Sunday, March 23, 2014

From Dropout To God: 20-11

From Dropout To God: 40-31
From Dropout To God: 30-21
From Dropout To God: 10-1
Murder To Excellence
Watch The Throne
On an album typically layered with cascading brags in an attempt the top the last brag or claim, Murder to Excellence strays into a drastically darker circle. West has always been vocal about the crimes and problems persisting in inner cities, but never as upfront as on here. He uses shocking statistics to illuminate the issues of Chiraq, the nickname given to his hometown, in detailed fashion. The flak Ye and Hov received however, giving equal value to the disparity over real life struggle and homicide and the problems they face as black figures in the upper echelon, triggered some to come to belief that they were both out of tune with the complications on the streets. In their defense, the duo aimed at aligning the struggle with the successes they’ve received into a rallying cry for black people. The less they kill, the higher chance they have at being respected and well represented in high society. The magnificent beats, provided by Swizz Beats & S1 respectively, sound entirely different and yet reflect off each other realistically, with each containing a repeating high-pitched sample meant to showcase the similarities of the two halves. Both also contain sharp, hard-hitting drums. Overall their simple feel production-wise highlights the two rappers words to create a stronger overall message.   
Everything I Am (Ft. DJ Premier)
If you ever run into an ignorant Kanye hater who despises the rapper for his egotistical ways direct them to this song. For it is exactly those people that allowed for West to be the popular and respected artist he is today. Like he states here, “Everything I’m not, made me everything I am.” There’s no denying Kanye’s lack of modesty, apathy and reliability in his later works, post-Graduation, but it’s exactly those unseen qualities, and the flooding of his negative ones, that created him into the pop sensation he is now. There’s no denying that Kanye loves to talk about Kanye, and once again, taking center stage here is his ability to simultaneously boast about his persona whilst also accepting himself for his inadequacy’s. Sometimes it’s the simplest sounds that deliver the strongest message. Here, with an elegant piano mesh, a soft-spoken vocal sample of Prince Philip Mitchell, and some primetime scratching by DJ Premier, Everything I Am is easily the most bare bones beat on Graduation. Even Yeezy recognizes the pristine nature of the production, comparing itself to the antithesis of himself; “I never be laid back as this beat was,” he claims early on. And it’s true, the stripped down, nostalgic production, combined with the recluse Kanye voice everyone knew and loved makes for a lovely track.  
Lost In The World (Ft. Bon Iver)
My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy
Taking Bon Iver’s ‘Woods’ as the prime introduction to the track lends itself more to the backstory of both records than to the production as a whole. Both artists, for drastically different reasons, isolated themselves from modern society only to return with a completed work of musical excellence, untethered by the current genre boundaries. What formed out of this combination was Kanye at his most desolate, a man so unsure of his own future that nothing on the entire earth could seem like a plausible solution. Whether metaphorically talking about the mainstream masses, or physically about a woman he loves, the first eight bars penned showcase Kanye’s complications over the true nature of anyone’s spirit. The music industry, along with his diehard fans, is what keeps him thriving and pushing for perfection. But it’s the same industry that denounces him to nothing more than a circus monkey, used as a laughing stock for a sizable portion of America. Consistently one of the most underrated songs on his magnum-opus, the production of Lost In The World, with its brash, clashing tribal drums, auto-tuned misery, and painful longing create an sensational feeling of disorientation to finish out the album. And as Gil Scott Heron proclaims as the song fades into his own spoken word, “Who Will Survive In America,” it becomes clear that Kanye himself is not so sure.
All Falls Down (Ft. Syleena Johnson)
The College Dropout
    Back when Kanye was ‘real.’ This song best exemplifies, lyrically and production-wise, what 2004-era Kanye West was all about. Bringing to light the everyday problems that many have to go through, dealing with their own insecurities. From the crack heads to millionaires, self-esteem and problematic material wealth destroys everyone consumed by it. On Syleena Johnson’s beautifully song hook, interpolated from a Lauryn Hill line, no matter what you buy and what it does for you it will always fall down. West also provides some of his most provocative, insightful lines here, including; “We buy our way out of jail but we can’t buy freedom” & “Drug dealer buy Jordan, crack head buy crack/ And a white man get paid off of all of that.” Its these ‘real talk’ that led many to admire West for bringing simplistic issues dealing with many modern day middle class citizens to the forefront of Hip-Hop, choosing to embellish in himself the problems of which he’s speaking about. Many would cite Kanye’s drastic changes to his take on fashion and wealth as a sign of a hypocritical man, and you would be right. Nowhere does it say a man cannot change who he wishes to become. West’s changing beliefs, styles and influences have directly led to his most experimental albums. But All Falls Down, down to the sampled guitar riff, hollow drums, and chipmunk singing, mimic exactly what many think of as ‘Kanye’ despite their ignorance of separating his different eras.    
Heard Em' Say (Ft. Adam Levine)
Late Registration
The most beautifully produced song off Late Registration, Heard Em’ Say evokes a sense of wonderment and hope for the struggling inner city kids worried about living to see another day. Tomorrow, especially for the struggling, black youth, is never a concrete thought. Any day could be the last, so what’s the point in continuing onwards if nothing is ever certain. West proposes the question and provides the answer, using a lavishly sample of Natalie Cole’s Someone That I Used To Love’s piano piece to guide the track. The thumping high end bass in combination with the farty low end fill the soundscape along with strings, violin’s and harps to accompany the piece. Jon Brion’s heavily influenced montage at the end, using tingling percussions, woozy synths, and an Arabic sound add to the overall high-end feel of the track’s production. Heard Em Say is a classic case of a dejected topical issue told through the hopeful and positive eyes and ears of someone who wishes to push their listeners through a difficult time. If there’s one motif Kanye has carried throughout his career it’s never to say no, and to never let anyone tell you you can’t do something. When things seem down, the best thing to do is look up.
Devil In A New Dress (Ft. Rick Ross)
My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy
Heard Em’ Say may be Late Registration’s most elegantly produced song, but Devil In A New Dress stands as the most beautiful piece of music-making ever put on a Kanye record. Ironically enough, it’s one of very few tracks of his that he had no part in constructing. Bink!, a relatively unknown producer to the masses, single-handedly made the lush, detailed masterpiece using two Smokey Robinson samples, strings, piano, and a distinctly composed electric guitar solo. A holy beat, from its rightful place atop many a pedestal’s, to the sound it produces feeling as though it was performed across cathedral walls. West’s religious connotations throughout the track lend itself once again to the sound, speaking of evil and sin, pride and judgment, all centered around a girl who lost her faith. Kanye struggles in maintaining his religious beliefs as the sinful lover, namely Amber Rose, lustfully lures him towards the dark side, thus donning the title ‘Devil In A New Dress.’ The chorus delves further into her betrayal of their religion, claiming that she’s learned a lot from Satan in the land of sinning. In one of his most succinctly created verses, Rick Ross, while not relating to the topic at hand, comes through in providing closure to the wonderful beat.
808's & Heartbreak
In much a similar vein as Robocop, Paranoid is yet another attempt on Kanye's behalf at belittling his Ex Phifer. Where the former focuses on her obsessive nature at tracking all his movements over phone calls and emails, the latter exemplifies it, denouncing the fashion designer for her paranoia. The playful nature of the track, with its bright, blimpy 80’s glam-rock inspired synth lines cascading through every dimension gives Paranoid a lively, upbeat feeling of enjoyment. From the opening conversation leading into Kanye’s first lines, it’s clear West is enjoying himself in his critiques about his former love. As with much of 808’s the lyrical content doesn’t require much explanation, as everything, much like a divorce settlement, is laid out on the table for all to see. Regardless of the content at hand, the glistening collage of the hypersonic, electronic beat; along with Kanye and Mr.Hudson’s highly catchy chorus’ form a song so intoxicatingly fun that it’s easy to ignore Kanye’s naivety. The final minute-long instrumental further showcases the indigestible nature of the production. It’s a deceptively simple, yet effective form of making pop music.  
The first collaboration between Kanye and music’s only robotic duo hailing from France. Stronger takes, with little alteration, a sample from Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’, morphing it into a Hip-Hop record with all the right ingredients for a hit radio record. Always one to set trends, not follow them, West’s highly-electric Graduation led to the inclusion, acceptance, and advantages of electronic music in Hip-Hop, Stronger standing tall as the beacon for the ship. Using primarily Daft Punk’s sample as the backing, West, and cohort in drum-making Timbaland, added the thunderous drums that loom over the extraordinarily fast-paced record. It’s an immaculately produced track, with blazing synthesizers and a electrically scratched ending segment that concludes the track as choir hums strum above. Typical for West, and even more typical for rap pop singles, is the lyrical content, taking the form of hater-anthems that thank all the people who’ve put them down for years. For the chorus however, West takes the famous quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” and conforms it to his own liking. With Kanye’s now known status as the boundary breaker in Hip-Hop today, Stronger stands as the track that kicked it all off. From this point onwards, anything West made sounded nothing like anything mainstream rappers were putting out, becoming the idolized trend-setter he is now.    
Late Registration
Back when many of Kanye’s problems related to family concerns and financial obligations, long before whose fashion company he was going to criticize next for not allowing him to do his shit. Roses is conceptually simple, yet deceptively complex. Behind Kanye on the verses lies a keyboard and bass guitar, nothing more, nothing less. Its aim is to drive home the impact caused by West’s mournful concerns over his family’s trips to the hospital whilst visiting his ill grandmother. Using Bill Withers’ ‘Rosie’ sample to define the chorus, adding echoes of female orientation to back up the soulful collage created by West, Roses always feels endearing and earnest. Where Heard Em’ Say flips a negative situation into positive light, Roses remains dark, with the only light of hope being the grandmother’s own thoughts of death as her single form of escapement. The echoing female voices take the form of the wounded mother who begs for a sunny day, while also embracing the welcoming of roses (her family) into her room. The track also mixes multiple, cross-economic gap problems, mainly West’s new-found fame conflicting with his attempt at seeing his grandmother. The high level of quality, especially during the monumental chorus and subsequent breakdown, are some of West’s most top-notch work.    
Blood On The Leaves
The most controversial song on Yeezy’s most controversial album. Blood On The Leaves is America; the butchered bastard child that she has deformed into. Generational gaps clash, collide, and destroy one another in an attempt at being heard, before the echoes of the past become engulfed by the loudness of the future. It’s a remarkable song that demands a listen from every citizen of the United States. Many will hate it, many will love it. But no where else will you hear Nina Simone’s poetic renditions of the lynching’s in black America on ‘Strange Fruit’ mixed seamlessly with the gaudy horns, gargantuan bass and slaughtered electrics of TNGHT’s ‘R U Ready.’ Equating the struggle of black American’s in the racist south with the lavish living ones who have to decide which side the wife and girlfriend sit on the court is a powerful message to anyone with a clear conscious. West is fully aware of this, understanding that these two things shouldn’t be related but in each respective generation’s media stance’s, they are. West’s verse here over marital problems presiding due to extraneous affairs thanks to the guilt trip imposed by groupies and the fame is all to real for not only rap moguls but NBA stars who must face similar situations on a daily basis. The beauty of the song lies within the beat though. It’s a miraculous moment when, at 1:07, the entire melancholy song switches to the TNGHT expose of a brutal banger. West had bought that beat two years prior to specifically use it for this song, if that shows the level of immensity of those trumpets.

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