It was pretty clever of Kanye to use his platform as the opening act at Sunday’s BET Awards to debut a verse of his upcoming single “New God Flow,” rapping it a capella after an already-show-stopping G.O.O.D. Music performance of “Mercy” and his own “Cold.” He got the internet buzzing about his impassioned, LeBron-referencing verse (even getting a cosign from The King himself), building up anticipation for the latest Cruel Summer transmission, a night before giving the track a Funkmaster Flex debut. Now it’s out, and it’s on the level of “Cold” and “Mercy”—a high compliment, and one that should build anticipation even further for Cruel Summer.
Though Kanye’s the headliner, Pusha T is up first here, and gets two full verses before ceding the mic. He starts off with a dynamite opening couplet—”I believe there’s a God above me / I’m just God of everything else”—and continues his A-game throughout, boasting “they love a nigga’s spirit like Pac at the Coachella” (now officially the most rap-referenced moment in Indio history) and showing an odd infatuation with late-’90s Bad Boy Records (hoping to be the Shyne to Kanye’s Puff, shouting out Ma$e in “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”), while the song’s serious-but-not-overly-grandiose (unlike some songs) piano and drum shuffle lends an impressive gravity to every line.
Of course, it’s still Kanye who steals the show. Nobody understands the art of providing lyrical talking points in his verses quite like Kanye—maybe he legitimately feels that being a hated-on champion puts he and LeBron James in a league by themselves, and maybe he sincerely believes to be living out the dream of Biggie Smalls, Martin Luther King and Rodney King simultaneously, but regardless, he knows that those lines are gonna be endlessly debated and retweeted, and guarantee that you’ll have strong memories of the song from the very first time you hear it. Throw in a couple big-ups to late legends Whitney Houston and Richard Pryor, and the label’s 132nd consecutive Murcielago namedrop (now the official G.O.O.D. Music Batmobile), and you’ve got yet another insta-classic ‘Ye verse.
The only thing keeping the song from legitimately pushing “Mercy” for the best yet of the Cruel Summer leads is the song’s super-unnecessary outro—an unfortunate specialty of Yeezy’s—in which Kanye leads the song in a martial-style “I don’t know but I been told!” singalong. If the lyrics for this section had been a little funnier or more provocative it might’ve worked, but “If you get fresh you get all the hoes” isn’t nearly a good enough of a punchline, and the whole thing just sounds regrettable. You’re not contractually obligated to push your singles past five minutes just ’cause, Kanye.