This post originally appeared on Rolling Stone.
When Chicago songwriter-rapper-poet Malik Yusef released his 2003 debut album The Great Chicago Fire – A Cold Day in Hell, he paired his friend Common with then-fledgling rapper/producer Kanye West on the track “Wouldn’t You Like to Ride.” Since then, Yusef has been a quiet yet essential part of West’s sound, becoming the second signee to West’s G.O.O.D. Music and picking up multiple Grammys for his work on West’s 2011 hit “All of the Lights.”
In July, Yusef released a “deconstructed” version of his 2009 second album G.O.O.D. Morning, G.O.O.D. Night with extra tracks and additional guest features. Now, he’s focused on helping West finish his Yeezus follow-up. “Yeezus was a hard album to work on because it was a departure from where I wanted to be with our music,” Yusef tells Rolling Stone. “Kanye was very declarative in his statement of ‘I don’t want this to be a regular Kanye album. I don’t want this to be what people are familiar with.'”
Asked to describe the new album, Yusef says, “This album is different. It’s like a pair of Timberlands; like how Timberlands are not quite leather and not quite suede. It’s not the smooth, slick Chicago music sound we have right now and it’s not the ruggedness of just ‘hip-hop hip-hop hip-hop.’ We’re still working like a motherfucker. We’ve been all around the world [recording].”
Yusef would not divulge any titles (“Your favorite title may not even make it on the album”), but says that West has “20 finished songs.” The musician claims that recording with West this time around has been smoother than Yeezus. “We fought over Yeezus every day,” he says, laughing. “There was no friendly disagreements. It was definitely a war. It’s ‘I don’t give a fuck, Malik. It’s a Kanye album, not a Malik Yusef album.’ Kanye’s kicked me off the label eight times.”
Last month, musician Theophilus London posted a picture of himself and West that indicated he’d heard the LP. “I only remember Kanye playing his new album three times in a dark room of 20 people last night and moshing drunk with mad babes haha,” he wrote. London would later tweet that the album remained unfinished.
In July, West told GQ that he hoped to release his new album “most likely in September,” but no later than the end of the year. “I was thinking [the record] could somehow come out in June, like Yeezus, and just kill it for the summer,” he said at the time. “But then I’m like, I have to work on Adidas and be with my child.” A two-minute, lo-fi leak of West’s first single “All Day” leaked in August, but it was quickly taken down.