Kanye in the NYT? WTF???
I feel like opening with “What kind of crazy, fucked up world is it where this guy is considered to be culturally important!!???” But that’s your line.
Sure, he made some great music for himself and others. But in spite of what the aspirationally-cool media keeps saying about him, unlike other creators in his genre like Jay-Z, Tupac, Biggie or even M.C. Hammer for that matter, it’s unlikely that we’ll be quoting too many of Kanye’s songs 20 years from now. He didn’t open up new avenues of public discourse like NWA, or introduce the world to a new art form like Grandmaster Flash, or even meaningfully and memorably address social issues through his music like Marshall, Macklemore and Kendrick. In my opinion, his productions are his best work – and I admit I’m jealous of several of them – but I don’t think he’s on quite the same level as Timbaland and Rick Rubin among several others. His songwriting – meaning the stuff with melodies – is sophomoric at best. I was embarrassed for Sir Paul – one of the greatest Artists of our era – by their collaboration, though it was pointed out to me that this got him his highest chart position in decades. So I guess he didn’t mind. But I kind of did!
Instead Kanye’s greatest achievements have been in the form of excessive behavior, egomaniacal tantrums and tasteless grandstanding. What he is a true artist at is living his life out loud – and shoving it down the throats of the rest of us whether we give a shit or not. He’s like that flasher who interrupts a critical game by running naked across the field. Is that art??? Maybe it is. Maybe as Caramanica says, life as “an unending data stream” is a new art form. But should it be, honestly? Hell, Forbes named this guy one of the 100 most influential people IN THE WORLD in 2005 and 2015!! Seriously??? Influencing WHAT exactly?
In the review of the endless new album, Caramanica wonders if “being slightly finished is the new finished.” And that just makes my blood boil. The great musicians, writers, poets, rappers, performers, dancers, players, conductors, directors and producers work all their lives for that one moment of complete perfection – that one brilliant performance, that one perfect song, that one enduring and life-altering work. 10,000 hours is peanuts in comparison to the real amount of time spent by true artists in their lifelong pursuit of excellence. But no one else that I have seen is this happy to have the audience watching all along the way. They are working to the culmination of something; to the exquisite feeling of completion that comes from working and reworking until that moment when their creation, or their performance, is as good as it could possibly be. This guy is just feeding the media machine and I’m not even certain to what end. Maybe he JUST needs the attention, like that flasher, and isn’t happy unless he’s the center of it.
What galls me the most though is the thought that he and others – especially the media – might actually BELIEVE that he’s an artist. With a capital “A.” That what he’s doing is of any real consequence besides for the sheer train wreck gawker value of it.
I don’t even know why I’m so angry about this. Except maybe I lament for a world where being truly, world-shakingly excellent at anything – at least in the field of popular music if not elsewhere – is no longer absolutely necessary. You can be a star today just by creating a public life that people pay attention to. That’s it. All you have to do is be interesting or likable or shocking enough and you can have your 15 minutes of fame…even if that means that no one will remember you or what you’ve done in just a few years. Line ‘em up. How many “popular artists” have come and gone in just the last decades. In my mind (which is a pretty busy as often too judgmental place, I will admit) real artists make stuff that changes the world and LASTS.
I haven’t heard it yet. Is that what The Life of Pablo is? If so, then I take it all back.
I just needed to rant to someone.