This is what happens when Kanye West throws a secret party at Milk

It’s a strange thing to see Kanye West look happy. He’s a different man with a smile on his face. It took a few seconds for people to recognize him at his own “Yeezus” listening party at Milk Studios‘ loading dock last night, just enough time for him to hug a friend or two and then disappear deeper into the crowd.

The party was supposed to be a secret, private affair — but remember, this is Kanye we’re talking about. Hundreds of people showed up. Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Timbaland and DJ Khaled were there and so was Knicks center Tyson Chandler. Even more people stood outside in the rain. Pretty much anyone hanging outside the Meatpacking edge of 14th Street got to witness the “Yeezus” debut (release date: June 18), along with giant screens projecting jet fighter pilots the way the Predator might see them with his heat-vision turned on.

“I got a strategy to make better music,” Kanye said before starting the show. “It’s called make better music. All this comes from a year — 2 years — of me fighting as a creative individual.”

Then the music started, and it was impossible to hear anything else. What’s “Yeezus” like? It’s darker and fiercer than anything Kanye’s done before. You might have guessed that if you caught “Black Skinheads” and “New Slaves” on SNL a few weeks ago. But it’s also fresh, and it wasn’t long before the crowd was bobbing and swaying. Jay-Z and Beyonce were full on dancing behind their ring of bodyguards, but Kanye looked the happiest of all. Smiling, laughing, sweating so much that his t-shirt was drenched and he had to wipe himself off with the gray hoodie he wore earlier in the night.

There’s a line in Late Registration’s “Touch the Sky” that I think says a lot about him. It goes, “I’m trying to right my wrongs / but it’s funny these same wrongs helped me write this song.” But Kanye isn’t an angry young man anymore. He turned 36 last week — “Now I know who I am,” he told the crowd — and there’s a baby on the way. Maybe now he really does just want to make music and be happy.

Photos by Andrew Boyle

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