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After his long withdrawal from the public eye after his infamous assault on Taylor Swift’s VMA acceptance speech, the massive influx of Kanye West back into popular culture began in June with the release of “Power,” the fist single from his upcoming album. After intermittently dropping singles through the summer, he swore to put out a new free song every Friday until Christmas, naming the series “GOOD Fridays” after his record label, G.O.O.D. Music. On all these songs, though, he’s been collaborating with the biggest names in music like Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Swizz Beats, Charlie Wilson, Kid Cudi, Rick Ross, Common, Lupe Fiasco, Pharrell, indie rock stalwart Bon Iver and even Justin Bieber, among others; the entire list is staggering. Along the way, he’s added hip-hop legends, and recent collaborators, Mos Def and Pusha T of Clipse, to G.O.O.D. Music’s increasingly impressive roster. He just released a short film this week, he’s preparing an EP with Jay-Z and, lest we forget, he’s releasing an album in November, entitled My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. For the listener who hasn’t kept pace with this deluge of music, the singles “Power” and “Runaway,” and two “GOOD Friday” tracks, “Christian Dior Denim Flow” and “See Me Now,” are the standouts.

The next logical question for a casual Kanye West observer might simply be, why? West has always been a prolific producer and emcee, but the pace and zeal behind his recent output could puzzle to even the most seasoned fan. He’s started to answer that question more overtly in recent interviews, saying at the London screening of his short film Runaway, that the GOOD Fridays series and his recent work has been an “exercise in the power of art.” West is not interested in petty self-expression or commercial success at this point; that’s been done. What he is suggesting is that his goal is to make hip-hop into a higher art, and thrust it into the mainstream in a way that will be widely admired.

This goal is incredibly ambitious and has no true precedent. He’s been citing Michael Jackson and Picasso as influences, but those artists represent entirely different spheres of the popular consciousness, spheres that no one has ever successfully synthesized: mass appeal and high art.

To accomplish this, West is wielding his entire genre as a medium by which he is communicating his artistic impulses. He is treating each facet of making a hip-hop song like a different technique of painting or writing. On his most recent single, “Runaway,” he’s communicating a sense of self-loathing and isolation, unusual for hip-hop. To do this, he’s crafted a haunting and moody beat that samples an obscure early 1990s Pete Rock intro, while he both sings and raps. Most interesting, though, he uses a seemingly unaware Pusha T to emphasize how distant he is from his peers. “I’m just young rich and tasteless,” says T, before the song runs directly into West singing, “Was never much of a romantic, could never take the intimacy.” Here, West the artist is using one of his recent signings as a foil to himself, a technique that allows him to complete the mood he creates in “Runaway.”

On “Christian Dior Denim Flow,” West sings: “I got the world in my hands, the master plan.” If any other hip-hop artist sang that, it would be easy to dismiss as typical and meaningless self-glorification, but West means it almost literally. It seems that West could hoodwink the media-consuming public into indulging in art, but his greatest threat here is that his music will not stick in the public consciousness he’s trying so hard to reach, and he will simply be marginalized as “weird.”

The Beatles were an artistic force that, like West, did one genre very well in a more conventional manner, before turning that genre, popular rock and roll, on its head and taking it to stranger and stranger places, all the while gaining in popularity. Kanye West has a similar goal for hip-hop. Will he be remembered as hip-hop’s true savior or just another “21st century schizoid man”? It will all become clearer when My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy hit shelves Nov. 22.
 

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Good read, quite a good read.

This stuck out the most, though, for some reason:  It seems that West could hoodwink the media-consuming public into indulging in art, but his greatest threat here is that his music will not stick in the public consciousness he’s trying so hard to reach, and he will simply be marginalized as “weird.”
 

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not a well written piece in my book....ended hella abruptly and it reminded me of a book report from middle school, the form in which it was written was awful
 

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rocingforwest said:
not a well written piece in my book....ended hella abruptly and it reminded me of a book report from middle school, the form in which it was written was awful
 

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Exactly how I feel. A man amongst children in this pathetic genre. No one comes close. If it wasn't for Kanye West, Jay-Z would be at the level of DMX.


P.S. without the drug/arrest charges.
 

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