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Kanye West Threw a Raging Album Release Party at Madison Square Garden (With a Side of Athleisure)

The rapper staged a monstrous presentation for Yeezy Season 3, but the clothes were background noise.
Photo: Dimitros Kambouris/Getty Images

Photo: Dimitros Kambouris/Getty Images

Unless you've been living in some sort of pop culture black hole, you know that Kanye West took over Madison Square Garden on Thursday afternoon to simultaneously present his Yeezy Season 3 collection and debut his new album, "The Life of Pablo." As someone who's endlessly fascinated by West, his family and his collaborators — and frankly, as someone who enjoys his music — I was excited to be among the thousands of fans who dropped everything to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. 

I arrived just after the scheduled start time of 4 p.m., but as anyone who's ever been to a fashion show knows, I had at least 30 minutes to kill before anything actually happened. Thankfully, the MSG concession stands were open and the people-watching opportunities ample. The line for the merchandise booths — which sold simple sweatshirts with the words "I feel like Pablo" and "This is a God dream" printed on them in Olde English — easily stretched longer than a city block, despite the goods' $90 price tags. 

Very Important Fashion People trickled in one by one, including Cathy Horyn, Anna Wintour and newly appointed Balenciaga creative director/Vetements designer Demna Gvasalia. All the while, a mysterious sheet was draped over a display in the center of the arena, covering what would reveal itself to be an impressively large and diverse crew of models and extras wearing West's latest designs. Around 4:40, the Jumbotron illuminated to televise the Kardashian/Jenner/West family's entrance, with the whole clan, including North, draped in white Balmain. Finally, Yeezus himself emerged. After a few words of thanks, he plugged in his laptop and the party really got started.  

In the hour or so that followed, it was difficult to focus on the collection of clothing that stood before me, despite the fact that supermodels Naomi Campbell and Veronica Webb had appeared out of nowhere. Instead, I watched as West and his crew — Kid Cudi, ASAP Rocky, Frank Ocean (!!!), Pusha T and Travis Scott — gave each other excited hugs and exploded in dance as each new track came on. I gasped upon hearing scandalizing lyrics like, "I feel like me and Taylor [Swift] might still have sex, I made that bitch famous" and giggled along to self-aware lines like, "I love you like Kanye loves Kanye." I sang with strangers to the one song we already knew the words to, "Real Friends." I looked around to see where the nearest cloud of weed smoke was coming from. And honestly, I enjoyed every second of it.

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Photo: JP Yim/Getty Images

Photo: JP Yim/Getty Images

Once "T.L.O.P" played through, West took the mic once more, and the shout-outs began. He thanked Carine Roitfeld for being a "real bitch," and for putting his wife Kim Kardashian on her first fashion magazine cover. He thanked Olivier Rousteing for dressing the reality star and her sisters. He thanked Adidas for "paying for this" and for its creative support, which caused the crowd to erupt in a "fuck Nike" chant and roused an "impromptu" playing of West's track "FACTS." At this point, it seemed like the rapper was going to start passing the aux cord to anyone and everyone around him, so I made my exit — just before West got back on the mic to tell the crowd that he promises to lower the price point of his collection, and that being the "creative director of Hermès was a dream of [his]." Never change, Kanye.

Now I know what you're thinking: This isn't much of a fashion show review. While it was the first Yeezy Season show I've attended, I've seen enough to know that this collection didn't venture far from what West has done before, like distressed athleisure with a distinct streetwear attitude, dramatic proportions and various skin-tight body stocking type things. This time around, there was more color (orange, red, yellow and bright blue popped against the typical army green and dusty grey) and knits with a geometric motif, as well as some oversized shearlings that are basically street style porn. 

But let's be real, the clothing was just background noise. This was an album release party, and a great one at that. Everyone in the stadium, from West's inner circle to the kids at the top of the rafters, was either dancing or, at the very least, bobbing their heads with a smile. When they go home tonight, they'll probably have forgotten about the Yeezy Season 3 presentation, but the beats will be lingering in their brains. Aside from the covetable sneakers, I'm not sure that folks in West's audience on Thursday will be clamoring to get their hands on the collection, but I can say with relative certainty that the majority of them will buy "T.L.O.P." at first opportunity.

If only we knew when it actually dropped.