Kanye West has unleashed the latest cut offCruel Summer. The G.O.O.D. Music compilation leaked online earlier this week, and “To The World,” ‘Ye’s track with R. Kelly, is a refreshing blend of brag-rap and soulful R&B (even if Kelly’s singing about flipping the bird).
As we previously noted, this song is notable for two main reasons. Lyrics-wise, it’s memorable for West’s Mitt Romney callout. “I’m just trying to protect my stack / Mitt Romney don’t pay no tax,” West raps, a reference to Romney’s low tax rate and refusal to release a reasonable number of tax returns.
But on a broader level, it’s interesting that R. Kelly appears anywhere on the album. West is known for his close relationship with Jay-Z; Hova made the young Chicago beatmaker a national name when tapped West for production on his 2001 album, The Blueprint. Since then, Jay’s played the wise, smoother operator to Kanye’s energetic, sometimes erratic artiste. The two also collaborated on last year’s Watch the Throne.
So why is it problematic that Kelly appears on the disc? Jay-Z and R. Kelly were also once collaborators. The duo teamed up for the Best of Both Worlds Tour in 2004. But as the tour progressed, their relationship was strained. Things reached a breaking point at a concert in Madison Square Garden, where Kelly panicked and suddenly fled from the venue. He later said he thought he saw someone waving a gun at him from the crowds and admitted he shouldn’t have left. A visibly infuriated Jay-Z stayed and finished the show, calling in favors from all of his big name friends, who came and performed.
But it appears that time heals most wounds — Jay-Z appears on Cruel Summer as well.