Kanye West is an American hip hop recording artist, dancer, urban planner, songwriter, record producer, poet, sculptor, singer, fashion designer, entrepreneur and deity. He is among the most acclaimed musicians of the 21st century, attracting both universal praise for his work and public persona.
In a great year for rap, hip-hop and emo, The Daily Sun’s Arts & Entertainment writers came together to name the 10 best songs of the year.
10. “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem)” — Car Seat Headrest
Steve Jobs once said that hallucinogens reveal another side to reality, but in “Joe Gets Kicked Out Of School” — written about an acid trip taken by Car Seat Headrest frontman Will Toledo — the revelations aren’t so pleasant. On acid, Toledo sees himself and his friends as “filthy people,” hedonistic pleasure-seekers with no meaning or purpose. Good thing the song is so fun. The band’s album, Teens of Denial, builds huge, operatic epics from the building blocks of indie rock, and “Joe” is a perfect example, a seven-minute journey that begins with Toledo strumming an acoustic guitar and develops into a foot-stomping breakdown.
“The MacDonald’s Man” folds the highbrow seriousness of literature in on itself. People come out and denounce it not as a poem, but as “good poetry.” Well I do think it’s a good poem, but for different reasons.
8:12 p.m.: We arrive in Buffalo. Jack bought a pass online that lets us park in a clearing under a bridge. A sign bolted to a cement support lists the rates — $75 daily maximum. It’s dark and we’re in a half-awake state from driving on Western New York backroads into fading light. 8:19 p.m.: We walk to the First Niagara Center.
Before getting to “Fake I.D.,” let’s lay down some background on Joyce Manor. The California four-piece works in a grey area between emo and punk. Their lyrics skew far more often towards crypticness than the melodrama in their emo and pop-punk contemporaries’ work. Their songs are complicated, throbbing with raw energy and short: their four LPs all clock in at fewer than 20 minutes. The band’s 2011 self-titled debut posed a commitment to bile and pettiness that continued throughout their later releases.
“This is Jack Jones. He’s one of our Arts writers and he only writes about Bob Dylan and Kanye.”
This is how a certain previous Arts editor and close friend generally introduces me to new people. Before I go ahead and give support to this claim, I’d like to point out that I’ve only written one review of each artist’s work: my first piece for the Daily Sun was a review of Bob Dylan’s mediocre album of Sinatra covers Shadows in the Night, and my longest piece ever was a review of Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. I’ve never used my column to focus on either of these figures, their music or what they mean to me. Doesn’t matter.
Last week, the Internet exploded after Kim Kardashian West posted a (censored) nude selfie taken in a bathroom mirror, captioned “When you’re like I have nothing to wear LOL.” Kim Kardashian West has of course appeared nude or semi-nude in plenty of platforms before. But I guess something about it being a bathroom selfie, rather than an airbrushed and well-lit magazine photo, sparked such an intense reaction. What followed was a fascinating study in the policing of women’s bodies, with moral-panic-over-female-nudity and slut-shaming abound. Besides the average run-of-the-mill Twitter outrage, the post sparked some reactions from celebrities that mostly got attention because Kim took the time to respond to them (hilariously). Piers Morgan wrote, “I know the old man’s $50 million in debt, Kim — but this is absurd.
It seems like it’s impossible to browse the Internet without reading something new about Kanye West. Whether it’s about Kanye’s reluctance to release his music for normal sale, the extent to which he’s a Cosby apologist, his extravagant Madison Square Garden show driven by tunes pumped through a simple aux cord or pleas for billionaires to drop their current philanthropic projects in order to fund his creative muses, nearly every website, news outlet and social media platform is scrambling to get a piece of the Kanye pie. (Clearly The Sun is no exception.) In this shitstorm of hype and speculation, it’s easy to forget that the at the hurricane’s eye is a landmark album, The Life of Pablo. Naturally, The Life of Pablo was quite divisive, with it being alternately hailed as another revolutionary record from Mr. West and decried as a self-absorbed, misogynist debacle. Realistically, it’s both of these things and everything in between.
“The better and better I get at what I do, the younger and younger I am… when I made Graduation I was six years old… when I made 808s I jumped to five years old… then the Taylor Swift thing happened right and I had to grow back up and I delivered what could be considered my most… perfected work and I had to turn to like a seven year old… I almost reached 10, I almost reached 10 years old when I did Dark Fantasy… and then when I went to Yeezus like I kinda got back to under five like four-and-a-half and now I’m mentally, completely, three years old… but don’t let me get proper money support backing and put my work out and let the earth speak back to it, I’m going to be two-and-a-half years old, by the time I’m like fifty I’m going to be one, and by the time I’m dead I’m going to be zero.”
Kanye West said this as a guest on the Bret Easton Ellis podcast back in November 2013. Listening to the full interview, one hears a characteristically exuberant Kanye basking in the glow of his recent critical success, Yeezus. Originally, opinions on Yeezus had been more mixed. In the months immediately following its early summer release, a vocal minority of reviewers criticized the lyrics on Yeezus for their sloppiness and their frequent lapses into nonsense and needless offensiveness. Indeed Kanye must have been feeling some of this backlash even in November, as later on in the Easton Ellis Interview he used his Peter Pan-ism to justify what are arguably the most odious lyrics on Yeezus: “Eatin’ Asian pussy, all I need was sweet and sour sauce.” The criticisms, however, were soon drowned out by the far more abundant praise.
“I’m the Jordan and Steph Curry of music, meaning I’m the best of two generations.” His highness, Air Yeezy, Kanyeezey, the self described “top-five of all time.” Kanye West was never one for subtlety, humility, sanity or self-awareness. But the creative genius has a habit of trolling pretty much anyone, especially the actual greatest of all time, his Airness Michael Jordan. At every end of Kanye’s never ending saga, I find that every tweet, conversation and news report from him is viewed as both absurd and as the words of a gifted madman. Then we go into the stratosphere of American sports, where players are quantifiably better than one another. Kanye wants a spot among the greatest.
Kanye doesn’t want his fans to be able to pick and choose. He wants them to love it all and to see all the pieces — his music, his outfits, his fashion line, his Twitter account, his family and their celebrity status — as part of one unified art project. He makes art for the age of social media celebrity, when persona and work are more inextricable than ever. He doesn’t want the art separated from the artist, because he is part of his art. His desire to synthesize was on full display at the bizarre event called Yeezy Season 3 that he threw at Madison Square on Thursday.