The ballad, titled “Only One,” was released by West on Thursday (Jan. 01) and features the former Beatle on keys while West utilizes auto-tune for his vocals. Yes, he’s singing, not rapping on this one.
According to a press release, “Only One” resulted from “a simple brainstorming session” West and McCartney had in early 2014 in Los Angeles:
“With McCartney improvising on the keyboards and Kanye vocally sketching and shaping ideas in a stream-of-consciousness riff.”
The song’s lyrics were from the perspective of West’s mother Dr. Donda West, who died in 2007 after complications from cosmetic surgery. Donda West’s presence proved to be more powerful for her son as the release alluded to Kanye realizing how much of his mother really came through in “Only One” while listening to the track with his daughter North on his lap.
“And in that moment, not only could he not recall having sung those words, but he realized that perhaps the words had never really come from him,” the release detailed. “The process of artistic creation is one that does not involve thinking, but often channeling. And he understood in that moment that his late mother, Dr. Donda West, who was also his mentor, confidante, and best friend, had spoken through him that day.
“’My mom was singing to me, and through me to my daughter,’ the release quoted an astonished West saying.
“The small group in the room kept listening: ‘Hello my Only One…just like the morning sun…you’ll keep on rising till the sky knows your name.’
“To some, Kanye’s insight didn’t immediately register. But then he explained: The name Kanye, which his mother had chosen, means ‘only one.’”
“Only One” can be streamed for free at West’s website and is also available on iTunes. Pitchfork reports the collaboration is the first single from West’s upcoming new album as well as one of a few songs the rapper has done with McCartney.
To hear “Only One,” click on the audio below: