Here are five tracks to listen to from different artists if Kanye’s music struck a particular chord sonically, or if you desire hip hop that approaches the subjects of Christianity and faith with nuance and panache.
Kanye West’s comment about a “lack of male energy,” in both his childhood home and his current extended family, stood out to me, as I thought it might convey something about the formation of black, masculine identity at this point in the hip-hop era.
I really don’t wanna talk about it, and I shouldn’t even really, so I’m barely going to. The last few weeks have been surprising, disorienting and mainly just sad for anybody who has ever admired Kanye West as a musician, artist, public figure and person who doesn’t befriend alt-right figures and espouse their disgusting revisionist histories. The music he has released during this time — while it, as usual, sounds pretty good — has either been a platform for his new, semi-incoherent ideology (“Ye vs. the People”), or a troll so broad that it begs the question of whether he’s taking any of this shit even remotely seriously (“Lift Yourself”). In the end, it doesn’t really matter all that much, at least to me, whether he actually believes what he’s been saying, or whether he just believes that he is continuing a long career of reactive, disruptive speech regardless of its content, or whether it’s all just a huge joke at the expense of everybody except for Donald Trump, Candace Owens and people who believe that 400 years of slavery were a choice.
Music in 2017 is all about politics or Taylor Swift’s feuds with other celebrities. With “Look What You Made Me Do,” we were all graced with a single about the latter. In the song, Taylor Swift addresses the people who have bullied her, and the way she so inspirationally and unbelievably rises above it every single time, giving girls all around the country new and empowering Instagram captions. As much as I’d like to pretend that this single is just aimed at some nameless grade school bully, Swift makes it more than clear that this is about other celebrities. She makes sly jabs at Kanye West and his musical career, among other artists.
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.
Drake has become the kind of generational figure that comes along once or twice a decade in pop music. Part of why he’s pulled it off is because, like Johnny Cash or a young Jay-Z, he communicates exclusively in a relatable, easy-to-understand way. Given a few seconds of a Drake song, the listener can identify that it’s Drake, decide if they relate to what he’s saying and make up their mind about it. He has mastered personal musings that seem like grand statements, journal entries aimed at a crowd. He kicks off Views with another one of them: “All of my let’s-just-be-friends are friends I don’t have anymore,” on “Keep The Family Close.” If this sentiment seems familiar, it might be because you’ve heard versions of it all over his past few albums. Don’t expect much innovation on Views, since it sticks to the themes that Drake has turned into a cottage industry: failed relationships, wistful nostalgia and the occasional chest-thumping taunt.
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.
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.