Author Topic: good read on KANYE WEST  (Read 88 times)

PLANT

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good read on KANYE WEST
« on: February 16, 2004, 07:44:39 AM »
"We shine because they hate us / Floss 'cause they degrade us / We tryin' to buy back our 40 acres / And for that paper look how low we'll stoop / Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe"
-- Kanye West, "All Falls Down"

Though selling out doesn't necessarily have negative connotations in the rap world, the genre's inexorable rise has resulted in a hard split between underground and commercial. Insightful lyrics routinely get sent to the back of the bus while the best beats go to played-out thug rhymes and pimp fetishes.

Well, hip-hop's finally found an Aragorn to unify its tribes -- super-producer Kanye West. He raps now.

The Chicago native, who got our damn hands up for Jay-Z's The Blueprint,is currently ensconced in the top 20 with boardwork for Ludacris ("Stand Up"), Alicia Keys ("You Don't Know My Name") and Twista ("Slow Jamz") -- not to mention his own on-mic single, "Through the Wire," hovering not far behind.

That opening salvo from his upcoming solo debut, College Dropout, is a raw rumination on West's near-death in late 2002 -- not from getting shot up a whole buncha times but just from a plain old car accident.

Fresh out of the hospital and backed by an amphetamine-buzzed Chaka Khan sample, West rhymes with his jaw literally wired shut, mumbling about liquid food and how he woke up "In the same hospital where Biggie Smalls died / The doctor said I had blood clots / But I ain't Jamaican, man / Story on MTV and I ain't trying to make a band."

What makes West more than just the next Pharell is his refusal to be Puffy. Pointedly projecting an everyman aura among hip-hop caricatures, West's slow, thoughtful flow is nearly as potent as his productions and his bling-less lyricism makes up for any lack of vocal dexterity with vivid imagery, brutal honesty and on-point punchlines.

West has sarcastically proclaimed his "wackness" -- compared to that which currently moves units -- but by spreading knowledge over high-calibre radio-ready beats, he's clearly hoping to change the rules in his favour.

Back in the day, it was dead simple to define the two schools: pop shit predominantly boasted obvious samples, wack beats and facile rhymes while street-level rappers went about, as they said at the time, "dropping science."

NWA is often seen as the beginning of the end -- as exemplified by Dr. Dre's "I'm droppin' English" diss on "Express Yourself." However, the good doctor also noted "...it gets funky / When you got a subject and a predicate / Add it on a dope beat / And that'll make you think" because even gangsta-rap once offered thought-provoking social commentary (and its progenitors actually knew what a predicate was) but at some point thereafter the script got flipped.

"Conscious rap" -- that is, rappers with something substantive to say -- became considered passť and preachy because, well, they sometimes were. (I'm looking at you, KRS.) Meanwhile, second-wave studio thugs just dropped bullets and brand names -- but, alas, they often had better beats. (Hiya Fiddy!)

In recent years a good number of underground rappers have moved to major labels in hopes of garnering commercial success but they've been largely unable to escape now-ingrained stereotypes and the albatross of a mostly white fanbase (yet another old-school reversal).

The only real crossover has been Talib Kweli's soul-stirring "Get By," which, come to think of it, was produced by West. At the time many considered it a sellout move, due to West's Roc-A-Fella Records affiliation, but now it seems prescient.

College Dropout has been repeatedly delayed over the past year, creating a widespread salivatory state as soon as songs began making the rounds online and on mixtapes. The leaks -- some allegedly on purpose, others unfinished demos -- showed West had perfected his munchkin-soul aesthetic and was crafting lush leftfield beats without biting Virginian future-funk.

When the final version hits stores Feb. 10, it'll be bereft of numerous tracks that built up the buzz in the first place. Most noticeably, Lauryn Hill refused sample clearance for her rescued-from-Unplugged hook on "All Falls Down" -- weird, since crazy ol' L-Boogie is so broke she's hawking autographed posters for $75 on her website -- and both the retro-bluesy cut "Home" and a collab with Ol' Dirty Bastard were dropped.

No worries though, plenty of new cuts have been added because as the anticipation built, Roc-A-Fella realized they just might have a classic on their hands. The crazy thing is that unlike most progressive rappers -- say, Mos Def, who has declared West "the future of hip-hop" and tears it up alongside the Harlem Boys Choir on West's "Two Words" -- the expectations here don't stop at gold.

All the pre-hype may yet backfire (even mainstream outlets like USA Today are on his jock) but West -- a rapper who actually admits he's "insecurr" and loves Jesus almost as much as the ladies -- appears prepped to take over commercial hip-hop by attacking its very tenets.

For money-hungry MCs (and the labels who exploit them), it currently makes more sense rhyming like 50 Cent than Common Sense -- but if West moves millions, then he could single-handedly shut down the gangsta revival while opening the playing field to diverse ideas.

On The Black Album, Jay-Z admits "I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars" but his producer is intent on proving HOVA didn't have to. Kanye's jokingly called himself "A Tribe Called West" and claimed to be the first rapper "with a Benz and a backpack," but behind the sound bites is an adamant refusal to take sides.

Even without Hill, "All Falls Down" perfectly distills West's contemplative and self-aware essence. Over a propulsive beat and addictive guitar licks, he drops an empathetic pun -- "She's so precious with the peer pressure / Couldn't afford a car so she named her daughter Alexis" -- while exposing the self-consciousness of rap's rampant materialism (including his own) and its self-destructive street-level impact.

But West is ultimately optimistic, arguing that a sampler, clever wordplay, a lot of integrity, a little ice and maybe some Luther Vandross (to make 'em take their pants off) are the only weapons we need.

Guess school is back in session.


http://www.eye.net/eye/issue/issue_01.29.04/beat/west.html
 

N-Sane Brain

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Re:good read on KANYE WEST
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2004, 10:15:19 AM »
It's not really an interesting read, because I already knew nearly all facts and the main-part at the end is just about the album, but nearly everyone who's interested in Kanye West already listened to the album. But this was unfortunately a very true sentence:

Quote
...Insightful lyrics routinely get sent to the back of the bus while the best beats go to played-out thug rhymes and pimp fetishes...

Good that there are Stoupes, Necro's, Celph Titled's, Classified's, etc. that deliver the underground with good beats 8)