Heart vs “art”
Kanye West has been controlling the public conversation for almost ten years. Since he made his album debut in 2004, Kanye West has elevated himself in the hip-hop industry to levels previously only seen by his mentor Jay-Z. Some may believe that Kanye has even surpassed Jay-Z in terms of success, especially Kanye.
Kanye West’s latest record Yeezus is his sixth solo album, following his two collaborations Cruel Summer and the Watch the Throne.
Kanye West’s overabundant ego is so blatantly (and intentionally) represented in Yeezus’ title as well as its third track I Am a God. The album is an electronic splashed soundtrack featuring vocals from Frank Ocean and Kid Cudi. Yeezus is also the shortest album Kanye has released to date, clocking in at 40 minutes.
With his “euro-art” approach and near-relentless auto-tuning, Yeezus is clearly a product of the Kanye West of 2013; who is a very different artist from the Kanye West of 2004.
Pop in your ear buds and time travel back to 2004’s The College Dropout, and you will find an unfamiliar creature going by the name of Kanye West. This 27-year-old eponymous college dropout had been rapping since 1996 at the age of 19. This was a man who had a brush with death only two years prior, giving way to Through the Wire, a single he recorded with his jaw wired completely shut.
In The College Dropout Kanye West’s ego was still existent, with the ample amount of big dick jokes and bragadocious rhymes required for a new rapper trying to prove himself, but it was only in its infancy. The tracks painted an honest picture of an up-and coming-rapper who had the unconventional affinity for pink polos and teddy bear mascots in sport coats.
Kanye West’s second album Late Registration was a sequel in every sense; it brought more of what the fans loved while improving upon past missteps. The album laid out billboard success tracks in Gold Digger and Diamonds from Sierra Leone as well as more personal songs like Roses and Hey Mama. Late Registration’s most lyrically brilliant and pure rap-artistry-based song was Gone, finishing off the album as its final track.
2007’s Graduation closed the book on Kanye West’s education metaphor-based albums. Tracks like Stronger laid the groundwork for the more electronic-infused style he would later rely on. 808s & Heartbreaks was a true experiment in this style when it came out in 2008. In 808s, Kanye took on the role of brooding billionaire instead of college dropout success. For the most part it worked, and you could definitely feel the emotion that Kanye “Pinocchio” West was trying to convey.
My Beautiful Twisted Dark Fantasy was released in 2010 and cemented Kanye’s transformation from rapper to messianic moron. The record had certifiable pop hits in Dark Fantasy, Power and Monster among them, but it was devoid of any personal passion that his previous albums had laced throughout. Instead Kanye chose to rap about wanting to marry a porn star.
Kanye West had become a caricature of himself by the late 2000s, continuing to this day; opening the door for more parodies and insults with every ridiculous thing he says. The age of the internet hasn’t done Kanye any favors; every time he opens his mouth he becomes less of a human being and more of an implausible cartoon god king.
Artists and their styles change with fame and fortune, there’s really nothing new there. But Kanye has taken a hard left turn from popular music and heartfelt self-expression to what every other rapper does: rapping about how they are better than every other rapper (Watch the Throne.)
Kanye’s existence is now almost exclusively influenced by his reaction of our reaction of him. In response, he declares himself a god and tries his hardest to make what he thinks is art but is nearly always overblown, pretentious absurdity.