Disclaimer: The following blog post only represents Peter’s opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the other Broads. Also, the key word here is opinion. Opinion ≠ fact. You are welcome to not like Kanye West. That’s the wonderful thing about art. It’s subjective. This is just Peter’s thoughts about Kanye for you to mull over.
Let’s get a few things out of the way before we do this. “Kanye West is an asshole!” Yes, yes he is. “Kanye is an egomaniac!” I don’t disagree, and more on that later. “He said that Bill Cosby is innocent!” Well, fuck. Ok, you got me there. That’s a position that I can’t defend.
But I’m not here to talk about Cliff Huxtable putting his pudding pop where it doesn’t belong. I’m here to make a case in defense of Kanye West. Kanye is the most divisive artist in the 21st century. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. You either love him, or you hate his guts. On one hand, here’s a guy who is trying to push rap and hip-hop into new, progressive territory. On the other hand, you have a self-proclaimed genius who makes statements that make him look like a complete dick. (Side note: I’m not saying that interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMA’s was ok, but he wasn’t exactly wrong. Beyonce’s video was way better than Tay-Tay’s fluff). For a guy who has sold millions of albums, makes it to countless year end “best of” lists, has won 31(!) Grammys, I have hidden my love of Kanye West on the internet to all but a few close, trusted friends. Because every day, in almost every form of social media, someone is complaining about something Kanye said, bitching about his music, loathing his wife, and getting irrationally angry about someone who they claim not to care about. No longer will I hide in the shadows. Here, my dear readers, is why I like Kanye West.
Let’s start where any discussion of an artist should start: the art. Let’s separate the man and his public persona and just look and listen to his work. It’s easy to hate the music of someone whose public persona you also hate (I cringe whenever I hear a Ted Nugent song). It’s also easy to dismiss the art of someone who has had less than flattering new stories about them (Yes, his love life is skeevy, but “Midnight In Paris” and “Blue Jasmine” are amongst Woody Allen’s best films). Now, opinions about music are entirely subjective, so you wouldn’t be wrong if you said, “No, it’s not,” after I say, “Flashing Lights is a fantastic song”. I’m not here to convert you. I just want to explain that, yes, there are many people out there who enjoy Kanye’s music, and they’re not wrong for enjoying, just as you’re not wrong for not enjoying it.
After “Graduation” comes his first WTF? moment. “808s and Heartbreak” is a vast departure from his previous efforts. It doesn’t have much rapping in it. In fact, Kanye sings through most of the album. His vocals are also obviously auto-tuned, but done so in a way so that it doesn’t feel jarring over the electronic, early 00’s Radiohead style of the music on the album. And the word “heartbreak” isn’t in the title for shits and giggles. This is Kanye’s breakup album. His lyrics lash out not only at his ex but at himself as well. Yes, that super egotistical guy you complain about on Facebook knows when he’s fucked up in a relationship. Now, even though this album is drenched in auto-tune, this is actually the album that proves Kanye can actually *sing*. Using auto-tune wasn’t a technique to make Kanye hit notes he wouldn’t be able to, he can hit those notes, it was used to reflect the cold, isolated feeling of a recent breakup. It’s a stylistic choice rather than a technique used out of desperation. Trust me, once you get balls deep into the album, it actually starts to feel natural. And the music itself has Kanye embracing obscure synths and samples, and because of this, the music feels kind of like a “Kid-A” era Radiohead with Kanye singing instead of Thom Yorke. And as a cherry on top, the album contains a song called “Robocop”. That automatically deserves respect, right there.
“The Life of Pablo” is Kanye’s newest album, dropped last February even though Kanye claims to still be tinkering with some of the tracks, but let’s examine the album as it is. This is Kanye unleashed. “The Life of Pablo” is pure stream of consciousness, an examination into Kanye’s id, and one of the most progressive hip-hop albums released in the past two years. “Never go full retard”…this album is Kanye going full-Kanye. The songs range from strange mixes of electro-pop, gospel, to just straight up hip-hip. “No More Parties In LA” featuring the great Kendrick Lamar is just as good as any song on Kendrick’s great “To Pimp A Butterfly” album.
“But he’s not talented!” I hear you say. He is, and he gives it his all with his live performances. He kills it when he goes on Saturday Night Live. Check out this ferocious performance of “Black Skinhead”.
If you can’t stand his music, let me try to explain why Kanye stands out without you having to listen to his music. Remember the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary special? It was a nostalgia fueled trip down SNL’s memory lane. The special mainly consisted of SNL’s most memorable sketches being recreated with a slight twist here and there. Also, as is SNL’s tradition, the evening also featured some of SNL’s most memorable musical guests. And these artists continued the night’s trend of playing the hits. Paul McCartney performed the always reliable “Maybe I’m Amazed”. Miley Cyrus covered a Paul Simon song. Toward the end of the night, it was Kanye’s turn. And although he did start off with one of his biggest hits, “Jesus Walks”, he performed it while lying on his back with a low ceiling above him representing oppression. After a run through of that, Kanye turned then launched into his newest single at the time, “Only One”, a track featuring a co-writing keyboard credit from none other than Sir Paul McCartney. Come on, if a Beatle is willing to work with this guy, what else does he have to prove to the musical community? After that song, Kanye played a previously unheard song, “Wolves” featuring guest vocals from Sia and some weird performance art as Kanye went through his verses. So, on a night when everyone else was content to just play the hits, Kanye was the only one taking advantage of the opportunity to do something new and different. That sums up Kanye’s musical career in a nutshell.
As for the “Kanye is an egomaniac” argument, let’s take a few steps back and put this into context. Listen to just about any rap artist. Most of their songs are bragging about how much more awesome they are than other rappers. Rap has always been a game of one-up-manship. Even the Beastie Boys brag about their rapping skills. Kanye is no different. Picking on him for this is like picking on emo artists for being sad. Most of rap’s greatest artists came from the rap battle scene which is a competition to see who can diss their opponent with the most skill and wit. Look, if you want to listen to a humble rapper, Macklemore is right there for you.
Also, Kanye knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows how people perceive him. He even wrote a whole fucking song about it called “Runaway”. “And I always find something wrong. You’ve been putting up with my shit way too long…Let’s have a toast for the douche bags, let’s have a toast for the assholes…run away from me baby, run away as fast as you can.” On his newest album, he has a track called “I Love Kanye” which is just him freestyling what the general public *thinks* a Kanye freestyle would be, a joking thread about loving himself. The chuckle at the end shows that he’s not taking that seriously. And remember when James Franco and Seth Rogen did that hilarious parody of Kanye’s “Bound 2” video? Kanye LOVED that. Ask Seth Rogen. In interviews, he’s said that Kanye actually asked the two of them to perform that at his wedding, but they said no because it would have been really awkward.
Listen, I know many of you are dead set on your anti-Kanye stance, and that’s fine. I’m not asking you to like him. You do you, I’ll do me, whatever gets you through the night, come as you are, etc. I just hope that I could at least paint a solid picture for why I’m a fan of Kanye and that you don’t spread your Kanye hatred on to me.
Remember, this man said, “George Bush does not care about black people” on live, national television. That alone should at least give him a bit of a pass in everyone’s books.
Finally, don’t take this as an endorsement of the Kardashians. Fuck them, but also consider how much energy you waste when you complain about them or Kanye in social media. They don’t affect you personally. Let it go.