For most of 2015, Kanye West’s seventh album Swish has been one of the most anticipated and talked-about records of the year. 2013’s Yeezus and 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy have artistically rehabilitated a controversial artist who was facing ridicule at the start of the decade, but five years later he’s one of the most important and talked-about entertainment figures in the business.

But despite a handful of teasers in the shape of singles ‘FourFiveSeconds’ and ‘Only One’, both featuring Sir Paul McCartney, and a smattering of live performances of a few other tracks, the man himself recently admitted that the main feature might not see the light of day for another 12 months. He told Vanity Fair that Swish is “a sonic landscape; a two-year painting”.

Kanye WestKanye West played some new 'Swish' material at Glastonbury 2015

Even some of Kanye’s biggest fans, not to mention his battalion of detractors, might concede privately that such a long build-up time is setting up the album for failure, or at least disappointment. When it was first mooted at the back end of 2013, an ebullient West was in a rich vein of creativity and reckoned that it would be released in mid-2014 - which promptly didn’t happen. If the recent news is to be believed, by the time Swish eventually comes out, it could conceivably have been more than two years late.

So what exactly is Kanye doing? The presence of three new singles released in 2015 implies that he’s got most of the album down and is simply fine-tuning it in the production suite with his host of executive producers. Creatively, it wouldn’t be an encouraging sign if he was still adding and taking away raw material at this stage.

Swish was also not the original title for the album. Until May 2015, it was called So Help Me God, until Kanye tweeted his followers about the name change, and also suggested that he might alter it again before the eventual release. A sign of hesitation?

Let's have a quick look at what we do know, and what we can conclude from it.

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Who’s he working with?

Rick Rubin, who has worked with some of the biggest stars in the business across a range of musical disciplines, and also the man brought in to strip Yeezus of its extraneous clutter and help with that album’s lean, muscular sound, is one of those back on board for Swish.

Rapper Q-Tip, formerly of the legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest and also a producer of R&B, pop and hip-hop since the late ‘90s, is also helping out behind the desk.

On the other side of the glass, we know that Sir Paul McCartney and Rihanna have been involved, with both appearing on 'FourFiveSeconds'

What does it sound like?

Well, only a few very lucky people have any idea, beyond the singles already in the public domain. Back in May 2014, he reportedly took over a DJ booth at a London nightclub and spun the record, and did so again at a private party “in a dark room of 20 people” at Paris Fashion Week in September the same year, which according to collaborator Theophilus London got everybody “moshing drunk”.

In August 2015, he appeared at Drake’s specially-curated OVO Fest in Toronto and again played the album on repeat. However, the likelihood is that Kanye is still tinkering with the final product, and that whatever the lucky owners of those ears that have heard it so far might tell you, they’ve only heard unfinished versions of the songs.

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As for the tracks we already know about, it’s a hotch-potch of different styles. ‘All Day’, unveiled memorably in a bleep-ridden broadcast at the BRIT Awards in March, is a lean, stripped-back but muscular slab of hip-hop, while the two McCartney collaborations hint at something a little more naturalistic, characterised by acoustic guitars and percussion-free accompaniments.

‘Wolves’, mooted as the opening track for Swish, was debuted during New York Fashion Week and then performed soon after for ‘Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary with Sia and Vic Mensa. Featuring a mix of brittle hip-hop, rapping and Auto-Tune assisted crooning, it sits in familiar territory for fans of 808s & Heartbreak.

None of this suggests a coherent approach with a singular style, but fans of his last two records might be pleased to think that Kanye still intends to use his platform to challenge his audience.

When might it be released?

Kanye’s admission that in October that it could be another year before Swish drops was dispiriting, but not the first time he’s suggested that fans might have to wait. He had also told New York’s Hot 97 in June that he was determined to go at his own pace, and that the album might not even be his top priority.

After all, he’s been busy with his Adidas fashion collaborations and fashion weeks throughout 2015, and his wife Kim Kardashian is due to give birth to the couple’s second child before the end of the year, so he’s understandably got a lot on his plate.

Of course, there’s every chance that all this has been an elaborate bluff, and that’s he’s gearing up for a surprise release this side of Christmas. It’s become an increasingly common practice, and Kanye is certainly a big enough artist to do it. Keep an eye out!

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