I like the old Kanye, not the sold Kanye…
The chances are that most people reading this won’t even know what I'm talking about when I talk about “recording music off the radio”, but those of you who do will immediate understand the analogy with regards to that image…
When I was a kid records where expensive, and we didn’t get that much money, well none of the people I knew anyway.
I grew up in Toxteth, a ghetto in Liverpool, and rap pretty much dominated my upbringing. The idea that you could make music with with little more than a couple of turntables and a microphone, that was gold to kids like us, and it had us all hooked into the music, and idea, and the dream of a life style.
For those of you who don’t know rap actually does have an origin, and it’s not “The death of Auto tune”. It started out with a guy in a ghetto halfway across the world throwing a party in Harlem where people “rapped” over DJ’s spinning records to a crowd of enchanted people. The rest, as they say, is history. Rap swiftly took over the music world with crews like N.W.A screening out a message to the whole world about a life lived in constant fear of daily brutality, a message that we understood. Maybe I didn't have to look down the barrel of a gun every day, but my life wasn't a barrel of roses either.
I remember the days when you couldn't walk from one end of Prince’s Avenue to the other without being frisked for drugs and weapons. Not by kindly police officers, but by trained thugs who jumped from fortified riot van’s, usually holding back dogs on thick leashes, who pinning you against a wall as the whole thing went down.
This week the much vaunted Kanye West album “The Life Of Pablo” dropped on JAY Z’s new music streaming service “Tidal”! Of course it did, their career long friends, and JAY Z‘s doubtless whispered promises of dominance across the industry into Kanye’s ear from the day he launched it!
I mean what does a man like Kanye West really crave? Despite protestations to the contrary I doubt it’s more money. If it really where he would have released the album through Amazon, or even on Spotify where the world goes to listen, and certainly on CD, but he didn't! He put it on a service that requires you to subscribe for the rest of your life at a cost of £9.99 a month [or $12 in the US] if your want to keep on listening to it [legally] for more than 30 days.
What hurts most is Kanye’s constant insistence that “he too came from the streets”. If he really did he too has had those memories whipped from his mind, because he’d remember sitting next to the radio, waiting for that song to play, with his fingers poised over the buttons on a crappy caste recorder.
In releasing “The life of Pablo” on Tidal Kanye hasn’t broken new ground, been innovative, or fought for the rights for already over paid rap stars, he’s excluded a whole generation from ever hearing his new music. Sure there’ll be bootlegs, and it’s not that difficult to get round Tidal’s limitations if you know how to use Google, but the fact is that it represents an unspoken buy in to the concept of subscription services.
These are things that will become more secure as the technology gets better, and will in the end exclude the poorest communities around the world, and also the very people that rap claims to represent.
As far as the album is concerned I actually disagree with the all critics, which makes this piece all the more bitter to write.
Maybe this album isn’t as deep and meaningful as “808’s & Heartbreak”, or “My beautiful dark twisted fantasy”, but it’s actually, in my opinion, a wonderful piece of work to listen to.
Like everything he does, it’s a mingling of musical texture, rhythm, and sheer style. It’s just a shame that it, and other’s like it, are now destined to become about the streets, but no longer for the streets!