[Def Jam / Roc-a-Fella; 2010]

From the way Kanye West was forced to essentially go into hiding over the whole Taylor Swift thing, you’d think he beat up Rihanna, or ran a dogfighting ring from his house, or something a little more consequential than interrupting someone at an awards show nobody watches anymore. Regardless, the PR fallout from the incident basically drove Kanye into seclusion for the last nine months, and the recently-leaked “Power” represents his first substantial musical release since his exile.

So what’s changed? Nothing and everything. The kind of people who were offended by the fact that Yeezy–horrors!–tried his hand at singing on 808s & Heartbreak will be happy to know that there’s no auto-tune to be found on “Power.” He’s back to rapping, and more importantly, he’s back to thinking quite highly of himself. He even admits this: “I don’t need your pussy,” he sneers at one point, “I’m on my own dick.”

If the song’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” sample does for King Crimson’s stock what “Stronger” did for Daft Punk’s three years ago, that alone would make it welcome. But “Power” is more than just a vehicle for a potential prog-rock revival. This is typical Kanye in the best sense: smart, forward-thinking, quotable, and never complacent.

9/10