In any case, within 15 minutes I get to see Rap Camp in action. Kanye throws on the instrumental for "So Appalled," which plays on hypnotic repeat for more than an hour while Pusha puts pen to paper finishing his verse. Then RZA walks in the room. And of course he's got on sunglasses inside. And of course he's wearing an all-black Ed Hardy-esque ensemble with matching dragon tattoo prints that start on his baseball cap, slither down his T-shirt, and end on his cargo pants. And of course he pulls out a Bobby Digital customized Akai drum machine with the Zorro mask and Wu logo on its face. Because that's what you do when you're a motherfucking national treasure. BONG!
Meanwhile, Kanye stares at his laptop, jumping between email and 15 open windows of art references in his browser. He polls those assembled on how risqué is too risqué for his blog, and occasionally barks mixing orders at the engineer, tuning subtle parts of the beat—all without breaking eye contact from his computer. This is how he works: all-A.D.D. everything.
During my five days in Hawaii, Kanye never slept at his house, or even in a bed. He would nap in a studio chair or couch in 90-minute intervals, working through the night.
The sun sets, and Q-Tip and Consequence arrive, straight from the plane. Kanye asks RZA if he'd voice the hook—"Champagne wishes and 30 white bitches/You know the shit is, fuckin' ridic'lous"—and the Abbott steps into the booth and obliges, immediately transforming from sedate and stoned to amped and aggressive. It's enough to make us all chuckle on his first take; wrapped around those words, his thick and bizarre drawl just sounds so perfectly...RZA. But Kanye notices something off in the delivery, and he presses the intercom button to talk to RZA: "Um, fam, it's actually ‘thirty white bitches,' not ‘dirty white bitches.'" RZA laughs. "I'll do it again," he says, "but to be real, the way I be saying words, you ain't gon' be able to tell the difference." Ha! At Rap Camp, the shit is fuckin' ridiculous.
The rest of the trip settles into a fairly routine pattern, if by "fairly routine" you mean "a succession of both magical and mundane moments starring the musicians who defined your adolescence alongside the most exciting artists of today." Each morning begins with a 10 a.m. breakfast at Kanye's Diamondhead residence. Pusha, Tip, RZA, Cudi, Cons, and Kanye's crew slowly assemble to enjoy the absurdly tasty cooking of Kanye's in-house chefs. If you're smart, you order the French toast with the flambéed banana. An hour later, Kanye pulls up in his Porsche Panamera, fresh from the studio. That's right, from the studio. During my five days in Hawaii, Kanye never slept at his house, or even in a bed. He would, er, power-nap in a studio chair or couch here and there in 90-minute intervals, working through the night. Engineers remained behind the boards 24 hours a day.
With everyone assembled and enjoying their leisurely multi-course breakfast, music is the only thing discussed at the kitchen table—or anywhere else. Despite the heavyweights assembled, the egos rarely clash; talks are sprawling, enlightening, and productive. Topics range from the future (whether "Live Fast" should be gifted to Rick Ross, who ended up with the track) to the present (reactions to Drake's single "Over") to the past (RZA describing the exact frequency to which he would tune Ghostface's voice in order to regulate its whininess). But mostly we talk about Kanye's album: what it has to mean, and what it has to accomplish.
At its heart, beyond the beats or rhymes, this conversation is the reason we were all summoned to the island (no LOST). It's never explicitly discussed, but everyone here knows that good music is the key to Kanye's redemption. With the right songs and the right album, he can overcome any and all controversy, and we are here to contribute, challenge, and inspire. And to play basketball.