Kanye West: the man, the myth, the legend

One man can have all that power

808 Cambridge God hip hop Jay-Z kanye west Life of Pablo Students Tab Yeezus

I’m tired of the ‘he’s arrogant’ argument, the ‘I don’t like his new stuff’ one, the ‘he copies other peoples music’ one, the ‘other rappers are better’ lie. Kanye West is a god. 

Now I’m not going to deny that in recent years I’ve thought he might have been a little too ‘much’. The whole Taylor Swift thing was a bit weird as was the support for Trump that he then retracted. His calling out of Bush was also a bit unfair and he’s had one too many bizarre encounters on Ellen. The only explanation is that Kanye is a maverick and I think part and parcel of having the energy and impulsiveness to do what he does with music is it occasionally spilling over into other areas.

The fact is, though, that West has done far more to open up Hip Hop to a wide audience than anyone else and he’s done so by being forceful and committed – and the best. The old days when Hip Hop was not accessible to a wide audience changed with Kanye’s albums because he combined genres in a way which enabled his sound to break the usual boundaries that had been drawn by his predecessors. The College Drop Out, Late Registration, Graduation, 808s and Heartbreaks, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus and The Life Of Pablo, all stand independently as unique, industry leading albums.

It is not surprising that West had such a transformative affect. Expected to study for a degree at college by middle class parents and pushed back for years by record labels who did not think he fitted the gangster rapper stereotype, West was forced throughout his life to challenge what society had dictated to him.

808s and Heartbreaks uses a lot of auto tune. Controversial? Well, not any more. Since that album it has been used by anybody and everybody as a legitimate medium.

I am reminded of the people who laughed during Kanye’s performance at Glastonbury that he could not sing as well as Freddie Mercury, well, no shit pal, that’s not the point is it? It’s about the audience, not the performer. Playing Bohemian Rhapsody for 200,000 people is the point. We loved it. It wasn’t an attempt at the best falsetto. In much the same way, many of his newer songs that use auto tune do so so that he is able to perform the song and the lyrics; it is but one part of the masterpiece. A technique now copied by all.

Yeezus was new and exciting, ‘Black Skinhead’ and ‘New Slaves’, being two examples of the harsh, energetic sound he was exploring. Anyone who argues that he samples too much simply doesn’t know the extent to which sampling has dominated the hip hop industry since it’s conception. Tupac’s California Love raps over Woman to Woman, a beat created in the 70s by Joe Cocker and Biggie’s Juicy is essentially him rapping over MTune’s Juicy Fruit released in the 80s.

It is part of the style and in fact music in general to seek inspiration and to build off the back of music created in the past. Kanye is the best at it and everyone in the industry knows it which is why even if you think other rappers are better than he is, chances are he produced their song! All of the best songs on Blueprint, including Izzo, were produced by him and he co-produced Chances’ latest album Colouring Book.

In fact, if you trace it back, I’m sure we were all produced by Kanye – the man is a god.