THE BEGINNING

The rapper billed his latest release as the greatest LP ever made and kindly beamed ‘The Life Of Pablo’ into cinemas around the world for us.

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Where were you when you first heard the ‘best album of all time’?

Maybe you heard the strains of ‘The Queen Is Dead’ creeping through the ceiling of your parents’ house and into your bedroom. Or perhaps your buddy handed you a mottled sleeve containing ‘Hunky Dory’, or a cassette tape of ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’.

Regardless of the album, it was almost certainly a cherishable moment and one you’ve stored in a shatterproof part of your mind for posterity.

Kanye West seems like the kind of guy to keep a promise. Alongside some images of some unhappy people wearing trainers, he’s about to unleash what he says is the ‘best album of all time’.

My moment comes sat in the Cineworld in Luton town centre. In case you’ve never been, you go from the car park, via the underpass, past the closed-down Nandos and up the broken escalator to get there.

Kanye’s ‘Waves’ (Kanye, you’ve gotta give these cinema chains notice, man, they can’t go changing things in the last minute) is on in screen 4, sandwiched between Dad’s Army and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.

The atmosphere inside is palpable – I mean, the stench of canned hot dogs is palpable. There’s 33 of us, all clasping our £18 print-out ticket and an industrial carton of flat Pepsi. It’s the same across the country, from Purley to Didsbury, Walsall to Stevenage, all about to share in a collective ‘global’ ingestion of the ‘best album of all time’.

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Everyone here is 21, most of them male and white, WhatsApp notifications lighting up their faces. Some are clever; tipping the vodka they’ve bought in Wetherspoons into a bottle of Tango and sneaking it under their coat. One girl is on the phone to her mother telling her she’s trying to get her baby to sleep on her lap before hanging up and turning to her friend. “That did sound convincing, didn’t it?” she says.

On with the show. There are no adverts for other pictures, just some artful shots of a big wafting sheet. Some famous people who look like expensive ducklings waddle to their seats in the world’s biggest indoor concert venue, Madison Square Garden. And then Kanye arrives and takes his place at the sound desk dressed in a long-sleeve red jumper and Yeezus cap, the kind of airing cupboard clobber you stick on when you’re painting the spare room.

But all of this is ok, because I’m about to listen to ‘the best album of all time’.

He plugs his laptop in. Waits a couple of minutes for GarageBand to open, fiddles with a lead or two.

The audio coming out of Cineworld’s sound system is no Notting Hill Carnival. In fact, a guy with a minor cough is punctuating the sound of the ‘best album of all time’. Kanye’s having a party. He’s brought a gang of friends, a guy with a Russian hat looks like he’s having fun and there’s a bloke with a plastic carrier bag taking photos like Angelos Epithemiou.

Two tracks in, the music is good. There are a couple dozen models standing very still in varying degrees of comfort. Some looking like they need the toilet. Naomi Campbell arrives. She’s the first person to crack a smile, and looks around to everyone else as if to say “c’mon guys, why so serious?” The music still sounds quite good. A bit like ‘808 Heartbreak’. There’s a bit of Rihanna. Oh, and The Weeknd.

There’s a state of mild bemusement in the cinema. There’s silence, in fact. Maybe a bit of head nodding. Except, when later, Kanye turns off the album and puts some animated footage of his late mother riding a flying white horse on screen. There’s a wave of sniggering the first time Kanye shows a trailer for his video game ‘Only One’, and a full-on ripple of laughter the second time. As if he heard it 3500 miles away, Kanye snaps back. “This shit is hard to do,” he says. Sorry, Kanye.

The ducklings (the Kardashians, yes that’s them) file out before the end. Beat the traffic, I don’t blame them. The album’s finished and Kanye’s letting his mates play some music. The structure of proceedings has turned more casual. It’s now a bit more like one of those annoying wedding DJ sets where a pissed bloke from the stag do insists in plugging in his own phone in to play some tunes. It’s all going to end in tears if you don’t.

People start filing out of the cinema as Kanye goes backstage to leave the people who’ve stood still for two hours to jump up and down in the arena. One person trips up over a cardboard cutout of Kung Fu Panda in the foyer, another picks popcorn off the bottom of their Adidas Yeezys as they wait for their mate in the toilet.

I’ll always remember the the place I was for the ‘best album of all time’. A special memory.

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