It began with an email, presumably. Texts for close friends. A call into a small corner office with an editor who gifted a young writer with the assignment of their life: covering Kanye West’s release party for his eighth studio album ye.
There couldn’t be a schedule of events that would happen — the goal was to scribble down furious amounts of notes while appearing to enjoy yourself at the same time. (Side note: this balance, hard to maintain.) For those who didn’t get the beacon, there was the WAV Media app. We were peeking through the bushes at something visceral, raw, and downright scary. Bodies moved in messy waves. Up-down, up-down, side-to-side. There wasn’t any unison to the movements, but everything happened synchronously. As the raven-black skyline swallowed the light, and drawling bass of ye, the novelty of the experience began to circulate. Wyoming became slang for societal bliss. We all wanted a Wyoming. I wanted a Wyoming. I’m sure that you at least considered a Wyoming.
Reviews for ye rolled in, painting the album as one of the weaker moments in Kanye West’s lengthy catalog. The misogynistic undertones and lack of political presence became the talk of the web. Apparently, the novelty of Wyoming began to show its’ wear at the seams. The party was a success, the album not so much. While Kanye took to Twitter to emotionally gloat over the fact that all seven songs from ye were at the top of Apple Music and Spotify’s streaming charts, he was engrossed with preparing to replicate the good of his Utopian experiment. Wyoming, the destination, was no more. But Project Wyoming, the event, was just beginning.
Five weeks of sequential G.O.O.D. Music releases is something out of the average hip-hop fan’s wildest wishes. Pusha T floored with the self-aware Daytona, Kanye came next with the missed mark that is ye, Kid Cudi and Kanye’s machismo competition Kids See Ghosts came out today (June 8), Nas’ currently untitled project is scheduled to come out on June 15, and Teyana Taylor rounds out the schedule on June 22.
A commonality with all five works is that ‘Ye’s pulling the strings through fervent and raucous production (Disclaimer: We have yet to hear the last two projects, but I’m willing to bet my next invoice that the beats fall into either of those two categories). It’s why they’re seven tracks a piece or, at least, that’s what Pusha T hinted at on Power 105’s The Breakfast Club. These albums were birthed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming recording sessions, far removed from the folly of Los Angeles’ sea of multi-colored dyed hair and flaxen, toxic air. Kanye put the first finishing touches on the albums (or not; he worked up until the day of the release for his album and now has added some controversial lyrics to one track) and decided to extend an olive branch to the locale that he’d made a creative battlefield : he’d throw the listening party to end all listening parties. To that end, he’d make it as American badass as he could — lights, cameras, action, streaming, outdoors, celebrity appearances, and multiple play-throughs of an album the length of an episode of Family Guy. It blended in the album’s misfires with the true American dream in 2018 — escapism.
Jane Golliher, owner of Diamond Cross Ranch, the idealistic playground for Kanye’s cattle of media personnel, revealed that she was both underpaid and annoyed by West’s shindig. He constantly changed his mind, he irritated neighbors with too loud music. She didn’t name her figure, but she wished that she would have charged $50,000 for what came to fruition. Then, the gavel drop — rappers are no longer allowed at her humble cattle field. Lo and behold, Wyoming became mobile.
On the fifth day, Wyoming rose from the dead. Between Kanye and YesJulz, the music mogul with enough spunk to take over any industry that she chooses to (next stop: NASA), the word had gotten out about the newly minted Project Wyoming that would replicate the experience on a smaller scale. Chicago, Miami, and Brooklyn were the sites chosen, various parks making use of advanced bonfire technology to properly render memorable concert adjacent experiences to people unable to make it to the first. It perfectly coincides with the continued importance of ye as well, meaning that, as much as an “experience” for the thrill of it, this celebration was meant to push album units out of the door. The bonfires, the roasted marshmallows, the Utopian facade, all of it was decidedly false.
Of course, in the era of Snapchat filters and Instagram one-minute videos, how much of it could be Utopian in the first place? Unless we’re talking about a fresher definition that eschews the “perfectionist” conventions in favor of something a little more compromising. In this case, just being away from the claustrophobic conventions of traditional album release parties would suffice. By being underneath the stars, Project Wyoming reveals itself to be just as much a celebration of nature as the release of a new album. We’d all be able to hear the music through the service that we’re paying at least $9.99 a month for. Enabling us the opportunity to replicate the environment, one that furnished the fascination with Wyoming (that came from sheer envy), was something that Kanye wanted to hone in on the country: an appreciation for nature that often only comes from those with MAGA hats who clip corn off stalks in Northwestern ranches of the United States.
That fascination with experiences is what makes Kanye West the artist that, despite a dearth of controversial and questionable comments, continues to transfix listeners and push the envelope. No two of his album release rollouts are the same —he loves to push the mysterious as much as he loves to release the music itself. For The Life of Pablo, the meaning of its initials was the focus of the public, eager to decipher the mystery dangled in front of them. Yeezus was characterized by disbelief of the simplicity of the album’s cover. ye was all about bringing fans into the fold with him as the initial testers and tastemakers of the album. Now Kids See Ghosts steals some of this energy to further this concept — spreading the message across the country. This comes from a man whose innovative concepts have changed pop culture in general.
I’d be remiss to say that Yes Julz wasn’t instrumental in the inception of the Wyoming experience. She’s often ridiculed by naysayers for arbitrary reasons that have no impact on her impact on new-age hip-hop culture, but one thing can’t be denied : her work ethic is second-to-none. Her creative marketing agency, 1am, has been responsible for the experiences ‘Ye cultivated in Diamond Cross Ranch. The visceral aesthetic found in the parties she’s appeared in (spotting her in pictures is like playing a rousing game of Where’s Waldo) was toned down for this release, more refined, subtler. Records taken at the Project Wyoming installments across the country showcase this calmness throughout. The parties were more than celebrations — they were experiences unlike anything else.
It’ll be interesting to see if both Nas and Teyana Taylor receive the Project Wyoming treatment when they drop their respective bodies of work. By then, will the freshness of the idea wear off? Will our minds return to the slog of indoors, deafening-loud party celebrations? It’s only a week out from the next release, but in the world of outside raves and music itself, that’s enough time to grow a beard and shave it. Besides, I couldn’t see Nas’ social commentary deep-dive sitting well as a bonfire rages on in the background, marshmallows roasted under blank stares from puerile youths who want to hear more lines about bleaching assholes and respecting women now that rappers have daughters. Teyana’s an artist with enough charisma to power her through anything. Out of G.O.O.D. Music, she’s the artist that’ll truly create the once-of-a-lifetime experience in Project Wyoming.
As I sit here, circling through the endless embedded Instagram photos, tweets, and snaps in every Project Wyoming article online (spoiler alert: they’re all using the same ones), I feel empty. The Wyoming experience came from a place of boredom, a wish to switch up the flow and give us something else. Through WAV Media’s unstable app, fellows at home broke off a niblet of what transpired through the glass we stared through. Project Wyoming doubled down on this Utopian experience, glamourizing the nature of the music as well as its elegance. Although vexed that I missed it live, I appreciate the means of viewing it through a technological lens. I know for next time though; I’ve already packed a backpack full of graham crackers and marshmallows.
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