Before I got the College Dropout CD, I listened to Usher, 50 Cent, I don’t remember who else. Older cousins would tell me how Jay-Z was an amazing rapper. I’d counter with someone like Ludacris. Embarassing.
And then I listened to Kanye. I did not even understand everything. But you could tell he was pouring everything into his music. I cannot even accurately describe what I felt, listening to that album. I was living his struggles through his music, feeling his hope, making his art with him. Everyday, for years, I was learning new things through each song on that album. I began to listen to actual music, to listen to what people were talking about. I began to love real hip-hop and the people he rapped with, Common and Talib Kweli. I eventually realized that Jay-Z was magical. College Dropout did all that.
Kanye released 2 more albums, and I began to think of him as a modern Lauryn Hill (who I only carefully listened to because of him in the first place). I was disappointed with 808s because, despite being really good art, I didn’t think he managed to say as much as he did in his rap songs. I wanted as much of those lyrics as I could get, and that album wasn’t doing it. Then after years there was another rap album. MBDTF was different from the first 3, but it was great and I had missed his music. And it was incredibly artsy. Then, an album with Jay-Z that was just great rap song after great rap song. And still with the incredible art.
Yet, I missed the first 3 albums, especially College Dropout and Late Registration. I wanted Kanye to to just rap, on a simple, brilliantly sampled beat, about inferiority complexes, blood diamonds, family, his city, motivation, girls (in an honest, realistic way), about being a person. But he was still amazing me with his current stuff then, But then he began to disappoint me, and how I least expected it.
The record label he started was called G.O.O.D music because it was supposed to emphasise the music (the art, the lyrical content, the voices) over the popularity and money-making prospects of artists and songs. It had him, John Legend and Common in it. No one else in the music industry would have started this. But today, it is mentoring 2 Chainz. And whatever anyone says about how much fun 2 chainz is, how much market appeal he has, how much hype he brings, I feel disappointed, I feel betrayed. Kanye now makes songs, where he talks about almost nothing, or if anything, something I’d rather not hear (from him especially). It hasn’t been a lot of songs. And they are fun. I admit.
But it’s Kanye. Kanye from… All Falls Down. Touch the Sky. Gold Digger. Diamonds from Sierra Leone. Family Business. Never Let me Down. Work Out Plan. Heard ‘em Say. Homecoming. Stronger. Through the Wire. Bring Me Down. Hey Mama. Two Words… It’s an endless list, I can’t do this.
My expectations of him are too high, I’m sure. He could not possibly have gone a whole career without making some songs just for fun. But it’s not the fun I’m complaining about. He knew how to make fun songs which were still brilliant. The New Work Out Plan. Good Life. Gold Digger. I just don’t want him making songs with Chief Keef and 2 Chainz. Imagine what a Kanye verse would be like on a song with a chous, “All I want for my birthday is a big-booty ho” 8 years ago. Hilarious, fresh and so artistic you’d forget it was offensive. Look what it is like today.
Supposed to be my Lauryn Hill, man. She wouldn’t recruit 2 Chainz. So why are you, Kanye? I’m not writing you off yet. You’re too good for that. I think you may be losing your way with what music to make, but I’ll wait for your next album to prove me wrong.
I really hope it will be something like Late Registration or College Dropout, but I know that is pushing it. If I get something like MBDTF, I’ll be excited. Because anything is better than songs with the new faces of ‘GOOD Music.’ Just be what is amazing about hip-hop again, not what is terrible about it.
- There are three artists I stan for: Beyoncé Knowles, Frank Ocean and Kanye West. It is very very hard for me to make negative comments about these three; their talents continue to astound me. There’s a caveat with Kanye though. I’ll be the first to admit, in any conversation, that Kanye ‘don’t know how to act’. I say it with absolutely zero malice though, as if he’s my three year old son, who I know can’t be counted on to shut up in public and behave. I understand. It almost endears me to him in some ways. His opinions are usually right, it’s just always the execution and presentation that need work. I understand. With regard to the music, I feel the same. I support an artist’s growth and respect the fact that Kanye has expanded his brand and done different things. But, I still crave the one I initially fell in love with. Who is to say what the ‘real Kanye’ sounds like? He’s made diverse music and just because he did conscious rap first doesn’t necessarily mean that it is ‘who he is’. However, that’s what we fell in love with, that’s what drew us in, and it’s perfectly understandable if that’s what we remember fondly and want more of. Awesomely said, Kwame.