Kanye West still sucks on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
G.O.O.D Music

Kanye West raps as though he is the downtrodden man. Such exclamations from the mouth of a multi-platinum selling artists (I stole this record, I’m not paying for this shit) are  hysterical for a sexist, egoist, who seems to lack both grace and any real connection to the real world or the true downtrodden man. Considering that the first words uttered of Kanye on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (that title is too long and unpoetic, I can never recall the whole thing) is “yeah,” we know from the get go we can expect no revelation of true genius/madness/sadness/sickness, but the same old Kanye. At the very least Mr. West refrains from dropping a few “uhs” into the mix, but these gripes are the least controversial offerings Mr. West can give us.

The best part about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy comes right in the beginning, where he both brags about how much head he gets and yet how Kanye is considered a less talented icon to the beloved Beatles. Seeing as both were all sensation and contain such little substance, they were both made to be the perfect distraction for the consumptive driven American public. Two songs in, and I’m already wanting to drive my car into a crowd of headphone connected kids who might be listening to this. A tip boys a girls, no matter what Kanye says in “Gorgeous”, he is not subject to TSA searches when he flies, nor does the boy wunder fly coach. I am sure his cash flow gets him to the front of the line and in first class when he does succumb to flying commercially.

Kanye’s restraint is almost admirable. It takes him three whole songs before he calls an unlucky woman a “bitch”. The over-indulgent “Power” brings us West at his most egomaniacal, his precious thoughts being upended upon the public, despite the struggle he endured tearing himself away from the party to be alone with his thoughts. The swirling guitar lines that transverse the entire track distract from the core beat an actually pretty uplifting vocal sample. But this grating ear pollution can not overcome some of the most banal rapping I’ve heard. Kanye can flow, but only with trite references to the Obama nation, the film Lost in Translation and how awesome he is. Things only get worse ladies. I know you love him, but let’s be reasonable.

During “All of the Lights,” a highlight track musically that would have been better in the hands of a Mos Def or Q-Tip, Kanye’s lamenting both Michael Jackson and hitting a woman in the first lines. And this album has already been called “easily the most thrilling album of 2010” by the Washington Post and hailed with a 10.0 by Pitchfork? This is not acceptable. The established media continues to trump up hip-hop as the CNN of the streets and Kanye here is being presented to a larger audience as some nuanced threat whose showing the public their reflection. West repeatedly gets a pass for his violence and degradation of women by media outlets who want to jump on the party wagon. Why? Because he can throw out a decent track every once in a while?

Recently, Kanye lamented about that being accused of being a racist (here’s a tip Kanye, you are) was one of the worst things he was ever accused of. He went so far as to almost apologize to George W. Bush for calling him a racist (here’s another tip Kanye, he is a racist, don’t apologize to him for that, apologize to the American public for not using your platform to articulate the actual issues) . Such public flailing can’t possibly be admirable when you follow it with self-healing in the global plaza of television with an album that contains violence against women. West isn’t even apologetic on “All of the Lights,” all he wants is access to his daughter, who can’t possibly navigate the ‘ghetto university’ without his  actualized world view. That kid is better off with out you dude, she doesn’t need to grow up in an environment of the ‘champagne wishes/30 white bitches’ you have to offer her.

A few dope beats and a self-indulgent album that is punishing to endure gets you branded an unsung hero. Acting like the court jester, but failing to actually challenge any tangible social or political issues with any real insight gets you the attention of an eager public. The inability to articulate any idea with any compassion in any type of coherent matter lands you the carte blanche from the public to open your mouth whenever the fancy strikes you. In a society that loves the limitations of 140 characters for expression in an onslaught of the idiocy that all of us hold, Kanye West is the master. That he is actually able to sit still long enough and craft over an hour of music, that has it’s tides of good and bad like any commercial hip hop album, is the true feat of genius here. It’s not that the music is brilliant, sometimes it is, but mostly it’s just samples over beats and repetitive plinks of electronic instruments. It’s not that the lyrics are meaningful in any universal way, it’s fairly clear that Kanye is only concerned with himself and his own experience. No, what makes this album so extraordinary is how the collective conscience celebrates the underachieving, simply because we find it entertaining. We are not concerned with content, even when it reinforces the worst kinds of behavior and attitudes that plague the human experience. It’s not Kanye West that disappointing, it’s a society that exalts this behavior, encouraging the worst from each other.

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7 thoughts on “Kanye West still sucks on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

  1. At what point should an artist be separated from his music? Was Michael Jackson just some child molesting scumbag? Was Johnny Cash just some alcoholic, womanizing asshole? Why should they be granted granted carte blanche and not Kanye West? Several of the reviews I’ve read for this album pointed out that their high ratings are because they make a distinction between the music and the man behind it (even if the music is often ABOUT the man behind it, and so such a distinction becomes muddled. But even then it’s not like Cash didn’t do that.)

    So where do YOU draw the line? Clearly, not at the same place “professional” reviewers have. Is it at a different place than for other artists? Why?

  2. No artist should be seperated from their art. One, it’s not possible for the person and their experiences to not inform the art they create. Further, anything created in public is up for public review. No public figure should be granted carte blanche for anything they do. They, the artist put their art up for review, I review it.

    That “professional” reviewers historically fail to take mainstream hip hop to task for it’s continual sexism, misogyny and violence against women both in art and in culture is frankly deplorable. I have and will continue to review mainstream and independent hip hop with out hero worship. There is a distinction between Kanyes use of the word bitch and Tiltwheels use of the word cunt for example. Both have to be examined by the listener (in this case me) and worked out. Further, public action, interviews and history inform how art is viewed. The recent Die Antwoord video and track “evil boy” could be viewed as sexist, but the context of it is explained in interviews that contextualizes the culture it was created in. “evil boy” is in part a refltection on South African tribal practices of male genital mutilation as a right of passage. The overt celebration of the penis is thereof put in a different context.

    There is nothing I have found in mainstream hip hop and of Mr. West recently that leads me to believe that the continuation of misogyny and violence in their art is separate from the views of the individual. And even if he is being falsely accused here, his art should then either ignore such trends or be influenced by the true nature of the person. Kanye is a shitty entertainer, who sometimes makes incredible music, but is mostly boring and over hyped by professional critics who refuse to contextualize or are sexist themselves.

    Also, Johnny Cash was not a drunk or a cheat. He had two wives, one of which he was married to for over forty years until they died. He also a abused pills. Also, I don’t think addicts should be judged for their diseases. Just to clarify.

  3. I’d say most of your review is on point, except for that random barb at the Beatles. I realize that fans are often overzealous in their devotion to the Beatles canon, but all sensation/little substance? A bit overdramatic, I’d say.

    Feel free to dislike them, but to say that they are a neat parallel to Kanye is insulting and just plain wrong.

    1. S.T.

      The barb at the Beatles was not random, and as it is my opinion it can’t be wrong. The point I was making here was two fold. The Beatles had an unusual popularity for a pop music band, they were loved and scrutinized by mass populations and adored by legions of world wide fans. Very often the music is held in a higher regard than quality actually allows for. The beginning of their career is a staple of low grade, standard pop love songs which devolved, terribly, into overwrought minutia and studio experimentation. Their biggest hits were still pop hit standards, usually written by McCartney, with Lennon’s previous interest sometimes interjected. So point two, as pop icons, they were loved more for what they represented then what they actually produced. Most people who listened to the Beatles when they were popular were tween girls, interested in boys and pissing off their parents. They utilized this media focus later in their career to ramble about their own nonsense, sometimes poignant and on point, but mostly just bullshit. Sound like Kanye? I think so.

      So, no, I don’t think the comment was over dramatic. That’s a pretty strong accusation. One I don’t take too kindly too, especially first thing in the morning. I have a working, if disgusted, knowledge of the Beatles, their history and their music. Please don’t insult me with secondary internet comments that are far too easy to dismiss.

  4. I wasn’t intending to be snippy, but perhaps reading comments sections in the morning is a bad idea for you!

    I certainly wasn’t writing to “dismiss” your opinion, and generally think such competitive flaming to be pointless and rude.

    Again, your dislike of the Beatles wasn’t the focus of my comment; I was referring to that description of “all sensation”…”little substance.”

    I guess it depends on one’s definition and standards of measurement for substance, but the Beatles didn’t only put out (very fun) fluff; they also have songs with more expressive or emotional heft like In My Life, Strawberry Fields, For No One, Julia, Day in the Life, Something, and even Yesterday.

    No doubt, you find these to be cheesy or maudlin or phony or whatever, but many people disagree, and find them to be emotionally resonant. I’m sure there are some people moved by Kanye’s songs as well, but I’d hope that the two of us could agree that he can’t write anything that’s not immediately topical or totally about Kanye. He’s all about autobiographical enshrinement rather than any stab at poetic emotional truth. Hate the Beatles all you want, but at least give them more credit than this clown!

    You also seem very much concerned with surrounding biography. You mentioned the historical context of the Beatles as proof of their fluffiness, and hardly discussed the music itself! I like to understand context as well, and am well aware of the Beatles’ story, but it’s only a superficial concern compared to my soaking up of their music.

    I would argue that, unless the artist puts their life into their art, it’s unfair to judge the latter by the former. If “Thriller” had songs about sleepovers with 6 year olds, I wouldn’t even think of listening to it. Kanye’s misogyny seems to be fairer game, since he seems (to me, at least) only to know how to write about himself.

    The Beatles enjoyed some aspects of their fame and loathed other aspects (see: John’s attempts to scare away his fans in the 70s), but they couldn’t really help much of it. So, “I think their music is saccharine and overly stylized” would be a fine criticism, but their overhyping is more a criticism of fans and critics, and shouldn’t affect one’s evaluation of the Beatles themselves.

  5. Everything you say about the Beatles though, also rings resonantly true for Kanye’s music, it’s criticism and popular love. Yea, he wrote fun songs like “Gold Digger” but he also wrote topical songs like “Sierra Leone” The Beatles and Kanye are both human and presumably not made of megalomaniacs incapable of emotion. Further, Kanye has struggled with aspects of fame, in a very hyper, public type of way, through public and social media.

    Artists by nature are supposed to explore the human emotion. And yes, there are moments where the Beatles had some decent poetry, but again, even Kanye can flow with incredible skill and insight from time to time. That doesn’t a genius make. I would also argue that both the Beatles and Kanye are more topical rather than universal, the time and place in which they created music having huge effects on the lyrical content. Through out the 60’s and 70’s during the “free love” movement, the Beatles music is the soundtrack to that mindless way of thinking. It is considered the quintessential poetry. That doesn’t make it necessarily good. Their best musician was George Harrison, basically overlooked still to this day. Other wise, the standard blues based music, accompanied as I have said by studio trickery allowed to them by big budgets, is basic and plain and to my ears, shows little creativity and rarely a unique language that couldn’t be found in other music of that time period.

    Kanye on the other hand writes about himself, mostly, in a time period where the self is at the center of western culture. We all, myself included, have our own public space now, in the form of blogs, flickr pages, facebook, twitter, youtube, etc. Broadcasting the whims and mundane thoughts is not only easy, it’s common place. Kanye is not special in that public performance. In fact, that’s part of what makes his lyrical content so mundane, is how alike his internet presence is to his art. He too has had his falling out in the public, either planned or completely misguided. That’s part of why people love him. He can make an ass out of himself and he is forgiven. Like the Beatles, he has used his public stance for moments of brilliance, but again like the Beatles, offers only soundbites, and no real substance to the message. As for his music, he hits some pretty good moments of production, some of that shit is down right insane and for my money I wish better, more constructive rappers would get their hands on those tracks. Instead, he tweets and gets all sexist and violent on top of them, making him no different then the 20 or 30 other shitty hip hop records that get released on the public every week.

    The time and space in which music is made is very important to the music itself. If as a listener,that isn’t important to youl, I can’t help you too much. My criticism of both The Beatles and Kanye speaks to the context of the music and lyrics (The Beatles wrote crappy, basic blues based pop songs, Kanye writes basic hip hop songs replete with sexism). Surely you can see that. A critical look at history and culture is not secondary, but necessary when talking about pop art, high art, bad art and great art. That I choose to be critical of pop art more then even bad art is my choice, and probably a bad one at that. But pop art, as much of it I detest, is interesting to me. Critical and cultural reaction to pop art is interesting to me. But just because The Beatles spoke to a generation that gave birth to rampant capitalism under the guise of free love bullshit doesn’t make their music the workings of genius. Much the same that just because Kanye speaks to a generation in which rampant sexuality and thus sexual violence and sexism are the norm does not make his work the creation of the divine.

  6. I can see what you’re saying a little more now, though I still think that the Beatles at least have some songs that are more “universally” appealing than even the best of Kanye.

    “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” is one of Kanye’s more poignant moments, but a newspaper article could be just as poignant. It’s topical and very specific in its content.

    The Beatles have some overtly topical stuff, like Revolution and The Ballad of John & Yoko, for sure, and those are only charming if you agree with the points, or care about John and Yoko’s biographies (understandable if you don’t).

    But they also have songs like Strawberry Fields. Now, it may very well be that the song is largely informed by John’s growing insularity and martyr complex, and also by the specific political climate of the time, but it’s written abstractly enough to resonate, on a personal level, with anyone who’s ever wanted to escape into blissful ignorance from a harsh and complicated world. Reversed guitar tracks and sitar arrangements (and all references to “love”) are elements that date the Beatles’ songs to the 60’s, but poetic aspects such as this knowing escapism in Strawberry Fields are what make them much more resistant to dating than Kanye. And that’s just one example song; there are others–even autobiographical ones, like Julia–that are expressive, yet elliptical enough to allow for emotional identification by many different kinds of listeners.

    I guess one could argue that the whole pursuit of making “timeless” music, to make something that ends up as a standard that Frank Sinatra might want to sing (like Something, or Yesterday), is itself dated. And there may be some truth to that. But that dated pursuit has also likely contributed to continued interest in the Beatles by successive generations of fans. Sure, hype and mythology can play a role too, but ultimately people gravitate to what sounds good to them. In contrast, I predict that, in twenty years, a current critic’s favorite like Kanye will only be worshiped by talking heads on VH-1, and perhaps known for a few singles that people find catchy and dancey. He does seem to be “of the moment,” and this album’s unfolding was perhaps a cultural event (that I admittedly missed, since I don’t really see the appeal of his online antics), but I don’t see any real staying power.

    My initial distaste at your comparison is perhaps because I find little that’s redeeming in Kanye’s work. He has some talent, but it’s overshadowed by his shortsightedness, lack of taste or restraint, and lack of expressive resonance beyond his own personal experiences. I can see some similarities, but for me (someone who actually likes the Beatles) the differences are far too important!

    For someone like yourself, though, such emotionally distant evaluations of two pop art acts you don’t give two shits about is likely much easier. So that’s understandable, at least now.

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