By Gee King
It’s been too long since the music world got to experience a true Kanye season. Last year’s Cruel Summer run provided only a sampling of the energy we’ve come to expect when a new Yeezy project is in the air. The year before that was Watch The Throne, which presented a relatively sedated ‘Ye as he wisely followed his big brother Jay-Z’s lead and kept his outbursts to a minimum. But 2013 promises to bring the first full-blown Kanye experience since 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and fans and critics are already beside themselves trying to figure out what to expect.
Now five solo albums deep, Kanye has mastered every aspect of his creative process with a precision no rapper has ever matched. From the mysterious international sabbaticals he takes to center his creative spirit to the Hawaii-based studio boot camp he records in, Kanye’s perfectionist quirks have consumed every detail of his creative life. Both fans and critics adore his dedication and the superior product it begets, but they also struggle to grasp the mindset of a genius who loves contradiction and controversy more than fame and fortune.
Why does he have to be such an ass? Why can’t he give interviews like a regular celebrity? Why can’t he just be happy with the money and notoriety? That’s what he wanted in the first place, right? While the Lauryn Hill’s and Dave Chappelle’s of the world fled the spotlight for the “simple life”, Kanye has spent most of his career complicating things; sacrificing his sanity to prove the insane nature of the world. The fallouts of his many infamous episodes taught him the power he holds when he speaks his truth in spite of political correctness or common sense. But what stage will he crash with his next heroic dose of truth? Or, more importantly, what does he have to say this time that will be worth his and our time?
The rants he’s been letting off at live performances since last December have given some insight into where his mind and heart are set at the moment. His pro-creative, anti-corporate sentiment is nothing revolutionary, but hearing it from one of the world’s biggest pop stars is more interesting than hearing it from scorned underground artists who never tried their odds against the mainstream machine. ‘Ye’s latest rant was against the celebrity culture that sees no issue with paparazzi stalking idols and selling gossip. “I’ma a terrible celebrity,” he shouted while performing at a private Adult Swim event. He went on to mock the notion that the purpose of his upcoming Saturday Night Live appearance was to “humanize” himself in wake of his recent run-ins with paparazzi. “At what point did I become unhuman where I had to turn myself back? Or maybe I was demonized. Maybe I was treated inhumane.”
With a baby with tabloid queen Kim Kardashian on the way, the paradox of celebrity is clearly the most pressing issue in Yeezy’s life. So we should expect an album that attacks mainstream America’s obsession with the rich and famous with a polarizing brilliance that only Kanye can provide. Sadly, the music he’s been previewing for audiences lacks the sonic and conceptual electricity that songs like “Diamonds,” “Power” and “Runaway” offered in the past. It’s too early to judge from iPhone concert-footage, but “Awesome” sounded like a step back from his latest group and solo work. To be fair, fans didn’t know how to digest 2008’s 808s & Heartbreak though in retrospect, it stands as one of his most important albums. Besides driving Mr. West’s emotional rollercoaster to it’s lowest lows, the auto-tuned album created a lane for the Drake’s and Kid Cudi’s of today while blowing the roof off of Hip Hop’s creative limits.
All of it leads back to his original mission: “I’m tryna make some music that inspires people to be the best they can be,” he told the Adult Swim audience. “And I don’t want nobody to ask nothing else of me.” As long as the music is great, it sounds like a fair deal. And a full-blown Ray J diss is non-negotiable.