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My Thoughts on this Whole Kanye West Thing and What It Could Mean for Hip Hop and Music

Lawrence Lan, Music Columnist

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I think we’re at a level that the hip-hop world faced in the 2000’s – we’re sunken in a sea of the same-sounding music with around 100 rappers who hop on druggy, atmospheric trap instrumentals where people try to rap like the Migos, croon with auto-tune like Future, or fail miserably at both. It’s getting tired, and I can’t be the only one who wants a breath of fresh air.

Post Malone’s 18-track one-trick-pony of an album, Beerbongs & Bentleys, just dropped today. In contrast to other genres of music, mainstream hip-hop seems to be the only genre at the moment that can get away with making the same-sounding, borderline mindless music sell. Sure, there are exceptions: Cardi B’s new album was surprisingly decent, Brockhampton produced three quality projects last year which brought them to the spotlight, and I enjoyed all but two tracks off of the Lil Pump tape from last year. (Also, Drake’s new single is excellent!) Sadly, though, for the most part, more underground (or should I dare say, “alternative,”) hip-hop artists don’t get as much credit for shaping the hip-hop of the future.

Enter Kanye: fashion icon, antihero, music innovator, and a self-proclaimed “genius.” Sadly, Kanye will never not be known for his antics everywhere he goes, which tends to overshadow how innovative, defiant, and transcendent his music is. Kanye spent yesterday being torn to shreds for his many many fired-up and confusing tweets which left the gossip garnerers’ mouths watering, millennials stunned and angry, and many a celebrity trying to protect their image shunning the man. And then, at 5:25, the boogie-man shows up on Twitter to show a link to a “song” on his website.

It’s very hard to ignore Kanye’s deterioration of himself over Twitter, but part of me (the part that really only cares about the music rather than the artist), is more excited for a new album to break us from this peak trap time than anything else. And that is something to be found on the new “song.”

I call it a “song” in quotations because it’s not really a “song” in a traditional, disciplined fashion of a song. It’s basically a looped gospel sample with a very simple groove to it. And then Kanye drops this magical set of lines after hyping up said verse:

“Poopy-di scoop
Scoop-diddy-whoop
Whoop-di-scoop-di-poop
Poop-di-scoopty
Scoopty-whoop
Whoopity-scoop, whoop-poop
Poop-diddy, whoop-scoop
Poop, poop
Scoop-diddy-whoop
Whoop-diddy-scoop
Whoop-diddy-scoop, poop”

If this is a hint of the direction he’s taking his new album in, I can honestly say that I’m more excited than ever for the new album.

Let me explain.

More than ever, the music scene (at least in the US) is on a pop-centric turn. There’s a turn towards catchy choruses, melodic verses, and more sugary, danceable production in the commercial and the critical realm. Nothing wrong with that at all on a surface level – it’s just that there are definitely more losses than victors in this category, and the people who attempt to make music more mainstream-friendly and catchy and aren’t as successful often have no other redeeming or interesting qualities about their music. Furthermore, it’s harder to separate the quality music from the best-selling music. In that sense, with a long-time commercially-successful iconoclast like Kanye, it’ll be a much-needed breath of fresh air. However, I think the impact doesn’t stop there: Kanye’s new album could potentially shake hip-hop’s course for good.

The degree of separation between “old-heads” and the “new school” in hip-hop is at an all-time high, and it’s not that hard to see why. Lyrics were such an important role in the most classic hip-hop songs, and nowadays, lyrical content value is at an all-time low. The new school doesn’t do much but ignore the split and turn its head away from the division when in actuality, it could be a very interesting musical movement to address the division, almost like how punk rockers spit in the face of guys who obsessed over chord progressions, changing tempos, and amazing vocal abilities. It’s a giant “f*** you” in the face of people who take the technics of music too seriously and are too busy having their heads stuck in the past, and that’s kind of what we need in hip-hop. At least I know we need that moreso than another sugary trap-rap album.

There have definitely been hints towards this rebellious direction. You could say Lil Pump kind of brought that on his tape with his complete disregard for lyrical content and swapping that for no-frills energy, obnoxiousness, and attitude. Princess Nokia, who made my favorite album of last year, brought that punk-like energy forward with her straight-forward, in-your-face rhymes and eclectic subject matter. Kanye pretty much did it himself with The Life of Pablo: it’s a takedown of rap in all forms. The production is all over the map: you have soulful boom-bap, futuristic distorted grooves, mournful emotional opuses, and sometimes you have two polar opposites of the music world pieced right next to one another. The lyrics take on a more head-on, less disciplined and unpolished approach, and the subject matter is way more personal and insane than the focused rap of any era beforehand (the socio-political 80’s raps, the mean-talking street raps of the 90’s, the swag rap of the 00’s,  and the hedonism of the 2010’s…) And the execution and the putting together of this project was anything but organized. In a lot of ways, it’s punk as hell.

Look: I’m not saying that Kanye’s new song is breaking any artistic ground whatsoever, as it’s basically Kanye just garnering more attention for s&g’s, but what it does signify is that Kanye does not care even a little bit about following the current trend or finding the hot sound right now. In fact, he’s going directly against the current.

The Life of Pablo was a widely misunderstood album in 2016, and it’s still arguably Kanye’s most polarizing album. But, times are changing, and for true music fans, I think Kanye has something in store with his new upcoming studio album: if it doesn’t shake the world at large, it’ll definitely bring forth a change in the hip-hop landscape to come.

I’m ready for a punk-attitude direction in hip-hop to take over.

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My Thoughts on this Whole Kanye West Thing and What It Could Mean for Hip Hop and Music