Much like everything else in life we each have our own perspectives on what defines greatness. Something we can all agree on is that brilliance is an elusive trait to find, but when you see it (or hear it) you know it.
The first recorded sounds date all the way back to Thomas Edison’s mechanical phonograph cylinder that he patented in 1878. Things have improved a bit since then. Today we have access to everything, and as a consequence, we are all contributors and critics. Everyone has an opinion on everything. So, this is my opinion on a piece of art that I believe comes once in a generation.
Art has become a commodity. Consequently how we define an artist and creativity has changed drastically in the last quarter century. Creativity can be expressed in any shape, size or medium. For most artists their creativity depends on their muses or motivation, but there is the rare instance when everything seems to line up and results in a stroke of artistic genius.
I have been an audiophile since I got my first silver iPod mini for my 10th birthday. Constantly analyzing any song or sound I could find to the point where I can make my mind do weird things like close my eye to see the colors of a sound and feel the temperature of a particular song.
I remember the exact night when I started to come around to the idea that maybe Kanye West was one of the best rappers in my lifetime. It was Wednesday August 8th, 2011 at 12:47 in the morning. Jay-Z and Kanye West had just dropped Watch The Throne. After listening to it for the first of three times that evening I had already decided it was one of the best Hip-Hop/Rap album of all-time. From then on I was 100% on the Kanye West bandwagon choosing to ignore his antics and simply appreciate his creations.
Prior to that Wednesday in 2011, Kanye’s latest project was My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which I still believe is his best solo Hip-Hop album to date. After Watch The Throne Kanye went on a tear of personal controversy, he even married a world famous movie star! After he released Yeezus which showcased a massive leap sonically and personally my ability to separate the man from the music started to get shaky. This project was unlike anything I had ever heard before as it pulled inspiration from Acid House, dancehall, Heavy Metal and Dubstep with a bit of old-school Hip-Hop flare sprinkled over every beat. I hated to admit that even with the outlandish claims some of the lyrics made about the man himself, I just loved the sound. It was volatile yet smooth and resisted anything that was hot at the time. This is when I started to see Kanye more as a mad scientist than a rapper. He produced sounds we couldn’t fathom putting together.
At that point I whole-heartedly believed we had witnessed creative genius, where talent and insanity met at a harmonious intersection. Boy was I wrong…kinda.
The announcement of Kanye’s next album, which after many changes would be titled The Life of Pablo, is arguably the most anticipated piece of art since the last Stevenote. On February 14, 2016 after a media storm even Donald Trump would envy the world finally got to decide if this album was worth the hype. After the first 10 days it was available CNN Money reported that “The Life of Pablo” had streamed a quarter of a billion times. That does not even count the times people like me listened it “off-line”.
What I thought the world got at first was the best produced Kanye album ever but lyrically his weakest since 808s & Heartbreaks. The more and more and more I listened to the intricacies of the 18 tracks I realized that this piece of music was meticulously crafted to transcend expectations: from its gospel roots to the dream team lineup of contributors to the fluctuation between controversy and vulnerability. I am in no way saying we praise the man like the god he thinks he is but what I am saying is we should at least put him on the pedestal of all-time greats.
If you haven’t yet scoured the internet for The Life of Pablo or subscribed to Tidal yet then you are in luck, because you can now listen to the full work on Kanye’s personal website for free. If you don’t want to listen to the full album, then simply indulge yourself in part one of Norwegian DJ Lido’s eight-minute mash up of the entire album.
Like I mentioned this everyone has an opinion on everything these days, so whether you agree or disagree let me know. I always enjoy a good discussion.