West 's New Band : Rap, And 808s & Heartbreak Essay

West 's New Band : Rap, And 808s & Heartbreak Essay

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“WHICH ONE,” shouts the lettering on the alternate cover to Kanye West’s new album. Its boldface type and repetitive hammering reads less like a question and more like a blunt statement - and no matter how unusual or unimportant it may seem, it offers an adequate representation of this album and Kanye West in general. There’s almost no denying that West is a narcissist and/or egomaniac - he has supplied evidence a thousand times, on his Twitter and in real life. But in spite of - and perhaps because of - his flawed personality, West is the most influential figure in music, period, the turn of the century. Glancing at the contemporary radio stations, it’s hard to hear a song that doesn’t have West’s influence. His early albums The College Dropout and Late Registration revived the use of soul samples in hip hop, and 808s & Heartbreak played a pivotal role in popularizing AutoTune-driven R&B, as well as promoting sensitivity and emotion in hip hop artists. Later albums My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus were undeniable classics, showcasing West at the top of his game; these were elaborate projects where West’s antihero archetype ruled over mayhem, where minimalism met maximalism and the differences between high art and hip hop were harder to discern than ever before. West’s music inspires and excites, all while he makes tabloid headlines for all the wrong reasons. It’s this contradiction, this dichotomy between douchebag and deity, between asshole and auteur, that defines Kanye West as an artist - and as a person. WHICH ONE?

The Life of Pablo comes during a time where West’s influence has almost outgrown him. The hip hop scene is alive and vibrant - artists like Drake, Travi$ Scott, A$AP Rocky, and Chance The Rapper repres...


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...a new phase in his career, q phase where he has the freedom and the potential to do some real experimentation. Not only is this record a neat encapsulation of all that West has done for hip hop in his decade-plus of fame, it’s an outstretched hand to a thrillingly unpredictable future.

And it’s all achieved thanks to the strong perspective of these songs; in the end, The Life of Pablo is a compelling invitation by West to sit down with him for an hour. During that time, you’ll hear plenty of things. You’ll hear punchlines that are either ridiculous or hilarious, or both. You’ll hear music that warps constantly, leaving you surprised and amazed. And, most importantly, you’ll hear songs that evoke emotions, good or bad, dark or light. One thing is always constant about the things you’ll hear on The Life of Pablo: you won’t be able to take your eyes (and ears) off them.

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