The dystopian Kanye West crossover you didn’t know you needed.
28 years in the future, rising global temperatures threaten an end to mankind. With little hope, the President of the United States has made contact with an alternate universe, which has sent a mysterious gift that may hold the key to saving the Earth—a leaked Kanye West album.
This is not the plot of a stoner sci-fi movie, but rather an interactive website and concept album developed by toasty digital. Combining the legendary rapper-producer’s best songs in 13 unique mashups, Kanye 2049 is a Yeezy fan’s dream.
toasty digital, otherwise known as Jon Santos, is a 26-year-old technical editor from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He started making music at the age of 12, playing around on GarageBand and experimenting with audio mixing. Santos doesn’t have any experience playing instruments besides his own self-taught lessons in the bells and whistles of audio software, relying on the innate musicality of his ear instead of technical training in production.
While mashups typically involve blending the works of two different artists, Santos’ project is built entirely from Kanye West’s songs and samples. “Old Kanye and new Kanye are the two greatest artists of the last 20 years,” Santos told EDM.com. “So who better to match Kanye with than himself?”
“Bound 2049” blends Kanye’s “Bound 2,” “Good Life,” “Amazing” and “New Slaves.” The psychedelic “Power 2049” seamlessly weaves the saxophone solo of “Use This Gospel” with the hook from “Fade.” And “Father Stretch My Hands 2049” merges “Father Stretch My Hands,” “American Boy” and “Paranoid,” among other Yeezy classics.
Entering the website transports you to the belly of a retro computer interface full of hidden easter eggs and Kanye-related inside jokes. Open the “KANYE 2049” folder to access the album and click on “readme.txt” for its bizarre origin story. Pressing File → Show hidden files will allow you to listen to four bonus tracks. Each song is accompanied by different visuals, from empyrean landscapes to digitized color simulations. There’s even an anthropomorphized dancing lizard, which is viewable by accessing the hidden file “jeffery.gif.”
Influenced by Girl Talk and Danger Mouse, Santos produces his mashups using an Excel sheet that contains data about Kanye songs, such as tempo and availability of stems. Through lots of trial and error, he now works in Logic Pro and often finds himself mired in bouts of meticulous revision to figure out what pieces fit together well.
Creating “new” Ye songs by remixing them or blending them with other songs is fairly common amongst Kanye-themed online communities. Santos says one of the biggest mediums is the subreddit YandhiLeaks, a forum dedicated to constructing fan-made songs from snippets of Yandhi, Kanye’s mythical unreleased 2018 album. During a time when new music from the iconic artist was scarce, fans began to place vocal stems from old songs like “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” on new beats leaked from a variety of sources, such as Kim Kardashian’s Instagram stories.
It was in these supportive online forums that Santos earned a name for himself in the Kanye fandom. “I would have no following without these communities,” he said. “They’ve carried the album into parts of the Internet I wouldn’t have even known about.”
An early fan of Kanye 2049, freelance front-end developer Starfennec reached out to Santos to help with the design and development of his flagship interactive website. Santos came up with the concept of Kanye saving the world with a futuristic album before the hip-hop and fashion mogul decided to run for President in 2020. In an outro video posted to toasty digital’s YouTube page, he prophesied that Kanye would win the election and declare a “war on emissions” to combat climate change. By clicking “EARTH.txt” on the website’s homepage, users are provided resources to take action against global warming, such as reading material and links to donate to environmental organizations.
Riding on the coattails of the Internet hype behind his scintillating Kanye 2049 album, Santos is already preparing his next project, Good Kid Twisted Fantasy, which will bring to life a dream collaboration between Kanye and Kendrick Lamar. The Kanye 2049 website provides a sneak peek of the record in the hidden file “GKTF (DEMO).mp3,” which interpolates Kendrick’s vocals on “m.A.A.d city” with the instrumental of Kanye’s “Blame Game.” On December 24th, Santos released a teaser video for the upcoming album.
Santos says he’s almost done with Good Kid Twisted Fantasy, but feels pressure to please fans. Kendrick’s good kid, m.A.A.d city and Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy are among the highest-rated and most beloved hip-hop albums of all time.
“Both albums are high up on a lot of people’s lists,” said Santos. “So I’m a little worried about letting people down.”
As far as his career in music production goes, Santos says he won’t be quitting his day job any time soon. It’s difficult to monetize his work with toasty digital given the intricacies of the copyright laws that dictate sampling, so he launched a Patreon account to release exclusive material and invite fans to suggest ideas for new remixes. Santos hopes to expand his artistry and eventually move outside of Kanye-related material, but his ultimate goal is for Kanye 2049 to reach the ears of Saint Pablo himself.
It is undeniable that Kanye’s discography has fostered entire communities and inspired immeasurable creativity. It’s been over a year since the fabled rapper has released a full-length album, but fans can find solace in artists like toasty digital, who are able to conjure ways to tap into Kanye’s future by living vicariously through his past.