The summer of Kanye West
It would take years to pour through all the artists Kanye has touched in his relatively young career. Many people will claim he is past his prime. Even Kanye said, “I miss the old Kanye” in I Love Kanye from 2016’s The Life of Pablo. However, the summer of 2018 may have been his most important, inspired and controversial stretch of his career, three words that always come to mind when he is mentioned.
What is importance in music? It can be measured in a variety of ways; popularity based on sales, artistic statement, use of influences, scope of influence, originality, etc. In contemporary music, one group seems to always be mentioned in the conversation of the grandest legacy: The Beatles. Every release by The Beatles can only be described as important. Frankly, the same can only be said for one other artist.
One could go into vivid detail about every album or even every song Kanye had with massive influence of modern music. Artists such as Chance the Rapper, Drake, Brockhampton, J. Cole, Travis Scott, Kid Cudi and many other chart-topping artists have been quick to cite Kanye as a main source of inspiration for one song or another, sometimes even their style as a whole. Drake was wholly influenced by the instrumentation and mood set by 2008’s 808’s and Heart Breaks. Chance the Rapper’s soul infused Hip-Hop origin came from his mentor Kanye. Recent breakout self-proclaimed “greatest boy-band in the world” have blatant Kanye inspiration through the group’s meeting through a Kanye West fan forum.
The summer began with a whole slew of misinformed politically driven statements. However, whether one agrees with an artist’s opinions should be looked at separately from what they produce. He managed to put out five albums, all under thirty minutes in length, a venture that has never necessarily been taken on by an artist and producer in the past.
West released five albums in a five week span this summer. Daytona by Pusha T, Nasir by Nas and KTSE by Teyana Taylor are all standout albums in each artists respective career that Kanye added to his resume. However, of his recent releases, his solo alum Ye and his collaborative effort with Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts, stand alone as Kanye’s most inspired and ground-breaking works to date.
At 23 minutes in length, Ye acts as a statement on West’s waning mental health as he deals with his bi-polar disorder. The cover reads in bright green handwriting “I have being Bi-Polar it’s awesome” on a backdrop of a beautiful looming mountain, a weird, yet sensible balance reminiscent of the music to be found within.
The first three tracks on the album are dark, evil and lustful. What follows is what brings this album to an elevated level. Four of Kanye’s most beautiful and vulnerable songs that describe his realization of all his life mistakes. Specifically, he details his growing realization of his mistreatment of women as he raises his own daughters. The standout track, however, is Ghost Town, a bizarre and haunting four and a half minutes that simply makes sense for someone struggling in life.
As grand, beautiful and fresh as Ye felt, it was completely over-shadowed by what may be Kanye’s greatest project. Kids See Ghosts is the collaboration with Kid Cudi that no one knew they needed. It takes on a very similar revelation of thy self, but in a much more aggressive and haunting way.
The album opens with some sort of a mantra as Cudi repeats, “I’m so reborn, keep moving forward. Ain’t no stress on me Lord. I’m moving forward, keep moving forward.” It sets the tone for a bizarre psychedelic experience unlike anything else. The next song 4th Dimension samples a 1930’s Christmas song and completely reinvents what a sample can be.
The rest of the album is filled with unusual samples and instrumentation ranging from Kanye screaming and pan flutes. The final song Cudi Montage samples a Kurt Cobain guitar riff and ends the album with the words “stay strong” echoing vividly leaving the listener speechless and in awe.
Upon my first listen of these two albums, it brought me back to a thought that has perpetually stuck with me: “who is The Beatles of our generation?” If it is no one else, it must be Mr. West. No other artist has touched as many people and used their influences in such a strong and necessary way. In the world of important careers in music, Kanye and the Fab Four stand alone.
Luke Orlando, a junior, studies Marketing. He is a staff writer for Le Provocateur.