Thursday, March 27, 2014

From Dropout To God: 10-1

From Dropout To God: 40-31
From Dropout To God: 30-21
From Dropout To God: 20-11
Family Business
The College Dropout
Towards the end of College Dropout the motor behind the album takes a dive into the surreal. Sandwiched between Through The Wire & Last Call is the serene moment of divinity on Kanye’s debut, Family Business. It may not seem like it in today’s age but back then there wasn’t much talk in Hip-Hop about cherishing of family values and the commitment one must endure in holding up each other during struggling times. West, through three relaxing verses reminisces on the moments together with his family, mainly their meet-ups during reunions. The first relays the grief ensued upon first realization that some family aren’t present anymore, while the second focuses on the more joyous side, the third overcoming bitterness with one another for the sake of family. It’s a strong message during a time in Hip-Hop when no clear positive messages existed. Gracing his earnest letter is simplicity in the form of production, with a hushed piano and light drum procession musing over the topic. The icing on the cake however is the immaculate use of The Dells’ Funky Thang, seamlessly woven throughout the track, especially during the chorus to provide another level of depth to the discussion already occurring.

Niggas In Paris
Watch The Throne
With its overabundance of playtime on tour and on radio, Niggas In Paris was thee song of the summer of 2011. Kanye commissioned Hip-Hop producing prodigy Hit-Boy to formulate the catchiest beat to get heads bobbing. Using a bombastic drum line, 1-2 synth rupture, and choir vocal sample, the 26-year-old producer put his stamp on the game, dominating the airwaves. The beat would mean nothing however if it weren’t for the insanely quotable lyrics Jay-Z & Kanye West dish out. From their choice of Will Ferrell’s now legendary remark, to “Ball so hard,” to “That shit cray,” to “Don’t let me into my zone,” made the already catchy beat more addictive. I can’t tell you how many times I heard those phrases uttered on campus around that time. The real winner of the track however was the black community, and the acceptance of the N-word into national media. Paris, ideally regarded as an exquisite utopia with people of lavish taste, has now been taken over by Ye & Hov going gorilla. The song as a whole was meant to symbolize the overtaking of the world’s fashion, trends, and styles by way of the rappers that now dominate nearly every airwave across the world. Regardless of the underlying message, Niggas In Paris is one of the most accessibly addictive songs in recent memory, and one that will become etched in Hip-Hop lore for decades to come.

The Glory
Of all the songs Kanye has ushered through our ears that cover the topics of wealth, fame, and aspirations The Glory stands tall as the most successful one. With its appeal largely coming from its glorious (pun intended) production, West focuses on delivering his candid verses of appeal over arrogance to heightened effect. From the initial lines, “Can I talk my shit again?” to the closing “Fit in, get money and stunt and stay glorious/ And I’m gonna stop killing these niggas soon as the chorus hit” it’s clear Kanye’s topic of discussion is boisterous claims over his repeated fame, stepping over the failures of others. The astonishing arrogance Yeezy assumes on The Glory flawlessly showcases the publics two-sided reactions to him; half love him for his ability to combine conceitedness with talent, while the other despise him for being hypocritical and entirely self-centered. Using a sped-up Laura Nyro sample highly reminiscent of his past production endeavors before branching out into electro-pop, Kanye creates one of his most remarkable sampling performances, developing a characteristically beautiful harmony of church choirs and violin’s rapidly conformed to generate a entirely pop flavor. The beauty of his choir’s, something Kanye has used time and time again, are off on full effect here during the chorus, eliciting the ‘glory’ as another meaning entirely religious, something not hit on in the song but dramatically referenced in the sample it was taken from.

Hey Mama
Late Registration
Speaking of the former track and the hate surrounding his arrogance, lets delve into one that showcases his serenity. Hey Mama is Kanye’s ode to his mother, that much is obvious to anyone who glances upon the title. What lies beneath is West at his most endearing, most sincere, and most beautiful. Respect, especially over those who have raised you, is something inherit in nearly everyone growing up in the projects. Through the lines however, that respect becomes lost through Hip-Hop and the essence of family values in a positive manner are neglected to the masses. Here, Kanye thanks his mother for raising him the best she could, through the thick of it all. The piece itself is memorable enough but his performance of it following his mother’s death in 2007 during the Grammy’s solidified West’s place amongst the hearts of many, respecting him for his commitment and love to his family after the rapper broke down in tears. As with many of Kanye’s more subdued songs a somber piano piece, this time more childlike, dominates, while a string segment, as per usual on Late Registration appears, and a soul sample, chopped and pitch shifted, looms over the heartwarming production. The finale sees these products organically flowing while West wistfully croons the title until it’s just him left celebrating his mother.

My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy
From the gold-encrusted, religiously-infused music video to the backing hymnic chants, to the discussion at hand, everything is done to perfection, making Kanye’s boisterous claim that five thousand man-hours went into creating this masterpiece of a track. Metaphors, double meanings, and loose ends are abound here, as West oozes over the concept of ‘Power,’ something he carries with him until he lets it all go. From the chorus’ stomping line “No one man should have all that power,” to the finale “You got the power to let power go?” it’s clear Kanye’s critiquing those who abuse their privilege, when true power means giving up before the trip gets worse. Couple this with the definitive sample of “21st century Schizoid Man” to both symbolize that song’s critiques over the Vietnam war and Kanye’s own true-to-form replication of that statement over himself. It’s clear West has been hypocritical about numerous things, many of which people denounce him for, and yet it’s clear that the rapper himself is well aware of this flaws he encounters. Where Yeezy dominates on the vocals, S1 delivers on the stunning, heart-stomping production. From his use of sampling down to the rhythmic chants and militaristic drums, through the hard-nosed guitar segments, all the way to the synth swirls surrounding Dwele’s closing laughs, the beat stands as one of the most well-thought out in Kanye’s discography.

Jesus Walks
The College Dropout
After a couple decades of integrated, bland topics of content for the Hip-Hop community to play over the radio, Jesus Walks was the first true song to break the mold over religion and its acceptance as a positive form in the aforementioned community. Prior, anything violent, despicable, or sin-like was worship and promoted by not just the rappers, but the DJ’s who gave those records spins on the airwaves. Kanye critiques this saying that he doesn’t care if it don’t get played, he just wanted to get the message out that regardless of the negativity that surrounds your life, Jesus will always walk with you. Ironically, it did get played and was used as the third single off College Dropout, reaching #11 on the billboard Top 100. Symbolically, the song steers clear of any positive sound, choosing to incorporate a drill line sergeants, jail time hymns, and rolling drums to provide a powerful contrast, showing once again, that Jesus walks with those who’ve done wrong or are wrongfully put in a bad place. This track, and accompanying music video, also shows off early signs of Kanye’s hypocritically nature. Every inmate is black and every sheriff is white. The former shown as innocent and backed by Jesus, while the latter staunch, aggressive and on a power trip. It’s unclear whether West would continue on believing Jesus walks with everyone, considering that would also mean the officers breaking the black community down.

Street Lights
808's & Heartbreak
The centerpiece of 808’s & Heartbreaks is also the second shortest, requiring an intro, hook, and bridge repeated twice to down the strongest message on the album in the simplest way. Life is fleeting; moments pass by like streetlights in the night. It may seem like Kanye’s mid-life crisis track, and it holds true, considering the feelings of isolation, desperation, and worthiness cover the entirety of the song. It’s also interesting to note that his line “I’m just not there in the streets” is a remarkable double entendre, showcasing simultaneously his isolation from the successes around him and the feelings that Kanye himself has lost touch with reality, the streets he grew up in are now entirely foreign to him. But where the song truly shines is within the sounds. From the beautiful warped violin strings in the opening, to the lingering piano hits, to the thumping bass, to the background vocals, male and female, that accompany Kanye from the second half onwards, the track is a solemn look into a man lost in the world, and the production shows that off impeccably. West here also shines, singing with such a beautiful cadence that requires no use of auto-tuned extract. It’s a humble approach, nestled in the center of his most depressing album, and as it dwindles down to a close West echoes “Life’s just not fair,” with such serenity that it truly seems like a shifting point in his career.

New Slaves (Ft. Frank Ocean)
From the moment Kanye’s emotionless face appeared projected on the sides of 66 buildings across the world everyone knew something special was coming. Blatant topics of revitalized slavery in the modern day hit off the opening lines and continue throughout. Insults, backhanded rhymes, and unashamed brags are sprinkled throughout, most noticeably on the legendary chorus, “You see, there’s leaders and there’s followers, but I’d rather be a dick than a swallower.” Not something you’d hear on the radio. The best way Kanye could have revealed his anti-establishment motto was to project his face on the side of their buildings, denouncing that his presence alone far outweighs the company’s themselves. The track gave way to Kanye’s next alteration into the vicious, subconscious of the man so fed up with the hierarchy he experiences inside the wealthy class. But damned if he can’t fit in a litany of memorable lines throughout, from “You see it’s broke nigga racism, that’s that don’t touch anything in the store/ and there’s rich nigga racism, that’s that come and please buy more” to “Y’all throwing contracts at me, you know that niggas can’t read,” New Slaves plays like a denouncing of the system through clear truths and shameless critiques. Formulating a backing minimalist production using one single synthetic bass line to compliment Yeezy’s brutal assertions, the record holds true to the album’s minimalist approach. That is before the utter and disruptive song-within-song change that encroaches on the ending, using a sample from Hungarian rock band Omega, as Kanye’s auto-tuned wailings of getting to high immediately elicit a return to Dark Fantasy’s “Could we get much higher?” Its sentiment rains true.

Gone (Ft.Consequence & Cam'ron)
Late Registration
The stunning conclusion to his second album, Late Registration, Gone represents the spirit of the record stylistically as a whole. As evidenced throughout the album, Jon Brion’s use of orchestral accompaniment to compliment West and his vision worked exceedingly well, and no where is that more vivid than on the closer. An entourage of musical symphonies progress as Cam’Ron, Consequence and West all turn in all-time lyrical performances. Beginning with the flip of Otis Redding’s It’s Too Late with a simple two note piano progression we began our journey into witnessing one of the most well thought-out and complex Hip-Hop songs ever recorded. Ten violin’s, four cellos, and four violas echo in and out of the verses providing backing and an addition of rhythmic pattering to the immensely talented flows presented here. All the meanwhile Redding’s voice hops in and out expressing that “It’s too late, he’s gone.” Combine this perfectionist nature with Consequence’s most highly-regarded verse in his multiple alterations of the word ‘gone,’ while closing it out, both literally and symbolically, Kanye throws down his most highly-touted verse, incorporating vocal shifts to coincide with the changes of percussions, higher and lower, before finally cutting off all circulation to the track with “They say sorry, Mr.West is gone.” The track itself represented strongly the changing of guard ever-present from this point on in West’s life. He recognized his brilliance for unorthodox compositions on Late Registration and made a conscious decision to press forward, pushing the boundaries of Hip-Hop and denouncing its limitations. The old Kanye West from this point forward was gone.

Runaway (Ft. Pusha T)
My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy
The masterpiece on the magnum opus. Everyone knew it would be here, but sometimes the obvious choice is the right one. No other song on Kanye West’s discography best represents everything about the troubled, conflicting artist than Runaway, the centerpiece of My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy. It’s a dissection of Kanye West as a human, done by none other than Kanye West. From the opening single piano taps, to the closing distorted beyond the point of reason auto tune that drastically concludes the track, Runaway plays out like a Greek tragedy in scope and sound. The classic hook is introduced by Pete Rock drums and Rick James’ hollering of “Look at ya,” meant to symbolize the introspective nature of the track. From there on out, Kanye’s ode to the douchebags, himself included, is matched only by his pleads at the woman to leave them, or runaway. It’s also worth noting that running away is exactly what Kanye did to create this album.  What makes Runaway so special is that it may be the only track Kanye has ever laid to record where he is outright critiquing himself for the wrongs he’s accrued during his life, down to admitting his inability at handling woman. Using Pusha T to verse a “young, rich & tasteless” male during the middle of a song dominated by Yeezy is a bold move that works out wonders, stylistically and conceptually. Runaway works also, as does most of the album, as the combination of all Kanye’s previous works. The pitched sampling of College Dropout, the orchestral production of Late Registration, Graduation’s maximalist approach, & 808’s auto tuned desperation. The song combines everything anyone ever needs to hear and know about Yeezus into one, nine-minute collage of musical clarity.

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