Tuesday, March 18, 2014

From Dropout To God: 30-21

Watch The Throne

From their much anticipated collaborative album, Kanye and Jay-Z released Otis after the disappointment the first single 'H.A.M' received, with its largely trap-inspired beat and lackluster lyrical depth. West went back to the studio, reconfigured the identity Watch The Throne would become, and presented a more polished, classic sound that many expected from the duo. Sampling Otis Redding and naming the track after him was one of the many right moves Kanye made in turning Watch The Throne into an interesting album. The beat itself is a rather simplistic use of some drums, a piano line, and James Brown's signature holler adoring the background of the production. The track also presents Ye & Hov's intricately back-and-forth rhyming scheme, this time tosses it back every 8 bars. Unfortunately, and for the majority of Watch The Throne, the lyrical content is more braggadocios than most of Kanye's previous works. Granted, it is entirely the album's point, and the song's in general with the classic music video being graced with American flags, Maybach's, white T's, and fireworks.    

 Bring Me Down
Late Registration

Boasting one of Kanye's most aggressive verses, denouncing all his haters before it became an over-used antic amongst the rap community. Bring Me Down is the only track featured on Late Registration that doesn't come packaged with any samples to its name. The track's entirely orchestral nature stems from Kanye's work with co-producer Jon Brion, who breathed new life into many tracks here with a gleaming amount of strings, harps, and pianos to play second fiddle to Kanye's lyrics. In this case, it works strikingly well as the anti-thesis to West's harsh lyrics against those that always told him no. Lines like: "Since Pac passed away, most you rappers don't even deserve a track from me" & "Dawg if I was you I wouldn't feel myself, dawg if I was you I'd kill myself" come off as brash, untethered direct shouts to those who ever doubted him and his talents. The vicious drum and bass surrounding his rhymes drives this fact down with much more force. A surprise appearance by Brandy on the chorus adds another element to the ethereally visceral track as the opener and closer.  

Dark Fantasy
My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy

The opening to Kanye's magnum-opus. Dark Fantasy doesn't begin with Mr. West, nor an instrument to set the mood. Instead we're greeted by rap's fiery witch Nicki Minaj and a butchered reciting of Roald Dahl's interpolation of Cinderella. It's beautiful, dark, and twisted all at once and presents us with the story Kanye's about to tell; that being his road to redemption. The track's epic production, guided and led by RZA, contains four other producer credits, going so far as to grab Pete Rock for his drums. It's the upper echelon of rap perfection. Kanye employed all the genre's best to compose this album with him, as the credit list shows, containing over 100 names. Dark Fantasy acts as the intro to his perfection of imperfection. Teyana Taylor's hook, beautifully sung, sets the location, "Could we get much higher?" West's status atop the elite begins the album, only for it to all come crashing down. The album is his apology. Containing some of his most provocative and cleverly drawn up lyrics to date, Dark Fantasy is an enjoyable listen packed with one-liners from the famed producer turned rapper. The closing signals Kanye's return to the forefront of musical dominance, the difference now being his turn to the dark side. There's two ways to be famous now-a-days; One through sheer skill of which Kanye's already accomplished, and two through controversial topics surrounding your persona. Siding with the devil in his Chrysler LeBaron is a sure fire way to do that.   

Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Ft. Jay-Z)
Late Registration

A proper way to recreate a track other than the long over-used practice of slapping of a featured guest on it and calling it a day. On the Diamonds remix Kanye himself completely shifts his entire verse, from one praising the glorification of chains, jewelery, and diamonds in the rap game to questioning the integrity of the practice. Here Kanye chooses to focus on political issues, something he has never shied away from, in place of typical rhyme schemes and flow patterns. Paired with Jay-Z and his trademarked braggadocios nature, it shows a real comparison over rap's most cherished item and the struggle real people elsewhere must go through in order for them to obtain them. The most cynical belief of them all is that regardless of the trouble's the rapper's will contain to wear them. The production is beautifully dense, with a sample of Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds are forever" cherishing the chorus and propelling the backing of the verses. The frenetic string sections leading to the chorus', the trumpets signaling the end, and the drums that back West & Hov all combine to form a impenetrable glue that holds the content of the song together with its intensity.        

Through The Wire
College Dropout

On October 23rd, 2002 Kanye West fell asleep at the wheel of his Porsche, crashed into a light pole, and, along with a number of other bruised and battered parts, suffered a shattered jaw that would certainly relieve any aspiring rapper from continuing on with his passion. Instead, for Mr.West, he saw his second chance at life and the opportunity laid right in front of him. Through The Wire was entirely composed while laying on his hospital bed, mouth wired shut, for all to hear. It's a heartfelt track about triumph over setbacks and features a noticeable pained West mouthing his verses as best he can through the metal while telling us the story of his crash and experience at the hospital. Using his trademark chipmunk soul through the voice of Chaka Khan to help accompany the background, along with finger snaps, hand claps, and his simplistic drums complete the production surrounding Kanye's stories. Per typical early aught's Yeezy, the track, despite its obvious negative connotations and struggles, contains comedic lines and an overall breezy, lighthearted feel in an attempt to use hilarity to dissuade grief.

808's & Heartbreak

Likely the lightest, happiest song on 808's due to its playful nature and blissfully peachy production, Robocop is Kanye's sole attempt on the record to retaliate instead of wallowing in misery. Accusing ex fiance Alexis Phifer, of whom this entire album is reflected off of, of her robotic tendencies of watching and surveying him like a cop is Kanye's sole chance here at lashing out, degrading the woman he used to love. There's no hidden meanings, nor any cleverly told, punctuated or admirably written lyrics to be found here, just a derailment of someone's character. Which, in the context of the album, makes it all the more hilarious. Especially the now-legendary closing of Kanye's non-autotuned wailing's that Phifer is just a "Spoiled little L.A. girl" is every bit as hilarious and enjoyable as it is childish and immature. The bright sparkles and the glittering synths acting like organs throughout the chorus further imply the naivety captured here. Hard, clean 808's clash underneath, as strings rhythmical swing back and forth during the verses, only to continue on isolated during Kanye's buoyant closer.  

New Day
Watch The Throne

One of, if not the most, emotionally attaching songs off Kanye and Jay-Z elegant showcase of fame, wealth, and status. Obviously the content provided here still revolves strongly around those three things, just peered through the view of a different lens. New Day focuses primarily around letters in the form of verses penned by the two future fathers to their unborn children, which has now come to fruition. It's a beautifully simple message, told with the sternness of two men who see the problems their children will face because of themselves. Jay-Z, who hardly ever opens up this passionately, states the thesis in his opening line; "Sorry junior, I already ruined ya." It's a statement that bears to much truth. Ever since Michael Jackson's son Blanket, the camera eye of the paparazzi has always been prying into the lives of those growing up with famous parents. Worry persists for the duo as the new internet age has formed where the repercussions of their parenthood are going to be more noticed, critiqued, and sensationalized. The track itself, produced by Kanye and RZA, sample Nina Simone, pitching her voice up reminiscent of Kanye's old style. Horns, a slow, deliberate bass line,  and simple piano ensemble compose the primarily hollow production.    

I Am A God

This is a terrible song. Which is primarily why it's so great. In much a similar fashion as to how 'On Sight' was a great song simply for the fact that it was such a revolting debauchery of Hip-Hop. Casual listeners of Kanye realize his potential for lyrical content, and while it's never been the best in the world it certainly hasn't been at the level of baseless brags, tasteless jokes, and outlandish proclamations, much of what muddles I Am A God. What can't be joked for fear of losing listeners is the production of a track, for it's what gets people moving, and here the production is no slouch. Produced by Kanye, Daft Punk, and Hudson Mohawke it incorporates an immense monstrosity of a bass line, a reggaeton sample, and a synth line that pounces each ear drum like a game of Pong. The production found after the screams, with its loudly distorted beauty, plays like a Greek God's calling card. Along with its God-like production, the record plays like a string of one-liners directed at all those below him and showcase Kanye's clear ability to create something that he sure and well knows many of his critics will scoff at. The obvious choice here, "In a french-ass restaurant, hurry up with my damn croissants" will immediately denounce any potential new-coming fan from listening onwards. But like Yeezus states earlier, "Soon as they like you, make em' unlike you." And boy does he live by it.    

Good Morning

A wake-up call to West and the world upon his arrival. It marks the intro to his 3rd album Graduation, and signifies the incredible leap that he himself knowingly took in creating music divisive enough to make and break fans and critics alike. With whirling synths, droning synths, and airy synths sweeping the tracks sound-scape Good Morning immediately elicits a change in music-making for the famed producer, expanding his reaches beyond his orchestral standards at that time. Acting as the pivotal chorus, a slowed down vocal cue from Elton John gracefully encompasses the song's lush, rosy hook. Note that this is likely the first time in his career that West has employed a vocal sample at a lower pitch than that of the singer, also a first and likely expansion into new territory. Good Morning works as Kanye's maturity into becoming an adult and graduating from his old ways. From the language discussed throughout, many in relation to schooling, to his declaration that "On this day we become legendary" meant to symbolize his advances into super-stardom. Many signs, all the way down to the album cover of the bear shooting out into the skies away from the school, exemplify Mr.West's departure from his old ways.  

Bound 2 (Ft. Charlie Wilson)

Off the most polarizing album of 2013, and potentially the decade, Bound 2 stood as the largest testament to that lofty belief. Nothing in the prior nine tracks sounds remotely like it, nothing in the previous four albums sounds remotely like it, because if Yeezus didn't succeed enough on confusing listeners, Bound 2, the album's closer, surely covered it as a 'return' to Kanye's old self. Using his old trademarked chipmunk soul to perfection with the Ponderosa Twins Plus One's 1971 classic Bound in combination with the starkly, song derailment of Brenda Lee's "Uh huh honey" creates an entirely nostalgic feeling reminiscent about Kanye's 'good old days.' Requiring nothing more than the two samples and a piano addition to compliment both, the simplicity of Bound 2 is exactly where it succeeds. Furthermore, with the stark shift back to the industrial synths for Charlie Wilson's glorious crooning chorus only to be abruptly cut off, once again by Brenda Lee, the track may be one of the most confusing songs ever put to record. Which is why, in accordance with Kanye's lyrical content oozing over his new love Kim Kardashian and their combination on the equally polarizing music video, led some Kanye haters to denounce this as one of the worst songs of all-time. In fact, it's one of the most open, soulful, heartwarming pieces of the rapper's career.  

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