The Kanye West Rave
Kanye West is simply #$%*ing amazing! It's that simple and straightforward. There's just no denying he's one of the greatest artists working in the music industry today. Three classic albums in a row now. Three out of three. The first three of his career. Really now, how many artists have ever done that before? Back in September, when it first came out, I picked up his new album, "Graduation", and over the past few weeks it's just gotten better and better with every listen. The man has one hell of a big ego, but then again, few have ever had as much justification. I mean, it'd be good if he could tone it down a bit, but at least his boasting doesn't feel like the empty bullshit bravado of so many others. No, this overblown ego can be tolerated. Like some sort of '70's Stevie Wonder or '80's Prince, this is clearly someone bursting with talent, creativity and inspiration.
How good is he? Well, recently I tried to make a one-disc "Best of Kanye Mix", but it soon became quite apparent that it simply couldn't be done. I tried, honestly I did. But there was no way it could be done. There were just too many great songs. In the end I had to make it a 2-disc collection... and the guy's only released 3 albums so far!!
You want more proof of how good this guy is? How about this: A few weeks ago I was driving home despondent after a horrific 4-0 loss in a soccer game played in storm conditions - heavy rain and strong winds. I was shivering, depressed and bleeding. Oh and I had been kicked right in the head (accidentally) during the game as well. I had mud and sand pasted to my face and stuck inside my ear. Not a big deal after a win, but very very annoying and unsatisfying after a loss as bad as this one. So there I was driving back home feeling like shit when suddenly, within a minute or two of cranking the new Kanye CD, I was in a great mood singing and laughing. And, incidentally, I think I should mention we haven't lost a game since.
"Graduation" may not be as fun as the last album, "Late Registration", but it's great nonetheless. And, thankfully, it has none of those awful interludes that made the last two albums a bit annoying after the first few listens. The songs have always been great. The interludes/skits not so much. And the new album is all music, completely skitless.
Once again and as always, on this new disc Kanye is full of surprises and the unexpected. While on "Late Registration" he had Adam Levine of Maroon 5 guesting on "Heard 'Em Say", this time he has the decidedly non-hip-hop Chris Martin of Coldplay guesting on "Homecoming". And elsewhere he has John Mayer in a guest spot as well. But Mos Def, Jay Z and other regulars are here too of course. The samples range from such unlikely sources as Steely Dan, Elton John, Laura Nyro and Mountain, to the more typical likes of Michael Jackson and Public Enemy. Then there's the fantastic standout track "Stronger" with its Daft Punk samples and far out space-age beats and sounds. The guy's all over the place and it truly makes for great listening.
From the opening track "Good Morning" to the final track, "Big Brother", "Graduation" is, just like his first two albums, packed full of great tunes. But for my money the four best tracks are definitely:
- "Champion", which, rather than simply sampling, uses a whole passage from Steely Dan's "Kid Charlemagne" to great effect.
- "Stronger", which, as mentioned above, rocks to the beats of Daft Punk.
- "Homecoming", with Chris Martin.
- And, possibly best of all, "The Good Life" featuring T-Pain and Kanye's protégé John Legend. This is one fantastic song.
(Incidently, John Legend's debut, "Get Lifted", is one of my favorite albums from the last few years. Hell, judging by that one album he's almost in Kanye's class; however, in my mind, his second album didn't really maintain that same level of brilliance.)
So, yeah, four perfect songs to add to all the other classics he gave us on "The College Dropout" and "Late Registration". None greater than "Gold Digger", of course. But there are so many other amazing songs on those first two albums as well, such as "We Don't Care", "All Falls Down", "Spaceship", "Jesus Walks", "Never Let Me Down", "Breathe In Breathe Out", "School Spirit", "Heard "Em Say", "Drive Slow", "Diamonds From Sierra Leone", "Hey Mama", and "Gone" ... shit, just about every song on all 3 albums is fantastic. Well, perhaps not "Drunk and Hot Girls", the weak point on this new disc, but just about everything else.
Again, it definitely reminds me of the genius of Stevie Wonder back in the '70s, but Stevie had been around for years already by the time he peaked with not just 3, but 4 classic albums in a row starting with 1972's "Talking Book" through to '76's "Songs In The Key of Life". Kanye somehow arrived in peak form. Like Stevie, the man's a musical genius! Period.
Finally, still on the topic of Kanye, but at the same time a bit off topic, I just want to mention that I have an uncle - who sadly must remain unnamed - who went to see Kanye, though "dragged" is probably the more appropriate word here. He went together with his kids - my cousins - during a X'mas trip to Vegas a couple of years back and he loved it so much that he ended up getting so completely hammered that my aunt had to carry him back to their hotel room after only a few songs. Or that was his story, sources tell me he was hammered long before the show even started, which may explain why, before passing out, he kept yelling for more Kenny Chesney. But that's neither here nor there, that's just my uncle.
All that really matters is that you understand Kanye's greatness: Great driving music. Great party music. Great dancing around the living room with your young son (or daughter) music. Great concert music. Great anytime music.
Can't wait for classic album number four.
So, come on people, just accept it, if you haven't already, Kanye is definitely the real deal.
Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Saturday, November 3rd, 2007