“One of my biggest Achilles’ heels has been my ego. And if I, Kanye West, the very person, can remove my ego, I think there’s hope for everyone.”
I’ve had to remember that quote before criticizing Kanye. A large number of quotes make him look like an idiot, let's be fair. But that is him at most honest point - the world needs to see me more of that Kanye.
Kanye West isn’t hip-hop.
Over time, Kanye has become accessible to everyone and for that success, I congratulate him..
The difficult thing I had for years is accepting Kanye. I boxed him in. I got him wrong. I did the thing Kanye doesn’t want anyone to do. I understand that.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had a significant impact on my life. It’s an album that was out at a very important time of my life; everyone has one of those albums, right? Until that talk at Oxford last year - where the above quote has been lifted from - I was 100% against his opinions outside of lyrics and views in his songs. I labelled him as "hip-hop" and "hip-hop only".
For me and everyone else who grew up with rap in the 90s it was crucial for artists to be authentic. Authenticity was the most credible thing. Even if you weren’t the greatest lyricist, the realism would bring you through. Outside of lyrics, West was a clown.
It was difficult for me to disassociate Kanye: the rapper with Kanye: the person.
That all changed after the battle between 50 Cent and him. I felt it was astonishing that they’d ‘war’ over who would sell the most albums. In modern times, I’d just dismiss that sort of contest as two out of touch douchebags in the modern era that I can’t get with. I understood at the time and still do now that that was hip-hop. It’s competitive, 50 Cent and his ego allowed himself to be brazen enough to make those claims with confident swagger and likewise with Kanye West.
This battle was the moment it all changed. Kanye won. It changed the rules. It was no longer about lyrical authenticity. It was about music.
People that didn’t want to follow stayed listening to Fat Joe and or any artist Interscope would chime out fully covered in FUBU clothing and Lugz gear. The people that were involved in the change were the keys that opened the locks for more artistry in hip-hop - and enable a crossover for genres in music. The very fact that "Stronger" is in existence - and is one of his top three most popular tracks - is testament to that.
Regardless of the fact that Kanye has lost his connection to his original aims when first breaking through – try arguing this with me whenever you like – we should celebrate his new album because whether you like it or not, he releases great music, constantly.
The Life of Pablo is out 11/02/16