he takes risks
this kid from toronto just released one of the albums of note this year. and it plays to a friendly standard of sonic understanding and sensibility. it plays like a lionel richie or phil collins sampler. it soothes and mollifies and dances and grooves. fine. a good groove can’t be underrated. this is not what moves music forward. Magna Carta Holy Grail and the Memoirs of Rich N*gga Romps will not make hip-hop into the adult it’s inevitably aspiring to be. if anything, these works bet on the least risky strategy, searching for a place on the charts before establishing an actual premise or a feel. that can produce, at best, an hour’s worth of hip-hop-timed elevator lounge music and, at worst, a lion-sized yawn.
kanye west’s Yeezus was certainly not among his best works, and is a difficult record to listen to as a hip-hop follower. it abandons hip-hop measures like the 2 and the 4, and it breaks where it should lull…disrupts where it could transition. it is, however, a Kanye Sound. it cannot be mistaken for anything else, not a punk rock masterpiece, not a rap bounce, not a jazz flare. it is kanye. that makes a huge difference for contemporary hip-hop, in that it embraces risk over reward. it puts the art and the incentive back into taking risks, which used to characterize hip-hop before it became a slave to its own form and conventions. sixteen bars, yea, we get it. there’s a hook and there are 16 bars and sometimes there’s a singer in there. but with the incredible range of artists within hip-hop, it needs constant rejuvenation, reminders of its innovative power and resurgent rhythms. the leaders of the genre have failed at that mission recently, choosing to adapt other genres entirely or to abandon blending and re-making it into something new.
we need kanye to take the risks that only a euro-hopping, leather-skirt-wearing, gold-grill-flashing man could take. thankfully, he will.