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Kanye West Debuts ‘The Life of Pablo’ and His Yeezy Season 3 Collection



Kanye West pulled it off.

Late on Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden — after weeks of intrigue, changed plans, adjusted track lists and scrapped album titles — the rapper-slash-designer debuted his third Yeezy collection for Adidas and his defiant seventh solo album, “The Life of Pablo,” simultaneously on the city’s biggest stage.

Khloe and Lamar Odom

Kardashian Family

Well, not quite on stage. A relatively low-key Mr. West, casual in a black cap and burgundy long-sleeve T-shirt promoting the album, played M.C. for the event from the floor behind the sound booth, where he’d plugged in a laptop to blast his new music at earsplitting volume.

At the arena’s center, dozens of models were positioned on two raised platforms — and, less visibly, many more in the pit below — remaining largely still to show off the new post-apocalyptic sportswear collection. Though most of the models were anonymous, there were a few famous faces among them: Naomi Campbell, Veronica Webb and Liya Kebede, along with the rapper Young Thug. (As with the first two Yeezy shows, the presentation was arranged by the performance artist Vanessa Beecroft.)

Kim and Kris Jenner

Kylie and Tyga

The show began just after 4:30 p.m. with a procession in the stands by the extended Kardashian West family — Kim, Kris, Kendall, North, Caitlyn Jenner and so on — that was broadcast on the arena video screen. Mr. West himself escorted Lamar Odom, the former N.B.A. player and husband of Khloé Kardashian, to his seat; it was Mr. Odom’s first public appearance since he was found unconscious last year at a Nevada brothel.

“If y’all like any of the songs feel free to dance, move,” Mr. West told the crowd as he queued up the new album, which, if his Twitter account is to be believed, was finished only this week. “If y’all like it afterwards feel free to cheer,” he added.

In addition to screening live at movie theaters around the world, the event was also streamed online by Tidal, the music service owned by Jay Z, though not without technical problems. In a statement, the service cited “over 20 million people logging in at once” as the reason for the glitches. (Tickets to the event were priced $50 to $135, and went for much more on resale sites.)

Inside the arena, things were smoother as the music rattled without interruption.

Mr. West had previously described “The Life of Pablo” — and whether that refers to Escobar, Picasso or someone else entirely, he has yet to say — as “a gospel album with a whole lot of cursing on it.” Indeed, the opening track, “Ultra Light Beam,” features the gospel singer Kirk Franklin, along with Mr. West’s fellow Chicago M.C. Chance the Rapper. “This is a god dream,” Mr. West raps, adding later: “Pray for Paris/pray for the parents.”

Alluding to his pop-culture merger with the Kardashians, a frequent presence in the album’s lyrics, Mr. West boasts: “We the new Jacksons.” He bounced joyously to the upbeat, often ecstatic music, surrounded by friends, admirers and collaborators.

Elsewhere, on the snotty “Famous,” which features bits from Sister Nancy’s dance hall classic “Bam Bam,” Mr. West appears in the mood to shock. “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex,” he raps, in a reference that could only be to his yearslong celeb saga with Taylor Swift, which began with his interruption of her acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. (Ms. Swift’s brother appeared to respond to Mr. West’s new song in a video posted soon after to Instagram, in which he throws a pair of Yeezy sneakers in the trash.)

Tree Paine, a spokeswoman for Ms. Swift, said in a statement that Mr. West had called the singer to ask that she release “Famous” on her Twitter account. According to the statement, “She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message.”

As that song concluded, the laptop playing the album received an email, sending the distinctive Apple ping reverberating through Madison Square Garden.

Other guests on “The Life of Pablo” include Rihanna, the Weeknd, The-Dream and the elusive singer Frank Ocean. Asked about the album’s official release, which has yet to be announced, a representative for Tidal said, “We do not have any information about the album at this time.”

Mr. West did not seem preoccupied with such logistics. As the album came to an end with lines about protecting his children from “the wolves,” he promptly asked for reviews. “Did I deliver on my promise on that album?” he asked. “Tell me how y’all feel about the clothes this season.”

He went on to thank Adidas “for paying for this,” and, after being egged on by an audience member, led the arena in an obscene chant against Nike. Rather than unleashing fully on his rivals, however, Mr. West urged the crowd not to disrespect Michael Jordan, who has long been affiliated with the sneaker and sportswear company.

But, he added, “People do come to Madison Square Garden to see me play one-on-no-one.”

Before Mr. West allowed his friends control of the sound system — “We can have a party here and keep playing music till the curfew” — he turned reflective, choosing to air a teaser video for a mobile game that depicts his late mother traveling through the gates of heaven. “That was hard to do, bro,” he said of creating the app in the face of Silicon Valley doubters.

“I feel a lot of times I get misunderstood just as an artist,” he said. “No one can tell you what field to stay in.”

And though the party he’d thrown was Kanye-centric, it was in the spirit of selflessness, he added. “I just want to bring as much beauty to the world as possible.”