Release Date: February 19, 2016
Album: The Life of Pablo
Writer(s): Kanye West, Christopher Breaux, Alan Brinsmead, Sia Furler, Magnus Hoiberg, Victor Mensa
Producer(s): West, Cashmere Cat, Sinjin Hawke
“(What if Mary) “What if Mary
(Was in the club) was in the club
‘Fore she met Joseph with no love?
Cover Saint in lambs’ wool
(And she was) We surrounded by
“Wolves” actually began as one of the tracks Kanye hinted at well before the release of The Life of Pablo. As part of Saturday Night Live’s 40th Anniversary special, Kanye performed a version of the song live with Vic Mensa and Sia. It changed only slightly over the year it took for the album to come out.
The song itself seems out of time with most of the rest of The Life of Pablo. It’s slower, moodier, closer to something off of 808s & Heartbreak than anything from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or Yeezus. While the rest of the album is full of the expected Kanye rants and expositional lyrics, “Wolves” plays out as an introspective and haunting look into the mentality of a public figure with a family.
Amid religious overtones — including a verse that compares Kanye and Kim to Joseph and Mary, leaving their two children (North and Saint) cast in the role of Jesus — Kanye seems to become a fully realized adult. Even as he deals with the constant pressure and criticism of the outside world — the titular “wolves” — he is tasked with reeling in everything he can to protect his family and his privacy.
It feels like the moment where the arc of Kanye’s career and fame and drama begins to curl back in on itself. Now that Kanye has lives to worry about that are not his own, he finally sounds like a grown man.
Next: 21. Flashing Lights