Wake Up Mr. West.. Mr. West.. Mr… By Himself He So Impressed
Remember when the NBA All-Star Weekend happened? Or that new Drake song? Or something else important (like actual news)? Nah? How about that one time Kanye liked fingers in his butt, launched an album (sorta), went on Twitter rants and hollered at Zuck for money? Yeah. Welcome to the Kanyeverse. We’re never leaving.
It’s impossible to talk about pop culture today, or even music today without bringing up Kanye in his full megalomaniac glory. Say what you say, but he has transcended genres and undertaken some of the most ambitious production projects to date. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy still may be one of the most cohesive (front-to-back) hip-hop production opuses of our time. Not bad for a South-Side Chicago kid who made his name on slanging bluesy samples to Hova.
And yet, there is so much more to ‘Ye than his music and his undeniable (exit is over there haters) musical talent.
The week that was supposed to be all about “The Life of Pablo” (Picasso? Escobar? Neruda? Sandoval? Zabaletta? Petey?) pretty much because about Kanye and him tittering on the brink of a Britney like melt-down for hours. First we found out he likes the gentle caress of a finger near his bottom, then that he is allegedly broke, then that him and Tay-Swift aren’t BFFs anymore apparently, then Mark Zuckerberg was for some reason supposed to give him money (presumably to vandalize more fashion sense with his Return of the Jedi - chic style). It has literally been all ‘Ye all the time.
To be fair, I don’t even know if any of this is real or just some elaborate performance, but if it isn’t a train wreck it is a very good imitation of one, and like any good train wreck it is impossible to look away as Kanye spirals down into a zone known prior only to wash-ed up early 00s blonde pop-stars.
Sidenote: if it is a performance, perhaps a bit more hindsight was required because the only way Kanye could have angered the White Girl Conglomerate more than going after Tay Tay is going after Biebs himself. But Biebs has JT level street cred now, so best we don’t touch that one any more.
In a very unique way, Kanye has always found a path to be part of pop culture. Even when it’s not about him, it always is. His music perfectly captures moments of modern megalomania and obsession, so do his lyrics. What’s more, he does so with every day actions, words, tweets and what have you. He basks in it, invites you in on his crazy, before inadvertently shutting the door because you’re not privileged enough to understand.
His latest album is as extensive as it is bad as it is ambitiously great. The production oomphs and oozes place to place. He takes more risks on one song than many artists do on their entire catalogues (for real Ja, you had like 3 songs). He borrows heavily (each song has a gazzilion samples) leaning on decades of music, from his blues cue roots to the modern synth that’s at home on a Future single. He brings collaborators that you would never imagine could work together. If he could, ‘Ye would probably get Bach on a Young Thug track just for the hell of it. And sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
In a true Kanye fashion he unites lyrics that are cringe worthy at the least (and making you want to push him down the flight of stairs at the most) with claustrophobic, almost schizophrenic production. There is so much of everything and it’s so in your face that it’s hard to begin to describe it, let alone appreciate. It’s like an all you can eat buffet after hours, you know you want to eat it all but you’re semi suspicious of the bowel movement that might come later.
At it’s height, TLoP is an overwhelmingly offensive assault on your ear drums. The mix of lyrics and music makes you want to turn it off and shout at the sky while listening to almost anything else (except for that new Future joint, best used as a coaster rather than music). But at it’s height it’s also overwhelmingly Kanye, both old and new, both oblivious and self-aware (“I miss the old Kanye” he jests on an interlude). It’s melodic and passionate. It takes turns, it breaks it takes more turns and it brings you an unforgettable and unrivaled musical experience in 2016. Mr. West has mastered the art of playing with your expectations not just album to album or song to song, but verse to verse. The album is deliberately ambiguous in what the “sound” is, so instead it spends 18 tracks just trying to find it (and who knows what the gold press tracklist will look like). It arrives somewhere where we’ve never been before, somewhere we want to stay, but also somewhere that makes us want to leave every five minutes. Its maker’s ambition is its greatest achievement, but it may also be its greatest shortcoming. The duality of Kanye West.
Who knows where Kanye will go next. Who knows if Zuck invests in the most unapologetic brand of our time (sorry EA). But ‘Ye will be ‘Ye. Forever getting his way, forever getting the masses riled up. Forever dropping ambitious records that leave both critics and the common man confused as to what to think. And forever making us wonder if this is all a play, a jest, a ruse that he plays for us. But you know what’s funny, I don’t even think he knows if it is. So buckle up, the ride ain’t over.
Take care out there.