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.