Why T.L.O.P. matters.
Why Kanye’s new album is so important:
The man. The movement. The legend. Kanye Omari West. Now you may think, “Ah hell here goes another Ye fan. He’s gonna justify all his so called foolery etc.” Well, you’re damn right. Kanye’s newest album, entitled
SWISH, or Waves, or T.L.O.P, is set for release on February 11th. TOMORROW. Now in my opinion this will be the conclusion of one of the greatest years for hip-hop/rap and music in general. This period being between December 2014 (2014FHD) and ending with SWISH. Why does it end with SWISH? Because no one is going to out do Yeezus. (Drake will give him a run for his money) It’s that simple. We are going to see another revolutionary compilation of art because that’s what Kanye creates. He never intends to put out JUST an album. Think about each Kanye album and the subsequent effects that came with each one. Kanye has never been one to be “traditional,” whether it was 12 years ago or now. Let me break it down:
The College Dropout:
Brought about a fashion revolution and a deep appreciation for heavy sampling. Kanye took his time and struggled for this album. Whether he meant to or not, Kanye made yielded impact with his debut album. Not only musically, but culturally. He came on to the mainstream scene and shifted culture. Think about it. He was hopping between label deals and begging his big homies for a shot. Kanye’s hunger was so evident. He also released something different amidst all the 50 cent, G-Unit clouded radio waves. Think about it. We all remember the tall tees, Girbaud jeans, slouch socks, etc. Kanye brought us something new. Well, new to minorities. We went from the “Gangsta Rap Renaissance” headlined by 50, Ja Rule, and the southern boom brought upon by TI. So to hear records about Jesus, dropping out of school, and empowering women was new. It was just different and son, people were listening! I mean people traded in their tall tees for Polos and tight[er] jeans. Change was brewing and Kanye was stirring the pot.
A production masterpiece. In addition, Kanye did what no other artist was doing. He was cross genre collaborating. Yeah we had Linkin Park and Jay Z do their thing the year before with Collision Course, but they were just mash up and remixes. Kanye and Adam Levine started from scratch. I mean Heard ‘Em Say was art. It was two creative minds coming together on one canvas to bring us yet another piece of culture. Kanye takes his sophomore effort to talk about his deep emotions and situations taken right from his life. The first time I heard “Hey Mama” I almost cried and told my mom I loved her. Our ears were blessed with his beautiful sampling yet again, my favorite was definitely his use of Gil Scott Heron’s “Home is Where the Hatred Is” on “My Way Home.” Late Registration was a jog around the bases after knocking it out the park with The College Dropout. No sophomore slump here homie.
Ye’s third album sparked yet another fashion revolution in addition to another trend in music: the use of electronic infused beats. Let’s talk the first single. I for one was so pumped for this album because I instantly recognized the “Harder,Better,Faster,Stronger” beat from Daft Punk. Stronger using the likes of internationally recognizable electric duo as a sample was just ground breaking. Again doing what no one had done before! Do you all remember the Ye shades? Yeah cmon we all do.. Who had spawned trends like this before? No one. Let’s not forget the skinny jean revolution, bright/neon colors, and of course the South of France cut. Graduation was the heading into the dug-out and high-fiving his fellow teammates for Ye. Success for Ye was inevitable, expected, and residual for Mr. West at this point.
Emotion. Scarred from the loss of his mother, Ye produced, rapped, and sang with pure emotion. He spawned yet another musical revolution, outdoing his past effort. Was this really even a rap album? Could it be just art? The production on this project was so new and unique, that his fans didn’t know what to do. But yet he still had the likes of Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne on the project so anyone and everyone should love 808s even though it might not be their favorite. We should all love 808’s because of its candidness. When was there a time that an artist exposed all of his fears, worries, and emotions so creatively. I remember seeing the video for Love Lockdown thinking “OMG, this is amazing.” I turned around and asked people about it at school the next day and they were like “Nah it sucks, this is lame.” WRONG. It was just different, and different worked in Mr. West’s favor every single time. Ye said himself in an interview with In Camera: Live, that 808s and Yeezus were probably his best work. 808’s was Ye’s walk off grand slam.
Ye takes all his knowledge and created what many critics call his “Mona Lisa.” He combined all the [now] traditional Ye elements. New age production techniques, crude sophisticated rhymes, and this time around really called upon some great features. “Monster” is still an amazing track that introduced the mainstream to the now global phenomenon of Nicki Minaj. Oh and let’s not forget the 30 minute video for “Runaway” [starting Selita Ebanks] which turned into a visual representation for the whole album. I still remember when he debuted the song on MTV, live, and Pusha T walked out. I was like son who the eff is this!?!? Googled him and was mind blown! Kanye also called upon his now very established G.O.O.D. Music clan. “Blame Game” ft. John Legend was striking because of the nature of the song. Usually we have John singing about how much he loved someone but this time around it was contrasting to say the least. Every single beat on this album was carefully crafted with Kanye at the helm again. In addition we noticed a more radical shift in Ye’s behavior. Here we got “Asshole Kanye” full force. Being that this album followed the sticky break up with Amber Rose (that still seems to make waves onto the timeline i.e. google Kanye v Kalifah beef.) Kanye had a lot to say. This Kanye era was also immortalized with the infamous Taylor Swift moment. Enough said. Kanye was done making music for his picky fans and wanted to make music that he thought was best, and it shows with his next solo effort. MBDTF was Ye’s MVP award.
“YEEZUS was me mad, stomping my foot and protesting justice.” is about the gist of what Ye said post the Yeezus tour. We all remember the string of interviews leading up
to and after the release of the Rick Rubin/Travi$ Scott sprinkled spastic compilation that is Yeezus. When it first released in the summer of 2013 [which was an amazing time for hip hop] I promise you I was the only person in my close knit group of like 5-6 friends listening to the album. I was told I was going to hell, that Yeezus was trash etc. Now? I’ll hear it in their car. Yeezus again changed music and the way we view art. Kanye let out his frustrations through protest. He did something so different just to force people to hear his voice one way or another. Again could this album really be called rap? And to think of the irony of having 9 raw, harsh, European/techno beats and then to close the album with the classically sampled “Bound 2”. He basically said “Hear me roar, but remember I still can do this type of music but I choose not to.” Let’s look at how the album opens: the electrifying “On Sight.” It’s like the beginning of you work out after you’ve started to work out. It was another moment for Yeezy fans to think to themselves, “W.T.F.” It was a genre on its own. Going further down the track list we have the polarizing, politically and socially charged “New Slaves.”Kanye took his frustrations and penned them out. If we all recall Kanye had been trying to break into fashion for some time and couldn’t because he was just viewed as a “rapper” and nothing else. We’re taking one of the most influential pop culture figures of our generation was getting undermined as neophyte by fashion behemoths. Imagine being so respected to being treated like anybody, that would surely piss me off. I mean who can forget the “LEATHER JOGGING PANT” rant or the “HOW SWAY!?” What we didn’t know three years ago is that Kanye was subliminally starting a movement to come, one of expressionist renaissance proportions. Yeezus was his induction to the HOF.
Sorry got a little carried away. Time to end the Ye appreciation part of this post.
Going off of what I just wrote above, the “Yeezus” Kanye was the first step in an immense metamorphosis that was to follow in the next 2 and a half years. Much like the Renaissance artists Kanye likes to compare himself to, he needed a patron and a platform to express himself. He was frustrated because he had all these ideas but had no way to get them to the big platforms of fashion. Ironically enough his breakthrough with fashion after some collabs came shortly after finding his wife, the infamous Kim Kardashian. Much like DaVinci found his Medici family, he found the Kardashians, a very well connected family that can put him in the right room with the right acquaintances. This transformation not only benefited him and his aspirations, but us and our appreciation for his art that we’ve loved for over a decade.
So there is without a doubt that Kanye was an elite in the music world. He owns his own label full of amazingly talented individuals, did an collaborative album with arguably the greatest rapper alive (Watch the Throne if you didn’t know), and the list goes on. But was he revered as an elite in the world of art outside of music? No. He needed patrons he needed support from major players in the field he wanted to go to: fashion. He was so passionate but was getting no traction (re: Yeezus) and it was frustrating. In all his interviews he told the world that he was viewed as a joke in many meetings with fashion execs. Kanye West? Joke? Can you use both in the same sentence? I think not. But then, when Ye courted Kim Kardashian, arguably the most popular reality TV star [termed used lightly], via song, the transformation began. The Kardashians are so well connected in so many avenues that Ye would’ve never seen except in his dreams. The Kardashians gave Kanye a one way ticket to Diagon Alley. There he was able to explore his fashion sense and develop it.
On the midst of this new lifestyle surrounded by some of the best Hollywood has to offer, Ye found love and fathered his first child, a daughter named North. Now, I’m not a father myself, but I’ve seen how fatherhood can change a person first hand. My brother(Mario Amaya, possibly use his name) just had his first child and my God he’s not just a different man, he’s a better man. There must be something in human nature that triggers when you procreate, something that makes you fight harder, heighten your awareness, and be more serious. Once you become a parent, there raison d’etre is no longer themselves, or their lovers, it’s their child. It’s as simple as that. My brother went from being regularly hammered to watching football games with his (newborn) son on his arm. My brother was almost un-recognizable, and so was Kanye. This led to the fall out with Nike for not being able to keep certain monies to switching to the realm of full control with Adidas. “I did it for my family,” said West in the same In Camera interview.
Something changed in Kanye where he just became appreciative. He took on this role of a somewhat of an artistic tutor. He closed the chapter of frustration and began writing a new one full of enlightenment. Kanye charged himself by bringing art to our ears through himself and others. He started in a big way with “Only One”, an ode to his daughter through the voice of his late mother. In case you forgot he also collaborated with SIR PAUL MCCARTNEY. If you didn’t know who he was before his collaboration with Kanye, SHAME ON YOU. But In case you didn’t he was a BEATLE. Following that he collaborated with many up and coming artists as well as hoping on tracks with fellow big names such as Big Sean, Drake, A$AP Rocky, Tyler The Creator, Ty Dolla $ign, and Post Malone who was literally a found loud phenomenon two years ago. My favorite track leading up to the album is a toss up between his verse on A$AP Rocky’s “Jukebox Joints” and his K.Dot powered “No More Parties in LA” which is classic Ye.
Now on to the main point: T.L.O.P will be important. It already is. People have been waiting on this since “Yeezus” came out. Real Ye fans knew what his intentions and message was with “Yeezus” knowing that although it was a revolutionary album Ye still has so much to offer the world musically. Imagine taking all your innermost desires, thoughts, and passions and turning them into art (that is heard by everybody). That’s what T.L.O.P. will be. A musical ode to his ID(I like to bring this bad boy up, think of it as our inner most desires that we don’t always show because of social situations and context. Check my previous post to learn more!) Kanye’s ID is more complex though. If I were to even attempt what his ID is made up of it would be fatherhood, his cockiness, and his desire to influence (influence who). While the rest of us are simply hiding who were attracted to and tip toeing around text messages Kanye is finding ways to peel the layers of social context to the point where he’s gonna give us his most honest, raw, and piercing art to date. In his own words: “A sonic painting.”
So as we patiently await for tomorrow to come remember that this album will bring everything more. With his recent beef with Wiz Khalifa, accusations of butt hole pleasures, and the most he’s tweeted in years, let’s not forget that this man is an artist and he might’ve created something we aren’t quite ready for. I mean, we don’t even know what the title means!
Stay tuned for my review.
Under-promising and Over-delivering,