I promise this is almost over.
It’s Wednesday morning and we’re now officially privileged enough to rock in Kanye’s cradle. My Dark Twisted Granfalloon is the best reviewed rap record since Illmatic (Bun B’s words). Never underestimate the collective insanity of the critical false karass –especially when it gives them a chance to use the word “dichotomy.” The overkill is such that I questioned whether I wanted to even write a response. But since we’ve decided that our Bokonon writes odes to porn stars and sends girls pictures of his dick (Favre), it’s worth discussing in terms of broader cultural import. In a diffuse era, this is the rare record that will be heard by almost everyone under 40–at least, if they don’t work in securities trading. It will matter, even if I’d like to pretend that it won’t. Mainly because I am not looking forward to hearing the rap Rush that this record will inevitably spawn–or maybe the rap Rush was Canibus.
One infamous review of Kanye’s monsterpiece, equated his “toast to the douchebags” as a “rallying cry to humanity.” Sadly, no one’s really concerned with what causes they’re being rallied to. If this is the album that American culture deserves, it’s not what we should aspire to– no matter how tongue-in-cheek or self-aware our jokes are. Hand-wringing sanctimony aside, GQ recently named Drake, “Man of the Year,” the first time the accolade had ever been given to a boy. The same issue devoted 10,000 words to a treatise on the winstrol-warped appeal of The Situation. I’ve watched enough episodes of Jersey Shore to know the difference between a gorilla and a grenade. It’s entertaining. But even if “GTL” is the best acronym since “UGK,” if these are our modern-day archetypes of cool, we’re fucked. Thankfully, Kanye can teach us his own secrets of re-upholstering. The only guest appearance that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Faberge Egg doesn’t have is one from Mystery.
Yesterday, I found myself listening to “Blame Game,” while aimlessly browsing my Facebook feed. It made more sense than I’d like to admit. Last month, the New York Times ran an article examining the generational divide between those who saw The Social Network’s Mark Zuckerberg as a hero (young people) or as a villain (those who don’t think that the Port Huron Statement is a new indie band). I’d guess that Kanye splits people along similar lines. I’m not sure if the problem is Kanye’s attention span or whether it’s my own. A more fitting title for the album would be “Runaway,” considering the nine-minute long ode to douchbaggery operates a centerpiece and thematic skeleton key. No track wanders further away from Kanye — perhaps the natural reaction expected from a tune with a narrative arc revolving around the perils of e-mailing a girl photos of your cock. In a nutshell, this is my problem with Kanye West.
Having lived with this record for a week and a half, apart from “So Apalled,” “Gorgeous,” “Blame Game,” and the title track, I will probably never want to hear any of these songs again. Danny Brown may have delivered the most succinct appraisal when he Tweeted, the Kanye album proved “I’m ADD like a muthafucka. Them some long ass songs. Do you really need that much time to say nothing. I like it, but I just won’t listen to it again.” This is a ferociously difficult album to digest. It reminds me of Trader Joe’s salmon wheels stuffed with cream cheese and dill. They’re delicious and impossibly rich, and after a few bites they bring me to near-vomiting. This analogy may be slightly off, as Kanye has became more of a Bristol Farms man.
One of the frustrating things about this record is that its largely obscured three other notable records also coming out this week: Yelawolf’s 0-60, Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday, and Curren$y’s Pilot Talk 2. Kanye’s record is the greatest achievement of the bunch (though I haven’t heard Yela’s) but I suspect that I’ll play the Curren$y record longer. Admittedly, this stems from a personal aversion to the arena-sized, but it also matters what sort of personality you gravitate towards. Both Curren$y and Kanye play larger-than-life protagonists, but Curren$y’s hero is firmly human. He’s a James Bond or a Bruce Wayne, a regular man capable of fantastic achievement. Ski conjures a majestic orchestra of occult jazz and slow-roasted soul for Spitta to strut Clyde Frazier-like, while rattling off imagistic darts about mink coats and expensive smoke, race cars and weed jars. Hence, a single like “Michael Knight,” a testament to a regular guy with a hairy chest and an awesome car. For a hook, Curren$y hypnotically repeats “Michael Knight” until it becomes mantra. Kanye needs every hook to touch the sky. He’s Superman, frequently paralyzed by Kryptonite, and substantially less complicated than everyone suspects.
No one represents the American addiction to constant stimulation, pornography, and connectivity quite like the Louis Vuitton don. Minaj described a session in Hawaii where Kanye advised her on how to make her lyrics more meaningful, while ogling arty JPG’s of naked women. He illustrates the nebulous line between expansion and progression. This record lives in the clouds. Like Disco Vietnam said, he’s a space cadet, a hip-hop Hansel who trips on peyote for six straight days before realizing that he hasn’t even been to Vesuvius. You can’t deny his prodigious talent and the importance of the effort that he puts into his brand of pop. Yet I suspect that My Dark Twisted Phantasmagoria is more an act of levitation than a tangible step forward. It’s probably impossible to get any higher, but we can almost certainly do better.
MP3: Kanye West ft. Jay-Z–“That’s My Bitch”