Music

OPINION: In Defense of Kanye West

by Reginald Duvivier

Jay Z and Kanye West in Antwerp

You can make the argument that new music by Kanye West isn’t needed anymore. Because of miniscule sampling budgets hip-hop has evolved past his trademark chimpmunk soul sound to where even he doesn’t do most of the production work on his own albums. His ‘808 and Heartbreaks’ blueprint of emotional singer-songwriter rap has been surpassed and perfect by the likes of Drake. Even the aggressive industrial tracks that have leaked off his latest album, Yeezus seem to be playing a bit of catch up considering Saul Williams and Death Grips are still making music.

But Kanye, as the cultural phenomenon, is essential. In the last decade or so pop music, which was always known for its PG-13 extravagance, turned extremely mundane. Pop divas like Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj have to rely on reality television and canned beef to stay relevant. We’ve reached the point where even rapper boasts have become banal; who in the world knew that the term “Bugatti” was so rhyme friendly.

We live in an era where everything is a little too perfectly curated. You see that in the meticulously edited instagram pictures, the story book lives we portray on Facebook, and how every 140 character twitter quip is always on point. Those that fail to put up a perfect presentation of themselves to the public are usually subject to tumblr blogs cataloging their embarrassment for all to see.

The fact that Kanye remains the only artist willing to risk genuine embarrassment is why we need him. His cringe worthy rants, unfortunate fashion choices, or his long term relationship with a much maligned reality TV show star are things that would cause late stressful nights at any PR firm. But they are real; as real as 12 year old acne or bad dating stories. Kanye’s curse is that, unlike other celebrities whose popularity makes them seem almost like demi-gods, the bigger he gets the more likely chance there is of a camera filming him walking into a pole. And it’s what makes us root for him when he pulls it off (which is most of the time.)

Kanye’s new album entitled ‘Yeezus’ will probably add to an extraordinary run of albums or be one of his pitfalls according to his critics (and for the rest of the world something in between). But either way, we care. George Clarke, front man of black metal cause célèbre DeafHeaven, gave an interview to Pitchfork where somehow they stumbled onto the subject of the megastar rapper:

A lot of people hate on Kanye, but I think he’s a fucking genius. He is so insane and knows exactly how to get people going, and they feed into it. It’s pretentious in a way, but it also shows that you really know your audience and how people are going to react to things. I love seeing people get excited.

When people in completely different genres are drawing inspiration from your work you know you’re doing something right. Flight or fall, every new album from Kanye West is one that we care about, even if it’s to hate. At this point in his career, any new art that Kanye releases we debate, and ultimately isn’t that the point?