Where should we, as listeners, mainstream media consumers and socially minded citizens, stand on Kanye West? It is a question that, in today’s world, flickers in our minds about as often as “what’s for dinner tonight?.”
With every concert hall rant, tweet and piece of Kardashian-related gossip, that spotlight has only grown brighter. Often, his career as an artist is only examined superficially, as if it is second to his worldwide image as an erratic pop star. This summer, following his support for Trump on twitter and preposterous statement that 400 years of slavery “sounds like a choice,” Kanye released his G.O.O.D. Music series consisting of five albums.
So where do these five albums fall on the stage of Kardashian gossip, tweets and rant? Is it fair to evaluate Kanye’s music without the context of his personality and erratic behavior?
Note: This column is the second of two on the subject of authenticity in popular music. Last week’s focused on rock and genres that influenced it, while this column focuses on rap. In Jay Z’s scalding diss track “Takeover” from 2001’s seminal The Blueprint, he attacks his rival Nas, claiming that Nas embellished and fictionalized his past: “You ain’t lived it, you witnessed it from your folks’ pad / You scribbled in your notepad, and created your life.” Then in his 2010 memoir Decoded, Jay Z writes, “The rapper’s character is essentially a conceit, a first-person literary creation. The core of that character has to match the core of the rapper himself. But then that core gets amplified by the rapper’s creativity and imagination.”
In the second quote, Jay Z essentially acknowledges that he, and in fact all rappers, do precisely the thing that he accuses Nas of in the first.