The track was played for the first time Friday night on Power 106, a Los Angeles hip-hop radio station, and features Kanye and the rapper T.I. engaged in a back-and-forth political debate. Presumably, T.I. represents “the People” as he answers “Ye,” who puts to verse more or less what he had been tweeting about for the last several days. (It’s unclear what the Power 106 DJs, who periodically shout and blow air horns over the track, are supposed to represent.)
Kanye opens with a nod to his onetime support of President Barack Obama and a reference to his own rumored presidential ambitions:
I know Obama was Heaven-sent/ But ever since Trump won, it proved that I could be president
Yeah you can, at what cost, though? Don’t that go against the teachings that Ye taught for?
The two battle it out, couplet by couplet, touching on everything from police brutality to Kanye’s recent flaunting of his signature red “Make America Great Again” cap, autographed by Trump. Throughout, there are enough open-ended questions (“Is it better if I rap about crack? Huh? ’Cause it’s cultural?”) to make Socrates proud.
“You just readin’ the headlines, you don’t see the fine print/ You on some choosin’-side s—, I’m on some unified s—,” Kanye raps.
T.I. responds: “It’s bigger than your selfish agenda/ If your election ain’t gon’ stop police from murderin’ n—-s.”
Kanye: “Bruh, I never ever stopped fightin’ for the people/ Actually wearin’ the hat’ll show people that we equal.”
The lyrics eventually move on from couplets to longer verses in which each rapper makes his case. Much as he had done in a text debate with John Legend, Kanye once again defended himself by saying he was simply engaging in “free thought” and encouraging “new ideas,” while T.I. encouraged him to reconsider, given his influence.
YE:I feel an obligation to show people new ideas
And if you wanna hear ’em, there go two right hereMake America Great Again had a negative reception
I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new directionAdded empathy, care and love and affection
And y’all simply questionin’ my methodsT.I.:What you willin’ to lose for the point to be proved?
This s— is stubborn, selfish, bullheaded, even for youYou wore a dusty-a– hat to represent the same views
As white supremacy, man, we expect better from youNot just to be let down when we depend on you, homie
That’s why it’s important to know what direction you’re goin’ now
To clear up any confusion, “Ye vs. the People” is not the same as “Lift Yourself,” a track Kanye had dropped hours earlier that was seen as a coded response to Hot 97 radio station DJ Ebro Darden, a longtime friend of West’s who said he had called the rapper and tried to intervene in the midst of his bizarre tweetstorms last week.
In conclusion: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯