Kanye West is not only my favorite musician but also my Idol and a musical inspiration. Many people today know of him because his antics appear on the news, or because his wife is a famous reality star. Yes the arrogance is there, he is a man that speaks his mind, and does not bother to filter anything. Many people have a negative view on him, but only a few are aware of his musical genius.
To find why Kanye West is considered one of the Greatest musicians of the 21st century, one must travel back to the early 2000’s, when he was just a producer. West started off his career making beats for rappers and singers, like Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. His unorthodox use of already existing music to create a new sound, this is called Sampling, was highly sought after, not only because it was good, but because it was new. No genius wants to be restrained, and so Kanye West sought to release his own rap album, but it would not be easy. He was a “Good Boy” in an era dominated by Gangster Rap, a sub genre defined by lyrics about criminality and life in the inner cities. What was Kanye West’s first single about? Jesus Christ.
Despite the opposition surrounding his new rap career, Kanye West released “The College Dropout” to critical and commercial success. This album along with its equally successful follow up “Late Registration” , included some of the finest, most innovative uses of samples seen in rap. His lyrics had a deeper take than was common at the time. Incorporating themes of racism, higher education, hopes, dreams, his love for his mother, his nearly fatal car accident. This style of rap, and usage of samples is mainstream now, when Kanye West introduced it in 2003, it was groundbreaking.
Fast Forward to 2007 when Kanye West, now an established star in the musical world, releases his third Successful album, “Graduation”. Here he pushed the genre further, using electronic music samples, autotune, an synthesizers. All of this is commonly found now. This album effectively killed Gangster Rap, which was still prevalent. In 2008, following the unexpected death of his mother, Kanye West released “808’s and Heartbreak”. This album was polarizing upon its release, the bombastic style of “Graduation” is gone . It’s pared down, and uses an autotuned rap-singing style to communicate feelings of loss, particularly over his mother’s passing. Artists like Drake, have launched careers by developing the musical ideas from this album. Kanye made it acceptable for a rapper to be vulnerable, to be human.
Following these four groundbreaking albums Kanye West released his magnum opus. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is just a plain masterpiece of music. It combines all of the themes of his previous works. It is one of the fullest musical examinations of the modern psyche, and elevated Kanye West to be considered one of the greatest musical artists of all time.
Since then Kanye West has expanded his musical library with equally great and groundbreaking works, “Yeezus” and “The Life of Pablo”. Most importantly, he has become one of the most powerful men in the music business, wielding a large amount of influence. Just last year, he was included in the “Time 100 most influential people in the world”.
In my opinion, the mark of a genius is that they think about the world in a different way than the rest of us. A mathematical genius is not somebody who can solve a familiar problem with incredible speed, it’s someone who can solve a problem that was once thought unsolvable. Kanye West fits this definition, he pushed the envelope of Hip Hop, to a place that was previously unexplored. Today Hip Hop is a varied, insightful, and a truly artistic genre, and in the 21st century, Kanye West was its most important pioneer.
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