't think it's really fair to take him to task for an unfinished record sounding unfinished. It's like watching a movie with wireframe stage CGI and saying the effects suck. We got a glimpse of what he's thinking and that's what it is, a glimpse.

Based on this version of 'Power,' I for one am anxious to see the rest."
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DON'T FORGET TO LEAVE YOUR OWN REVIEW OF THE "POWER" LEAK IN THE COMMENTS!

PREVIOUSLY: What's The Consensus? Eminem's "Not Afraid"