On February 12th, 2015—in the midst of Kanye West’s Adidas’ Yeezy Season 1 showcase—one of the most important sentences in music history would be shown on screen: “THIS IS TRACK #1 ON KANYE WEST’S NEW ALBUM, “WOLVES” FEATURING VIC MENSA & SIA.” Soon, eerie wolf calls that I can only imagine were real field recordings done near a ravenous pack of actual wolves filled the stream and my soul. I immediately knew then, and did the world, that this was something special. Many began claiming that “Wolves is right up there with Thriller” and that the “Wolves” CDQ would “ruin my life in the best way possible.” However, little did we know that Kanye, Sia, and Vic Mensa’s musical tale of desperation and loss would also reflect the world’s journey to hear “Wolves” in mastered CD quality.
Before long, months would pass without word of the single. When would “Wolves” drop? Finding the answer would capture the zeitgeist of the internet and bring about a personal obsession. In late December, however, everything changed when a crudely handwritten tracklist for then-titled Kanye album SWISH revealed that “Wolves” had escaped the nether realm of unreleased Ye songs. So, in advance of the one-year anniversary of “Wolves,” I spoke to the collaborators—none of whom replied to my emails—and personally chronicled the events that lead to the CDQ release of not only one of the most important songs in music, but sound itself.
The Rise of “Wolves”
The moment, 4:59 PM to be exact, when “Wolves” entered the public consciousness. When an Adidas event about Yeezy Boosts featuring sour faced models wearing my aunt’s wave cap transformed into the first of many nights of listening to bootleg iPhone recordings of one song.
Here’s a Noisey post about “Wolves” at the time of its release: “It's a song called "Wolves," and it features both Vic Mensa (!) and Sia (!).The quality isn't perfect, but you definitely get a sense of the song and what to expect. Check it out below, and hopefully, Kanye drops the real version soon.” Soon. Hahaha.
Jay Z Really Likes “Wolves”
Look how into “Wolves” Jay Z is. His face looks perturbed at the very thought of enjoying something, anything as much as this. “Imagine, waiting a year for something this good,” I envision him saying to himself.
Cashmere Cat and Sinjin Hawke Share Rare Studio Recording
Roughly an hour after “Wolves” premiere, electronic producers (and antagonist of this story) Cashmere Cat and Sinjin Hawke send out “feeling blessed” tweets. Then share studio footage of a “Wolves” session. They seem happy.
Kanye, Sia, and Vic Mensa perform at SNL Performance
I watch Ye perform “Wolves” for Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary and man, this song is definitely going to be a hit. You don’t have Vic Mensa and Sia crawling on the floor like the spider-creatures in Spirited Away if it isn’t gonna be a hit. Also, here’s a pic of Mike Dean with a guitar and the hashtag #WOLVES.
Kanye Says Drake Inspired “Wolves.” Kanye Says Nothing About “Wolves” Release
Much like me, wolves are always on Kanye’s mind. So, he reveals “Wolves” was originally the name of a scrapped collab album with none other than Drake, the king of making random mating calls under the moonlight.
Vic Mensa Releases Lyrics of “Wolves”… On A Chalkboard
Not sure if it was Mensa who did this, but the chalkboard lettering on display here is impressive. The cursive at the bottom leaves a lot to be desired, though. Nevertheless, this confirms “Wolves” is definitely on the way. Mike Dean also shares another tweet: “Yeezy Season #All Day #Wolves”. So yeah, confirmed.
Kanye Performs “All Day” And Not “Wolves” at the BRIT AWARDS 2015
The last time I watched the BRIT AWARDS was when Rachel from S Club 7 was relevant. I watch with hate in my heart when I realize “All Day” has become the de-facto single. It also begins to dawn on me the wait for “Wolves” might be longer than I anticipated.
Kanye Announces The First Title of His New Album ‘So Help Me God’
So Help Me God pic.twitter.com/e3UUsQQEts— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) March 1, 2015
I’m overcome with excitement at his announcement and the minimalist DONDA design of the cover. But then I flashback to the one whole month I spent watching videos of “New Slaves” before Yeezus came out. I temper my expectations.
Cashmere Cat Begins "Wolves" reign of terror
lil video of me playing wolves and also the first time i ever stood on the table while djing https://t.co/wQbpB7hiIn— CASHMERE CAT (@CASHMERECAT) March 2, 2015
I start following anyone on Twitter who had anything to do with the track. Including Kanye, Cashmere Cat, Sinjin Hawke, Sia, Mike Dean, Virgil Abloh, Mensa, everyone. Fun fact: Cashmere looooves to share videos of DJ sets where he plays “Wolves.” All. The.Time.
Kanye Does a Surprise Intimate Show in London
As evidenced by the BRIT Awards, London + Kanye = Disappointment and his surprise show at Koko is no different. Despite performing “Wolves” live, it seems the song is no closer to coming out.
Ryan Hemsworth Calls "Wolves" Producer Cashmere Cat An Asshole
"Aren't you excited to hear cd quality 'Wolves' bro?" - @CASHMERECAT (asshole)— r y an (@ryanhemsworth) March 9, 2015
Producer Ryan Hemsworth is a nice guy. Still, even he isn’t exempt from the tyranny of Cashmere Cat and the showboating of his copy of “Wolves” CDQ. Kanye also performs the song live AGAIN with technical difficulties for Paris’ Fashion Week.
Some Idiot Asks Vic Mensa If He Wrote His Verse in “Wolves”
They say, “fortune favours the bold” so I decide to follow in the lead of this imbecile and ask Mr. Mensa when “Wolves” will be released. Still waiting for an answer. I remember the saying “stupid is as stupid does.”
Cashmere Cat is a Troll Part I
Another Cashmere Cat tweet, another set, another chance to torment me. In between cursing his name, I realize that Cashmere Cat and Sinjin Hawke are both named, respectively, after a cat and a hawk on a song about wolves. Coincidence? I make note of my discovery.
Kanye Changes The Name of His Album to 'SWISH'
I’m changing my album name to SWISH— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 3, 2015
In honour of the album’s new name and creeping paranoia that "Wolves" has been left on the cutting room floor I write a poem called, Can’t Spell SWISH Without WISH. Here’s an excerpt:
I wish I wish for the newly titled, SWISH/ I wish, I wish for CDQ of "wolves."
I wish, I wish what if it’s presence on the album is amiss/So Help Me God it's been months what if I have been made a fool.
A Candlelight Vigil for "Wolves"
the only pic i have from the session when we made wolves for kanye pic.twitter.com/DzqgxdaIRq— CASHMERE CAT (@CASHMERECAT) May 7, 2015
A month has come and gone without news about “Wolves” CDQ. Cashmere Cat returns online with a picture of a candle from one of the song’s, presumably, legendary studio sessions. I stare at the picture for an hour while reciting the lyrics with the lights off. I cough up blood trying to hit the notes on Sia’s verse.
New York Times Has “Wolves?”
I accidentally click on a New York Times article on Twitter about “tapping your inner wolf.” I’d learn about a famous super wolf in Yellowstone called 21 and about being an emotionally secure man. Still nothing about “Wolves.”
IS THIS A SIGN, YE?
I could care less about basketball or the NBA but one of the players is wearing Yeezy 350s and, get this, is on a basketball team called the Minnesota Timber...Wolves! Only Ye could come up with a marketing campaign this nuanced. It’s for sure confirmed coming now.
U.S. Customs Inquires about "Wolves" CDQ
immigrations officer in U.S. customs just stopped me and asked when wolves is gonna drop (really)— CASHMERE CAT (@CASHMERECAT) June 21, 2015
June has been a busy month for everybody… but me. My now sworn enemy, Cashmere Cat, has reunited with Sinjin Hawke since "Wolves" "came out.” But hope comes over me when Cashmere reports that a customs officer is inquiring about the release of “Wolves.” Maybe he’ll confiscate his hard drive and leak it to a popular hip-hop forum.
Soundcloud is The Plug
He doesn’t leak it. Back to listening to this Soundcloud rip for another month.
Kanye Receives A Made Up Award Named After Michael Jackson
I endure the presence of Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect and two hours of Taylor Swift in the hopes Kanye will make a “Wolves” announcement when he receives his Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. Instead, he announces that he’ll be running for president in 2020. I get panic attacks thinking about what my mental state will be if he doesn’t release a finished version by then.
Yeezy Season 2 is Here!
Ye announces more clothes for people who take selfies with old people in bathrooms. I’m cautiously hopeful he’ll drop something “Wolves” related. He doesn’t, but “Fade” is cool.
Kanye Made A Soundcloud Account With Stuff
False alarm. It’s just a remix of “Say You Will” and a “Tell Your Friends” demo.
SAVE THE WOLVES
After another “Wolves” dry spell I decide to sign several petitions on Change.org to save real wolves. It’s an inside joke— inside my mind I laugh at the futility of all.
Kanye Visits Lamar Odom In The Hospital, Probably Hears "WOLVES"
Kim telling the story of how Kanye played his album for Lamar Odom at the hospital on Thanksgiving. pic.twitter.com/P1LbeIANhH— TeamKanyeDaily (@TeamKanyeDaily) December 7, 2015
Does “Wolves” have healing properties? Is it so good that it nursed the bedridden Lamar Odom back to better health? This is like a phoenix down from Final Fantasy. I consider marathoning seven seasons of Pretty Little Liars until I slip into a coma. Hopefully, this will get Kanye’s attention.
Kim Kardashian Announces A New Ye Song For New Years
OMGOMGOMG He’s gonna do it. HE’S GONNA DROP WOLVES. 11 LONG MONTHS BUT IT WAS WORTH IT!
Several Hours Later Drops A Song Called, "FACTS"
Kanye Makes A Fool Of Himself On American Idol
Who put you up to this, Kanye Omari West?
Kanye West Drops “Real Friends” Which Sounds Like “Wolves”
Just past the three and a half mark for “Real Friends” I hear soft howling. I hug my mother, who grimaces at my body odour. Wolves don’t bathe, so neither will I. I chop the snippet on Adobe Audition and have it play in an infinite loop. This is the first real piece (I think) of "Wolves" CDQ. I will enjoy every half a minute of it.
Yeezus Finally Announces A Release Date For 'SWISH'
Swish February 11 16— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 9, 2016
Keep it together. It won’t be long now. I cross fingers that haven’t seen a nail clipper in months.
Please No "No More Parties in L.A."
Maybe next G.O.O.D. Friday I’ll have better luck.
A Wild Wolf Appears!
So happy to be finished with the best album of all time pic.twitter.com/JBWa8OWvqw— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 25, 2016
On January 25, at 12:17 PM I receive notification of a new Kanye tweet. I unlock my phone before I’m face to face with a tracklist for the new album. I move closer to the screen. Trying to make sense of the illegible nonsense scribbled on a piece of paper and then I see it. It couldn’t be. I start shaking uncontrollably. I read the word, THAT word aloud but I still don't believe it. I close the app and then turn it back on. Is that what I think it is?
I read over the track names from top to bottom: "Famous" “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. I & Pt. II” “Waves” “High Lights,” “30 Hours,” “No More Parties in L.A.,” “Fade,” “FML,” “Real Friends,”... Wol—yes, it says ”Wolves!” I close my eyes trying to keep my emotions in check but I have never been so… ANGRY! What do you mean I have to listen to nine other songs before I can hear “Wolves” in CDQ! How does it go from the first song to last?! ^&*% you, Kanye.
Kanye Announces New, New Title For Album Called 'WAVES'
After a couple hours, I collect myself. It’s finally coming out and WAVES isn’t the worse album name ever. I’m happy about this even though Wiz Khalifa doesn’t seem to be. I’m sure they will resolve their issues like adults, though.
Cashmere Is A Troll Part II
when cashmere cat drops wolves at the party and no one realizes they're being blessed w unreleased yeeeeezyyyyyabdkalndkahshdkslah— Jai Wolf (@JaiWolfx) January 31, 2016
Dear, Magnus August Høiberg aka Cashmere Cat, I will find you.
Three Seasons And Maybe An Album
At long last the date has been set. I can experience the greatness of "Wolves" in all its CDQ glory in theatres! And, just my luck it’s sold out.
The Album With No Name
WAIT new poll. Which album title do you like best? @kanyewest— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) February 1, 2016
This is getting fucking ridiculous! Just! Give! Me! Wolves!
Odd Future Wolf Gang Member, Tyler The Creator Makes An “Unauthorized” Rolling Stone Kanye West Cover
ROLLING STONE SHOT BY TYLER THE CREATOR pic.twitter.com/lOMtOdOEel— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 3, 2016
More subliminal wolf promo for "Wolves." Only a couple of days now.
The Night Before Dancing With “Wolves” CDQ
The time is almost here. I’ve been invited by Alpha West himself to be an extra for Yeezy Season 3 and I'm almost prepared. I spend the next 12 hours watching documentaries of wolves and feverishly pressing F5 on kanyewest.com and yeezy.supply for any updates or leaks. Good, nothing has changed. Everything is complete and no man, cat, hawk or drawn out album release can stop me. I WILL FINALLY HEAR “WOLVES!”