There is – quite literally – a lot of feedback when it comes to Mr West’s latest album. A few people have claimed that Kanye is on the verge of yet another ingenious revolution, even comparing Yeezus to 808s and Heart Breaks (the album that legalized auto-tune). But most comments on the album have generally been negative. In a clip on YouTube Charlemagne Tha God went as far as calling Kanye “irrelevant”. He points out that Yeezus is full of contradictions since on the one hand Kanye speaks against corporate America, claiming they are trying to make him one of “the new slaves” (this is actually the title of one of his songs) but on the other hand Kanye is taking millions from these same corporations in the form of sponsorships. So is Kanye just saying this to fit in with the whole occupy movement and with all the anti-corporation politics going on today in the U.S? He clearly perpetuates the consumerist culture and he thrives in its existence, regardless of what he says about it in his music.
Hold on now. So what if Kanye’s new album is yet another promotion of the get-money/spend-money culture? BIG DEAL. That can’t be the only reason for all the noise. In fact what struck me most about Yeezus was the noise – the strange sounds, the awkward rhythms and the high volume. The beats themselves make no attempt at impressing and they are mostly not catchy. They just suck. The one thing that definitely stands out though is Kanye’s lyrical prowess – and boy is he good on this one – if you can listen past all the chaos in the instrumental. But how did it come to this? How can one of the greatest producers in Hip Hop history produce such wack beats?
If we check out our playlists before Yeezus we’d probably find two sides to it. On the one side there’s Trap Music, with loud beats (really dope beats that are also really easy to make) and minimal lyrical content. On the other side of our playlists there are guys like J-Cole and Kendrick Lamar: guys with strong lyrical content and a story to tell. So in some ways we have a similar situation to when Crunk Music was the in thing (remember that?). And everyone was singing about swag and rapping on cheap electronically produced beats. And then Nas said “Hip Hop is dead” and things were never the same again. Today is a little different because of guys like Kendrick and Cole, who are clearly keeping a balance between beats and lyrics. But even so, if you ask me, the so-called “New School” sample too much. But that not all. As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, everywhere you look on the internet there are new rappers and they all have dope beats now, produced in bedroom-studios and marketed cheaply on the internet. Of course most of these new rappers all sound the same. Basically, everyone and anyone can make good beats but it seems that no one can make anything new – not even the “New School”. And with all these beats, it’s getting harder and harder to hear the rapper.
I think that for Kanye West, coming from a beat-making background and being one of the first rapper/producers, he must have been so bored in 2012! What else was there to do when everyone else was doing what he’d been doing for the last five years? But most importantly, in a world where wack rappers can hide behind cheap 808 instrumentals, maybe the best way to separate the best from the rest is to lose the beat.