POINT: Music needs Kanye West


Tyler White

Kanye Adam is given life by Kanye God

Never will you meet someone who doesn’t have an opinion on Kanye West. Not once in my life have I heard someone talk about Kanye with indifference, and I doubt I ever will. Usually you will get one of these three responses when you ask someone their opinion on Kanye West:  “I miss the old Kanye,” “He’s a jerk” (or something along those lines), or “He’s a genius.”

Kanye has always stood out from the pack. That’s one thing that everyone can agree on. He made a name for himself with his trademark production sound that incorporated sped-up soul samples and helped to make Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint” the rap classic it is today.

In 2004, he released his first album, The College Dropout. At the time, it contrasted sharply with rap’s “gangsta” image with its honest and down-to-earth lyrics. Rap had become content with being a bragging contest, yet Kanye breathed life back into the genre with the funny, emotional and honest album that is The College Dropout.

Kanye’s skills as a producer were already solidified, but this confessional lyrical style challenged the norms in rap music and he has carried this sense of unabashed honesty with him in everything he’s done in his career. His refusal to conform to the typical “gangsta” mold helped to change the direction of hip-hop.

In 2008 things really took a turn with his fourth album, 808s and Heartbreak. Inspired by the death of his mother and his breakup with his fianceè, Kanye made one of the bravest artistic shifts in music history. Instead of rapping, Kanye sang with auto-tune on top of bleak, minimal, electronic production. It was a daring artistic decision that began the more experimental and recent part of of his career. Kanye’s honesty and passion led to an album that reflected the loss and loneliness he was feeling at the time.

While 808s was his weakest album musically, it showed one of the world’s biggest artists was unafraid to challenge his audience and value, making an artistic statement by producing radio-friendly radio hits.

In 2009, the infamous Taylor Swift incident occurred, and the whole country seemed to think Kanye deserved to die a thousand deaths for interrupting the innocent little girl from Nashville. Kanye, in return, holed up and recorded the greatest masterpiece of his career: 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, whose only fault is having too many syllables in its title.

It was his worst selling album at that point with the majority of songs over five minutes long, yet the critics still raved over it. Where 808s was his bravest album, Twisted Fantasy ‘s heavily layered production, and lyrical themes of excess and celebrity made it his boldest. Kanye made an album that lived up to his ego, and that is no small feat.

Now Kanye has released a very different masterpiece: the humbly titled Yeezus. The albums sound consisted of an abrasive mix of industrial, trap and house music. Kanye’s raps seemed to be more stream of consciousness than well-written, leading to some cringe-worthy raps as well as some fantastic lines. Kanye’s inability to censor himself is just another testament to his unyielding honesty which tends to land him in the most trouble.

In a musical climate where everything seems too inauthentic and safe, Kanye is the only mainstream artist willing to bring an edginess and experimentalism his music. Throughout his career, Kanye has time and time again challenged musical norms and pushed the envelope for what hip-hop can be.

While most mainstream artists produce safe, bland and  inoffensive pop songs, Kanye West wears his heart on his sleeve and has made some of the most exciting and honest music of our time. The tabloid headlines and massive ego can be off-putting for many, but the fact of the matter is that music needs an artist that can divide, challenge and captivate audiences. That artist is Kanye West.