So this is the second post in a row that deals in some way with Kanye West, but considering the last post was about 2 months ago I think we’ll let it slide. Also, I got a Kanye West mug last night (all the mugs are plain in the office, so I thought I’d bring some Yeezy to the kitchen), so he’s pretty fresh in my mind. In fact, he’s pretty fresh in everyone’s minds (haha).
So the G.O.O.D. Music compilation, ‘Cruel Summer’, came out recently to a tepid reception, and that really got to me. This post isn’t about reviewing that record but, in brief, it’s a really, really, fucking good record. Opener ‘To The World’ is the best performance R. Kellz has given since, well, since ’12 Play’, ‘Mercy’ still stands as the best cut of 2012 so far, ‘Clique”s queasy beat sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard; the list goes on. Jesus, even Jay sounds good on it. And any record where I get to hear DJ Khaled’s voice peeling out his own name always gets me.
So, my point is, why does everyone feel the need to punish ‘Ye? This is what these reviews amount to – a big fat raspberry in the face of one of the world’s most innovative musicians; a musician still very much at the top of his game. Yet the reviews of ‘Cruel Summer’ are relegated to roughly the same level as Rick Ross’ two most recent releases – MMG’s ‘Self Made Vol. 2′ and Ross’ newest solo LP ‘God Forgives, I Don’t’ – arguably equal billing for most disappointing rap releases since Wiz Khalifa’s pop-rap abortion, ‘Rolling Papers’. The fact is, nobody is allowed to be as consistently brilliant as Kanye West without somebody stepping in to say that he “just isn’t that good”.
But how is that fair? This critical sea-change comes as a result of critics making him a darling in the first place. Kanye may be the self-proclaimed ‘biggest asshole in hip hop’, but he doesn’t write his own reviews. While, in my most humble opinion, he deserves that status, Pitchfork, Vibe, XXL, all are somewhat responsible for West’s status as the number one rapper/producer in the world – they made him, and now they want to break him.
This is increasingly becoming the way that the publications work; sacrificing any real opinion to salvage their waning sales through the creation of fads. That sort of mindset has been around since discrete ‘tribes’ of music fans began to form and diversify; but nowadays, with the respect of your peers stemming from what you don’t like, rather than what you do, reviewers can score a 1-2 punch. Create a fad to sell your magazine to one half of your readership, break the fad 6 months later to sell to the other. Look at poor Skrillex; call him what you want, but not fucking dubstep. Hype around Skrillex’s spastic tech-house was through the roof around the time of his first EP, with bad journalists making easy comparisons between his club-friendly squelches and dubstep’s bastardised ‘bro-step’ clone. As the hype reached critical mass, and the tide’s turning became inevitable, that same press rounded on his status as dubstep’s saviour. Had he ever claimed his music was dubstep? Of course not. But people have short memories, and as more and more of them discovered the odd Burial song and claimed to be experts on ‘real’ dubstep (“not that wobby shit”), they were more than happy for Skrillex to replace Pendulum as pop-dance enemy no. 1.
So there’s no real moral here other than ‘stop fucking reading magazines’.