Travis Scott released a new single last night, “Watch,” featuring his compatriots Lil Uzi Vert and, in a piece of somewhat alarming timing, Kanye West. Still tangled as we are the dense web of bewildering, disappointing, and infuriating things Kanye has been saying and tweeting over the course of the last two weeks, it feels basically impossible to just flip a switch and enjoy a throwaway guest verse by the once-beloved star or someone else’s song. Of course, that’s not even what we are treated to here. Kanye’s contribution to “Watch” is an aggressive, jumbled autobiographical tirade that overwhelms the rest of the song, intercut with cultural references and extended metaphors designed to make the mind reel.
Lil Uzi Vert’s hook sets a comfortable scene for a song grounded by a Atari-reminiscent, bouncy trap beat. He sings about the expected finer things–about Rollies and the Sisyphean task of counting and recounting all of his money. When Kanye enters, he does his best to disregard everything else Travis and Uzi have contributed to the song prior, resorting to the mercenary, sometimes clumsy flow he employed in his recent misguided conversation-in-song with T.I., “Ye Vs. the People.” After a weak attempt to recommend his own Rolex, Kanye launches into a half-cogent exegesis of his disorientated mental landscape, his struggles with withdrawal and addiction, and his ambitions to become the next Jeff Bezos. In the verse’s most punishing portion, Ye cries: “Wanna know how I feel? Step into my minefield/Wanna know how pain feels? I got off my main pills/Bet my wifey stay close, she know I’m on my Bezos/Opioid addiction, pharmacy’s the real trap/Sometimes I feel trapped, Jordan with no Phil Jack.”
It’s true that Kanye, back when he seemed to indulge in and understand humor, once called himself “the black Larry David” and attempted to create his own Curb-inspired sitcom. Still, it’s hard to parse what the import is, exactly, of the line “I could tell Larry David was the mind behind Seinfeld”–here pronounced “Seinfield” to rhyme with “mindfield.” Nor is the charge or relevance of his final complaint about a sober bartender who can’t make a screwdriver: “I need someone else to make this drink/Because you don’t understand the juice to vodka ratio/That could satisfy a real drunk, guess what?/Never trust a bartender that don’t drink, bitch.” Perhaps this is Kanye’s oblique attempt at a club-related rhyme: When Travis and Uzi are making it rain on strippers and flashing their bling, Kanye is busy in the drink line blowing his stack at the bartender over a weak drink.
The verse’s most transparent line seems to be a reflection on the public reaction to his recent MAGA-and-Jordan-Peterson-friendly antics, referencing Get Out: “One year it’s Illuminati, next year it’s the Sunken Place/They don’t want me to change/Nah, nigga, run in place.” If “running in place” means not saying things like “slavery in a choice” or appealing to Alex Jones, and not releasing bad, anti-musical songs with a pale shadow of T.I., then yes, Kanye, perhaps we are pushing for that.