“The prettiest people do the ugliest things” I sometimes wish Kanye would listen and follow his own advice, but that’s just Kanye, an erratic musical genius who simply lives in the moment. Nowadays it’s all about the music, meaning his wild arrangements of production that exemplifies artistic freedom, even if he’s not saying all that much with his words. The Old Kanye however put incredible wisdom into his lyrics, and for a time was saying things nobody in rap had said before him. As it stands today Kanye still has the ability to go into that bag (Real Friends & 30 Hours), yet it remains pretty clear that lyricism is not his priority.
"He pulled up at 6:30 in a 745, as he waving 'shorty hi' you know he showin his bling out, she got in the car, he drove, he pulled his thing out, his girl caught feelings she mad she threw the ring out, how she found out she dreamt the whole thing out." Kanye can rap, but he’s never been one you think of with a so-called effortless delivery. Maybe that’s because he was a producer first? Or maybe that’s because of the accident that left his jaw wired? Either way he gets his raps off all the same, and actually sounds more passionate as if it seems he really has to work for it. Sometimes the simplicity in his delivery is perfect for the record (Flashing Lights and All of the Lights) and other times his song making is so exceptional that it in turn elevates that same delivery (All Falls Down & Gold Digger).
Structure/Songwriting Ability 10
“Richer than white parents with black kids, scarier than black people with ideas” Whether you admire it or not Kanye puts his heart and soul into his music, and for his efforts he’s inspired millions by putting out undeniable records. No use even listing his certified smash hits, he’s got too many, and while his lyrics and delivery aren’t necessarily his greatest strengths, his songwriting most definitely is.
"And I'll never let my son have an ego, he'll be nice to everyone wherever we go, I mean I might even make him be Republican, so everybody knows he loves white people, and I'll never let him leave his college girlfriend, and get caught up with groupies in the whirlwind." This category is difficult to rank Kanye, as his following would tell you Yeezus and The Life of Pablo are as meaningful as it gets. Yet compared to the groundbreaking content on his first three albums (content and themes that gave hope to all of us), his latest efforts seem to be more about self, in which case we’re all supposed to be so inspired that he wants to be even more Famous. Then comes the influence of fashion, where I suppose if that really moves you then Kanye is your guy, yet staying true to the idea that the music should always comes first - Kanye in some ways is marginalizing his potential.
Self Made 9
"***** hustle every day for a beat from Ye, what I do? turn around give them beats to Jay, and I'm rapping on the beat they was supposed to buy, I guess I'm gettin high on my supply." Kanye was the original archetype of what it means to be self made in Hip Hop, starting from the ground up and being a producer long before he was such an iconic MC. However as the smoke has cleared there are reasons to question the creative process to a certain degree, as even his first album has rumors of ghostwriting all over it (Rhymefest wrote the majority of Jesus Walks, and apparently even performed it as his own before Kanye took it and ran with it). As far as production there are even rumors that he is now the figurehead who signs his initials on other people’s work to call it his own (even going back to Camron’s Down & Out which is one of his most celebrated instrumentals). These rumors have followed the likes of Timbaland, Jermaine Dupri, as well as many other famed producers as well, yet add the influence of the Kardashian family to the mix and one might wonder if Kanye really works at all. Unlike Drake however he can’t be docked too many points because he’s kept his name relatively clean, yet as time moves forward we should really inquire further about the process if we want to put him on Hip Hop’s Mt. Rushmore.
“I had a dream I could buy my way to Heaven, when I awoke, I spent that on a necklace” That lyric is the epitome of Kanye’s artistry, for better or for worse. Yet when you consider how not every artist should be the same, Kanye indeed does serve a legitimate purpose in adding a level of sophistication to a genre that’s always been obsessed with fortune and fame. With that in mind his fashion line, as eccentric at it may be, is far more coveted than products for sale by other artists, with his shoes being one of the most exclusive items in fashion. With that in mind his branding is working, and nobody could ever take that away from him.
"****** will sell their soul to go Platinum and Gold, I'm cold because I got the gold and kept my soul, drop an album full of soul sold twelve times Gold that's six Plat, man that's a sick plaque." Kanye is one of the last of a rare breed of artists who still move units, even though his last album wasn’t even for sale. Another artist Platinum and Gold all around, sometimes double sometimes triple, Kanye is another one whose demand you can actually see and touch in the real world. Why he wanted TLOP to be exclusively streamed is a mystery considering his numbers, yet there’s little doubt that if it was barcoded like the rest of his work it would have flown off the shelves like it had each time before. It should be noted however that Yeezus only edged Born Sinner the first week, and Born Sinner actually went Gold before Yeezus, which makes you wonder if that’s why Kanye went a different route.
Ability to Rock an Instrumental at a Radio Station 9
"I was looking at my resume feeling real fresh today, they rewrite history I don’t believe in yesterday, what’s a black beetle anyway, a fucking roach, I guess thats why they got me sitting in fucking coach" Kanye can spit his writtens just fine. His freestyle (following an infamous interview with Sway) a few years ago was a complete joke but that’s not even his lane. All the same when inspired at earlier points in his career Kanye was able to rock an instrumental with no issue, and considering we know it’s in there there’s no reason to question his ability.
Ability to Fuck Up a Rewind Button 9
“I know it’s been awhile, sweetheart we hardly talk I was doin my thang… I know it was foul, baby, aye, babe, lately, you been all on my brain….” Kanye has infectious melodies that infused with his instrumentals makes you want to play his records over and over again. His best lyrics have that potential as well, although those can mostly be found in verses from his first two albums. All the same Kanye can do it all, and making you press rewind is a part of that arsenal.
"It's in a black person soul to rock that gold, live your whole life trying to get that ice, bought a Polo rugby it looks so nice, how can something so wrong make me feel so right? (right?), fore I beat myself up like Ike, you can still throw up your Roc-a-fella diamond tonight." A living legend no doubt, the only question is to what he’ll mostly be remembered for. Will it be his music, his fashion, his celebrity, his politics? Perhaps it will be a combination of all that. Yet either way his impact on Hip Hop will be forever long lasting, and perhaps more than anyone else on this list you can bank on it that he’s not going away anytime soon.