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It’s been three years since the release of Yeezus, and six since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (MBDTF). One thing remains constant:
Kanye West is a fucking genius when it comes to music. Especially when it comes to the progression of a genre.
Every album he has released has shifted the rap scene by leaps and bounds. College Dropout led to the revival of the soul sound; Late Registration influenced the use of heavy sampling; Graduation impacted the fusion of pop and rap; 808s saw the creation of the emotional rapper (paving the road for artists like Drake and Frank Ocean); MBDTF expanded the types of sounds rap uses; and Yeezus incorporated musical white-space as a way to force the listener to feel uncomfortable.
Progressions are immensely healthy to a musical genre. Without progression, a genre grows stale and old, and what was once a classic can become painted in a new, worse light. The advancement of a genre introduces the listener to something new, and preserves older tracks allowing them to sound like a relevant moment in time.
With Kanye’s new album, The Life of Pablo (TLOP), there were concerns that with so many things on his plate, Kanye was no longer in a place where he could continually and wholly dedicate himself to his craft. Concerns that he could no longer rework “Stronger” 72 times until he had a version he was happy with; that he could no longer be the captain of the ship in a tornado.
In some cases, the concerns are justified. Not in a negative manner; it feels like Kanye has taken more of a back seat role in this album, allowing for his younger counterparts to have input (#blamechance), making this the most collaborative album he has ever made. It shows in the guest features. Sure on MBDTF there were guest verses, but on TLOP there’s a guest performance on almost every track, and Kanye truly brings out the best in all of them. Chance the Rapper delivers the best verse of his entire career; relatively unknown newcomer Desiigner, with a molasses dripped voice reminiscent of Future, goes harder than Future has on his latest mixtapes. Kendrick performs exceptionally well even by Kendrick standards, and the plethora of gospel singers enlisted as back-up are absolutely spot on.
Make no mistake, this is a brilliant album.
Why then, are so many people trashing it? Is it the Tidal-only stream? (Don’t lie to me you fuckbois, it takes five minutes to download from there, and with half a million pirates already I suspect that Tidal wasn’t an issue for anyone). Was it the fact that this isn’t old Kanye, that this isn’t ‘College Dropout 2’, that he’s not biting drums from Dre anymore?
Or is it simply that it’s Kanye?