“Pray for me/I’m about to hit the Ye button.”
Nearly four years after the release of the first G.O.O.D. Music compilation album Cruel Summer, Kanye West and his merry band of label signees and frequent collaborators are back for a second (see: snowier) season. “Champions”, a chest-thumping rap anthem, is the first single debuted off of Cruel Winter (release date: TBD), a follow-up album to its more balmy predecessor. And with a murderer’s row of seven guest features, (2 Chainz! Gucci Mane! That Panda Guy!) “Champions” makes it clear that it isn’t just here to play around. From the very moment the gavel-like beat slams down, Quavo’s opening verse is emphatically punctuated with a untouchable bravado that sustains itself. There’s verbal intensity present in “Champions” that grabs its listeners up by the fisticuffs and demands that they start paying attention.
“1500/All in singles (straight up!)/Throw it up, watch it fall and drop/Round and round they go.”
Playing like another sonic monument to excess, “Champions” takes more cues from Watch the Throne than Cruel Summer. While the latter album has its moments of celebratory hubris and unchecked hedonism, never was it as laudatory, addictive and fun in the way Jay-Z and Kanye made it appear in the former. Listen carefully and you’ll hear that same sentiment reflected in “Champions” throughout. Visuals of “hundred thousand dollar chandelier[s]”, “wear[ing] pajamas to Ruth’s Chris” and being a “walking money machine” celebrate opulence sans any smidgen of buyers remorse. These lines denote an unstoppable joy found within a life filled with unbridled extravagance. Like the name of the song suggests; they’ve now won the ‘ship, what else is there left to conquer?
I’m a mothafuckin’ champion/This right here the fuckin’ anthem
“Champions” effectively re-hypes the return of a radically reshaped G.O.O.D. Music conglomerate. In addition, non-label features such as 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane have us salivating at the potential list of Cruel Winter collaborators. While Kanye takes the charge with the first full verse in “Champions”, he stunts his presence, allowing for the other guest features to take over. There’s Big Sean with a tommy gun-like delivery. Then 2 Chainz rapping with an aggressive braggadocio. Yo Gotti slithers about, letting the verses slip off of his tongue. And at last, Gucci Mane, back from a nearly two year stint in jail, accentuates his bars with a slightly intoned whine. So we patiently wait for Cruel Winter to drop whenever it does. In the meantime, “Champions”, with its bombastic noise, ego dripping pretense and champagne soaked lyricism, contains more than enough heat to hold us over before the long freeze sets in.
“Champions” is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music and for purchase on iTunes.