Kanye West succeeded in rocketing back into the headlines through his stubbornly contrarian lovefest with Donald Trump. But on a new album he offers a reminder of what made him a rap superstar - introspection.
"Ye," the eighth studio album by the artist turned omnipresent celebrity, touches on the depression behind a year-long disappearance and the anxieties that still plague him, even if the seven-track work shies away from the palpable ambition of West's sprawling earlier output.
True to form, the 40-year-old released the long-mysterious project with ample servings of bravado and chaos. West invited dozens of guests including hip-hop heavyweights to listen to "Ye" for the first time in view of the snowy mountains in the tony Wyoming ski resort of Jackson Hole.
Clad in a glowing shirt that read "Following the Light," a beaming West danced with guests around a bonfire as livestreams premiered the album, which nonetheless remained absent from streaming sites and iTunes hours after its official release.
The comedian Chris Rock announced for the first time the album's title, an Old English-sounding nickname for Kanye. After quipping at how few African Americans are ordinarily seen in Wyoming, Rock called West a "free black man," an allusion in part to the rapper's increasingly unorthodox politics.
West has voiced admiration for Trump's outsider persona, making him one of the few major entertainment figures - and even rarer among African American stars - to back the tycoon president, who for years promoted unfounded conspiracy theories about his predecessor Barack Obama's birthplace.
"I said, 'Slavery a choice.' They say, 'How, Ye?' Just imagine if they caught me on a wild day," West raps on the album, referring to one of his most inflammatory comments as he promoted the album.
But just a few lines later, West shows a more emotional side as he says he told his wife - the reality television star Kim Kardashian, by his side in Wyoming - that she should consider leaving him.
West - whose litany of past controversies include a boast that Taylor Swift may sleep with him - elsewhere on "Ye" reveals on a track with leading female rapper Nicki Minaj that he has evolved as the father of two daughters.
"Father forgive me / I'm scared of the karma / 'Cause now I see women as something to nurture / Not something to conquer."
Dark and sparse
West emerged from Chicago with rhymes about his struggles to strive and soon won critical acclaim for his innovative musical sense, blending the energy of electroclash and the lushness of strings into hip-hop.
"Ye," apparently recorded in seclusion at the Wyoming ranch, harks back to West's roots with samples from soul, his vocals taking full dominance in the mixing over the beats.
The album opens darkly and sparsely as West contemplates his mental state and repeatedly intones, "I think about killing myself, and I love myself way more than I love you."
He also speaks of bipolar disorder, rapping, "That's my superpower / Ain't no disability!"
But West would not be himself without lyrics sure to stir conversation. He throws his lot with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, a longtime defender of West who has quit his business empire after multiple allegations of sexual abuse.
"Russell Simmons wanna pray for me, too / Wanna pray for him 'cause he got #MeTooed."
And in an aside that could either flatter or infuriate his friend Trump, West name-checked Stormy Daniels, the pornographic actress in a court battle with the president over a purported fling that he denies.
"I could have Naomi Campbell / And still might want me a Stormy Da