Drake’s Dilemma Could Make Him A Hip-Hop Hero

Drake is perched atop the Hip-Hop game right now; his musical Midas touch, dominant as ever. Nothing Was The Same, his third studio album, debuted at number one on Billboard’s Top 200 chart and sold close to 700,000 copies in its first week sporting four successful singles. It was the biggest splash a Hip-Hop album has made in its initial release since Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV in 2011. But, for every ounce of glory attached to the premiere position comes a chilling challenge.

Pusha T provoked Drake on The Dream-assisted single, “Exodus 23:1”. Chi-Town hall-of-fame candidate Common pitched curve-balls at Drizzy on his single, “Sweet” and a remix to “Stay Schemin'”. Even Ludacris shoved the Canadian all-star a bit on “Bada Boom”. But, Kendrick Lamar is another topic all together. Hip-Hop’s darling mentioned Drake, among others, on Big Sean’s “Control” sparking a debate among the fans as to who would prevail in a slug fest. Drake, however, responded listlessly in an interview with Angie Martinez on Hot 97’s airwaves when she suggested he enter a rap battle.

“I feel like those things are of the moment… I’d hold it down… I really do this as far as writing goes… and it would have to be warranted ’cause it would be scathing, the bars would be scathing. I can’t be the first one.”

Then, she mentions Kendrick’s attack to which he responded:

“It just wasn’t real to me. Like, I saw him after that and it was just like, love. So, it’s like, “was that real or was that just for the people?… Let it be real then because, you know, those were harsh words. Right? So, it’s like, you can’t just say that and then see me and be like, “Yeah, man! What’s up? Pretending like nothing ever happened. To me, that’s not the nature of battling. There’s passion behind it. There’s anger behind it, you know? And I personally enjoy making great music and bodies of work over being the talk of Twitter for five days.”

Lamar took the opportunity to address these words at the 2013 BET Hip-Hop Awards.

And nothin’ been the same since they dropped ‘Control’

And tucked the sensitive rapper back in his pajama clothes

Haha, jokes on you, high five, I’m bulletproof

Your shots will never penetrate

Pin a tail on the donkey, boy, you been a fake

The top two emcees in Hip-Hop are currently connected via competitive animosity – Drake, a trend-setter and trailblazer whose approach to Rap music stirred a settling pot, and Kendrick Lamar, a fierce lyrical herald with unanimous acclaim, are in position to wage a war of words. Some fans including Erykah Badu, strongly urge Drake to respond to Lamar’s jabs in Hip-Hop’s best interest. Seemingly, a duel between these two could rival the storied Jay-Z and Nas feud. Other fans see it as a necessary survival tool for the Canadian songsmith, as if his deference would cripple his empire similar to Ja Rule and his Murder, Inc label. It’s as if they forgot Drake’s subliminal responses to the aforementioned slights. Even though he has proven he can hold his own, the Hip-Hop nation forgets things rather quickly. But, the bottom line is Hip-Hop thrives off these situations. Competitive rivalries nurtured the culture since its birth. Therefore, when two elite stars in their prime cross paths in this playing field, every body’s a winner, fans and artists included. Since Drake and Kendrick represent this generation’s cream of the crop, if they keep things Hip-Hop by embracing one another with the pen, we’ll all rise to the top.

And that’s all everybody wants.

The public doesn’t care who’s camp is tougher. Nobody figures the two emcees for gangster rappers, anyhow – an important detail considering the culture’s maturity. Previously, fans would side with beefing emcees based on who they think would win an actual shootout rather than a battle. But, the top scores in the game today belong to lyricists and hipsters – Wale, J. Cole, Mac Miller, Macklemore, Wiz Khalifa, and so forth. Drake is known for his emotional expression and Kendrick for his poetic capacity; the two are pure artists, not street credible talents. Imagine two mainstream acts with every-man backgrounds vying for artistic supremacy. The battle would be Hip-Hop’s rite of passage, the advancement symbol it desperately thirsts for. The mafioso and gangster stereotypes would be pushed further into the background and this new era could usher in the next wave of urban craftsmen.

It’s the change we’ve all waited to see happen. And it’s all in Drake’s hands.

Eminem’s De-Evolution

Eminem, a.k.a. Marshall Mathers, a.k.a. Slim Shady, is the most feared lyricist on the planet. He has been since his milestone Marshall Mathers LP tsunami-ed through the airwaves and changed Hip-Hop forever. “Rap God, his latest single from The Marshall Mathers LP II, has reminded listeners just how fierce his mic skills remain. And although he set the Internet ablaze with the epic track, die-hard fans still agree, Em is just not the same caliber emcee we initially loved. The song, or perhaps Eminem as a writer, is still missing the “it” factor that wowed audiences into a frenzy. What exactly is he doing wrong?

Let’s look at his earlier, more acclaimed work and compare it with his contemporary writings.

“Lose Yourself” (Verse 1):

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy 

There’s vomit on his sweater already: mom’s spaghetti

He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready

To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting

What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud

He opens his mouth but the words won’t come out

He’s choking, how? Everybody’s joking now

The clock’s run out, time’s up, over – blaow!

Snap back to reality, oh! – there goes gravity Oh –

there goes Rabbit, he choked

He’s so mad, but he won’t

Give up that easy nope, he won’t have it He knows,

his whole back’s to these ropes

It don’t matter, he’s dope

He knows that, but he’s broke

He’s so stagnant, he knows

When he goes back to this mobile home,

 that’s when it’s Back to the lab again, yo,

this whole rhapsody He better go capture this moment

and hope it don’t pass him

It’s a pretty immaculate 16, isn’t it? His rhymes don’t sound forced. He doesn’t use a double time tempo to stretch corny metaphors or wordplay. Instead, he uses multiple compound rhyme schemes throughout the verse, a complicated technique only the finest lyricists employ, and flows succinctly with the instrumental. It’s efficient storytelling and technical prowess wrapped in a lyrical bow.

Now, let’s contrast that verse with later material.

“Cinderella Man” (Verse 1):

There’s a storm coming that the weatherman couldn’t predict

I start the bug, prick you better, flee cause I get ticked

It’s a wrap, I was down, when I was down, I was kicked,

I got up I’m back to punch you to the ground, you trick,

it’s a trap Fuck my last CD, the shit’s in my trash

I be god damned if another rapper gets in my ass

I hit the gas and I spit every rap as if it’s my last

You can die in the blink of an eye So bat your eyelashes,

and keep winking and blowing kisses Cause you’re flirting with death

I’m destroying your livelihood, I ain’t just hurting your rep

I catch a flow and get going, no remorse I’m showing Ain’t slowing for no one,

knowing there is nothing you can do about it

Zero in on the target like a marksman,

the target is you

I shut your lane down, took your spot, parked in it too

Arsenic flow, lighter fluid saliva: what can you do?

Go get your crew to hype you up stand behind you like “whoooo!”

That boy’s hot enough to melt Hell, burn Satan too

Fry his ass and put his ashes back together with glue

See you can hate em, he don’t blame you frankly he would too

This game could ill afford to lose him, how ’bout you? Now guess who?

He begins the verse with juvenile wordplay (the “bug…flee…ticked” lines) and doesn’t upgrade. He’s still using compound schemes but that’s the only credit he earns here. His flow lacks a natural cadence and the entire verse is uninspired and generic. The rest of the song follows suit. It’s enjoyable mostly due to the production and back-up vocals and it’s unusual that any song feature steals the spotlight from Em’s verses.

We’ll revisit another exceptional performance as an example.

“My Name Is” (Verse 3):

Stop the tape This kid needs to be locked away

Dr. Dre don’t just stand there, operate

I’m not ready to leave, it’s too scary to die

I’ll have to be carried inside the cemetery and buried alive

Am I coming or going, I can barely decide

I just drank a fifth of vodka, dare me to drive

All my life I was very deprived

I ain’t had a woman in years My palms too hairy to hide

Clothes ripped like the Incredible Hulk

I spit when I talk, I’ll fuck anything that walks

When I was little I used to get so hungry I would throw fits

How you gonna breastfeed me Mom, you ain’t got no tits!

I lay awake and strap myself in the bed

Put a bulletproof vest on and shoot myself in the head

I’m steaming mad And by the way, when you see my Dad

Tell him that I slit his throat in this dream I had

Slim ‘s sarcastic lyricism is top notch on “My Name Is”. His inflection is well choreographed with the Dr. Dre beat and his trademark multisyllabic patterns are creative and entertaining. He also uses assonance for added effect. “It’s too SCARY to die, I’ll have to be CARRIED inside the cemeTARY and BURIED alive…” The chorus, infamously catchy, and the production, a stripped down Labi Siffre sample, is but an afterthought in the wake of Eminem’s charisma and technique.

Let’s compare this performance with another lackluster effort.

“Fast Lane” (Verse 2):

Catch me in my Mercedes Bumping Ice Ice Baby

Screamin’ Shady til I die Like a half a pair of dice, life’s crazy

So I live it to the fullest til I’m Swayze

And you only live it once

So I’m thinking bout this nice, nice lady

Wait, don’t stop me now fore I get on a roll (Danish)

Let me tell you what this pretty little dame’s name is cause she’s kinda famous

And I hope that I don’t sound too heinous when I say this

Nicki Minaj But I wanna stick my penis in your anus

You morons think that I’m a genius

Really I belong inside a dang insane asylum

Came to drive them trailer parks crazy

I am back And I am razor-sharp, baby

And that’s back with a capital B with an exclamation mark

Maybe you should listen when I flip the linguistics

Cause I’mma rip this mystical slick shit

You don’t wanna become another victim or statistic of this shit

Cause after I spit the bullets I’mma treat these shell casings like a soccer ball

I’mma kick the ballistics So get this dick, I’mma live this

The beat’s engaging drums and blaring bass are combined with a hearty chorus that just pulls the listener’s ear. But, unfortunately, Eminem’s verses practically push it away. These sped up paces are him practicing quantity over quality. The quicker he raps, the more rhymes he can stuff within his verse. However, the substandard puns and repulsing banter leave the fans altogether detached. There’s also no imagination to the bars. It’s verbose, bland, and unsophisticated.

Measure this work against his material on the original “Bad Meets Evil”.

(Verse 1):

I don’t speak, I float in the air wrapped in a sheet

I’m not a real person, I’m a ghost trapped in a beat

I translate when my voice is read

through a seismograph And a noise is bred,

picked up and transmitted through Royce’s head

Trap him in his room, possess him and hoist his bed

’til the evilness flows through his blood like poisonous lead

Told him each one of his boys is dead

I asked him to come to the dark side, he made a choice and said…

(Verse 3)

Cause this is what happens when Bad meets Evil

And we hit the trees til we look like Vietnamese people

He’s Evil, and I’m Bad like Steve Seagal

Above the law cause I don’t agree with police either (Shit, me neither)

We ain’t eager to be legal

So please leave me with the keys to your Jeep Eagle

I breathe ether in three lethal amounts

While I stab myself in the knee with a diseased needle

Releasing rage on anybody in squeezing range

Cold enough to make the seasons change into freezing rain (He’s insane)

No I’m not, I just want to shoot up and I’m pissed off Cause I can’t find a decent vein…

(Verse 5)

I used to be a loudmouth, 

remember me? I’m the one who burned your house down,

well I’m out now

And this time I’m coming back to blow your house up

And I ain’t gon’ leave you a window to jump out of

Give me two fat tabs and three shrooms

And you won’t see me like fat people in steam rooms

And when I go to hell and I’m getting ready to leave

I’mma put air in a bag and charge people to breathe

Eminem exhibits astute lyricism and a self-assured flow in “Bad Meets Evil”. He’s humorous and his vernacular is technically impressive as he employs remarkable assonance in the second verse without altering his pace. It’s an ideal lyrical delivery that carefully carries the listener’s attention till its conclusion.

Lastly, we’ll examine “Rap God”.

(Verse 1):

But for me to rap like a computer must be in my genes
I got a laptop in my back pocket
My pen’ll go off when I half-cock it
Got a fat knot from that rap profit
Made a living and a killing off it
Ever since Bill Clinton was still in office
With Monica Lewinsky feeling on his nut-sack
I’m an MC still as honest
But as rude and as indecent as all hell
Syllables, killaholic (Kill ’em all with)
This slickety, gibbedy, hibbedy hip-hop
You don’t really wanna get into a pissing match with this rappidy rap
Packing a Mac in the back of the Ac, backpack rap crap, yep, yep, yackity-yak
Now at the exact same time
I attempt these lyrical acrobat stunts while I’m practicing that
I’ll still be able to break a motherfuckin’ table
Over the back of a couple of faggots and crack it in half
Only realized it was ironic I was signed to Aftermath after the fact
How could I not blow? All I do is drop F-bombs, feel my wrath of attack
Rappers are having a rough time period, here’s a maxipad
It’s actually disastrously bad for the wack
While I’m masterfully constructing this masterpiece as

It’s apparent Eminem emphasizes his performance (breath control, enunciation, tempo) over lyrical substance (metaphors, double entendres, punchlines, etc.) to make up for his apparent weaknesses. Aside from his blazing vocal dexterity, the song quality is average at best and the verses lose their appeal over time because his bars still lack personality, a characteristic that endeared him to the masses. It’s monotonous and vacant of any thought-provoking imagery or meaning.

Nevertheless, I do agree with Eminem. Although he can’t out-rap his former self, he can embarrass 99% of the game. So, he is in fact a Rap God. But, his production lately just reminds me how much I miss the old Eminem. He was funny, witty, sarcastic, and provocative; the kid from the wrong side of the tracks whose artistry inspired me. The trailblazing career he shared with his fans in the beginning designated his reputation utterly bulletproof. His winning streak from The Slim Shady LP to The Eminem Show is legendary. Practically everything he touched during that time period was platinum, literally and figuratively. (Actually, The Marshall Mathers LP went diamond). Not even the greatest of all time, Jay-Z, could match the genius behind Eminem’s penmanship. And on that note, I leave you with his finest hour: “Renegade”.

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It’s Not Radio’s Fault

A Hot 97 interview took a heated turn as B. Dot, an editor at RapRadar, insinuated radio personalities get paid to boost records. Whether or not you agree with him, it’s a common opinion among underground fans who argue mainstream music erodes the culture as DJ’s allow money to dictate their music rotations. The playing field became unfair and so the listeners and lesser known artists were left struggling. Ebro, the program director at HOT 97, before he spirals out of control, breaks down the mechanics at radio stations. There’s a formula based on song statistics that determines which music gets played to best maximize the radio station’s output. It has nothing to do with the DJ’s turning a profit by being selective.

It’s a subtle yet important moment for the culture. Hip-Hop fans pelt radio stations for their musical selection, but it ‘s rarely the DJ’s choice. In certain cases the music is hand-selected by the DJ. But, those are moments far removed from prime time slots. Mostly, the radio must appeal to the masses, the casual listeners, underground heads and everyone in-between. It’s not their fault some of your favorite artists don’t make music everyone enjoys or that fits the general audience. The reasons vary. Even still, there are many sites catered to damn near any playlist preference; as Ebro calls it, fragmentation, music siphons through different mediums these days. You can always find what you like somewhere else.

So, it’s time we hopped off radio’s back and stopped complaining about their selection. There’s much more involved in their operation than we know. And at least in the case of Hot 97, we can finally brush off the Payola rumors.

Here’s part 1:

Kanye’s Best Work – The College Dropout vs. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Although Kanye West’s latest work, Yeezus, his most polarizing and controversial album to date, is still pretty fresh in listener’s ears, I took time from my busy schedule to juxtapose his most critically acclaimed classics, The College Dropout and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, as a way to settle a long-lasting debate among my brain-trust. On one side, I have a friend swearing by TCD and it’s foundation for the ego-maniacal super-producer’s historic career. The opposing side hails MBDTF as Mr. West’s magnum opus, his flawless master work. I stood in the middle wondering who was right, unable to choose a winner. Until now. But, first, let’s take a look at both pieces and organically arrive at the decision.

THE COLLEGE DROPOUT

Intro is a brief slip into the album where Kanye’s asked to give an uplifting graduation speech. We Don’t Care is Kanye’s sarcastic response, a supposed perfect song for the kids of his and younger generations to sing along to. The chorus plays:

Drug dealing just to get by
Stack ya’ money til’ it get sky high
(Kids, sing! Kids, sing!)
We wasn’t supposed to make it past 25
Joke’s on you, we still alive
Throw your hands up in the sky and yell:
“We don’t care what people say”

Although it’s a quintessential reflection of Kanye’s attitude toward society’s expectations and the status quo, West is not the skilled MC he will later become and his lyricism here is immature in comparison. Graduation Day is the teacher’s frustrated reaction to Kanye’s comical speech. It’s topped off with vocals from John Legend that highlight Kanye’s decision to chase his dreams in the midst of pressure from his beloved mother to follow a traditional path toward success.

I’m no longer confused but don’t tell anybody
I’m about to break the rules but don’t tell anybody
I got something better than school but don’t tell anybody
My momma would kill me but don’t tell anybody
She wants me to get a good ass job just like everybody
She ain’t walked in my shoes I’m just not everybody

All Falls Down is one of Kanye’s best performances. He flows unblemished with poignant, thought-provoking lyrics against the materialistic nature of society.

Man I promise, I’m so self-conscious
That’s why you always see me with at least one of my watches
Rollies and Pasha’s done drove me crazy
I can’t even pronounce nothing, pass that ver-say-see
Then I spent four hundred bucks on this
Just to be like, nigga you ain’t up on this
And I can’t even go to the grocery store
Without some Ones that’s clean and a shirt with a team
It seems we living the American dream
But the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem
The prettiest people do the ugliest things
For the road to riches and diamond rings
We shine because they hate us, floss cause they degrade us
We trying to buy back our 40 acres
And for that paper, look how low we a stoop
Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe

I’ll Fly Away is a hymn written in 1929 by Albert E. Brumley and popularized by Baptist, Pentecostal, and Methodist gospel churches. It’s a perfect thematic prelude for the next track…

One glad morning
When this life is over
I’ll fly away
To a land where
Joy shall never end

I’ll fly away

Oh I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away
When I die Hallelujah bye and bye
I’ll fly away

Spaceship articulates Kanye’s wish to traverse his own route and not the traditional 9-5 grind. He vents his frustration with racism in the work place and punctuates his placement in the game as a result of his passion and unwavering work ethic. The verses are strong thematically and structurally and the melodies are instantly memorable.

Y’all don’t know my struggle
Y’all can’t match my hustle
You can’t catch my hustle
You can’t fathom my love dude
Lock yourself in a room doing 5 beats a day for 3 summers
That’s a Different World like Cree Summer’s
I deserve to do these numbers
“The kid that made that deserves that Maybach!”
So many records in my basement
I’m just waiting on my spaceship

The track also features respectable guest appearances from GLC and Consequence and an outro from Tony Williams. Facing the hardships of ghetto poverty, police brutality, and the taboo topic of religion in popular music, Jesus Walks is Kanye’s prayer to help him push through these boundaries. It’s one of Kanye’s more famous works and deservedly so. It’s a total home run.

Now, hear ye, hear ye: want to see Thee more clearly
I know he hear me when my feet get weary
Cause we’re the almost nearly extinct
We rappers is role models: we rap, we don’t think
I ain’t here to argue about his facial features
Or here to convert atheists into believers

I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers
The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that’s the way I need Jesus

So here go my single dog radio needs this
They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, videotape
But if I talk about God my record won’t get played, huh?

Well if this take away from my spins
Which will probably take away from my ends
Then I hope this take away from my sins
And bring the day that I’m dreaming about
Next time I’m in the club, everybody screaming out

Never Let Me Down is an epic, inspirational piece wrapped up in religious connotation. The incomparable Jay-Z reminds us why he’s called, “Hov”, and Kanye declares he’s a heaven-send to the game; his defiance and talent divinely passed down through his ancestors genes.

I get down for my grandfather who took my mama
Made her sit in that seat where white folks ain’t want us to eat
At the tender age of 6 she was arrested for the sit-ins
And with that in my blood I was born to be different

In-between, J. Ivy truly portrays a reverend’s gospel with rousing spoken word. Undeniably great music. Get Em High finds Kanye in a more traditional Hip-Hop vein as he joins Talib Kweli and Common to flex about their artistic talents and the fairer sex. It contrasts the precedingwork with a much less personal touch and rather forgettable lyrics. Workout Plan is a prelude in which a couple of females talk about a new exercise plan and diet regimen that’ll improve their looks which in turn will improve their lifestyle. The New Workout Plan is catchy, upbeat, and humorous. Its satirical nature showcases Kanye’s humorous side as he pokes fun at gold-digging women. It’s original and entertaining.

Slow Jamz features Jamie Foxx and Twista in an ode to women. It’s pretty groovy with an appealing hook and solid performances from all three stars. Kanye flashes some more of that characteristic humor.

She be grabbing
Calling me Biggie like Shyne home
Man I swear she fine, homes
Why she always lying though?
Telling me them diamonds
When she know they rhinestones
She got a light-skinned friend, look like Michael Jackson
Got a dark-skinned friend, look like Michael Jackson

Breathe In Breathe Out isn’t exactly a knock-out. A verse from Ludacris would’ve made it stand out. But, ultimately, it feels more on the filler side than a necessary album cut. Even the beat is rather simple for Kanye’s taste. School Spirit (skit 1) ribs the American educational system and School Spirit accents Kanye’s decision to abandon a career plan which didn’t make sense to him. It features a well-placed sample from Aretha Franklin and ties the album concept back together. However, it’s also rather insignificant. School Spirit (skit 2) and Lil Jimmy (skit) pick up where the first skit left off. There’s just as much humor and truth to the words today than ever before. The latter piece introduces Jimmy, the son of the first character from the former skit, as he talks about his life. His father passed away and all he had to remember him by were his degrees. Instead of working, he “just kept learning”. Two Words features the renowned Mos Def and Freeway. The title refers to the parameter each emcee followed throughout their verses, two words or syllables for each quarter bar. Mos Def and West animate ghetto living and ambition in their verses.

And I basically know now
We get racially profiled
‘Cuffed up and hosed down, pimped up and ho’d down
Plus I got a whole city to hold down
From the bottom so the top’s
The only place to go now

Yet, Freeway finishes blandly with an anemic verse to end the song.

On October 23rd, 2002, Kanye crashed his car and fractured his jaw. The doctors had to wire it together again. He went on to recite his verses against the pain for Through The Wire. The soulful Chaka Khan sample perfectly offsets both his predicament and the emotions he purveys in each verse.

What if somebody from the Chi’ that was ill got a deal
On the hottest rap label around?

But he wasn’t talking about coke and birds
It was more like spoken word
Except he’s really putting it down?
And he explained the story about how blacks came from glory
And what we need to do in the game
Good dude, bad night, right place, wrong time
In the blink of a eye, his whole life changed
If you could feel how my face felt, you would know how Mase felt
Thank God I ain’t too cool for the safe belt!

I swear to God driver two wants to sue
I got a lawyer for the case to keep what’s in my safe safe
My dogs couldn’t tell if I
I looked like Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky, it was televised
There’s been an accident like GEICO
They thought I was burnt up like Pepsi did Michael
I must got a angel
Cause look how death missed his ass

Unbreakable, what you thought, they’d call me Mr. Glass?
Look back on my life like the Ghost of Christmas Past
Toys “R” Us where I used to spend that Christmas cash
And I still won’t grow up, I’m a grown-ass kid
Swear I should be locked up for stupid shit that I did

But I’m a champion, so I turned tragedy to triumph
Make music that’s fire, spit my soul through the wire

Ironic that Kanye wasn’t in the best condition when he put the song together because it’s a sincerely polished work of Hip-Hop. Family Business is a heart-warming reminder that those he loves are more important than the rap furnishings. West is usually at peak performance when he vents from his own life story and as such:

Aw naw, don’t open the photo book up
I got an Aunt Ruth that can’t remember your name
But I bet them Polaroids’ll send her down memory lane
You know that one auntie, you don’t mean to be rude
But every holiday nobody eating her food
And you don’t wanna stay there cause them your worst cousins
Got roaches at their crib like them your first cousins
Act like you ain’t took a bath with your cousins
Fit 3 in the bed while 6 of y’all
I’m talkin’ ’bout three by the head and three by the leg
But you ain’t have to tell my girl I used to pee in the bed 

Last Call recounts Kanye’s hard-fought progression from a burgeoning producer to a solo Rap artist. It’s a very intimate track with a built-in interlude that details Kanye’s history with various heads in the music industry. It foreshadows West’s impact on the genre as he would become the outspoken voice for the next generation that didn’t exactly look or act the part.

Some say he arrogant. Can y’all blame him?
It was straight embarrassing how y’all played him
Last year shoppin my demo, I was tryin’ to shine
Every motherfucker told me that I couldn’t rhyme
Now I could let these dream killers kill my self-esteem
Or use my arrogance as the steam to power my dreams
I use it as my gas, so they say that I’m gassed
But without it I’d be last, so I ought to laugh
So I don’t listen to the suits behind the desk no more
You niggas wear suits cause you can’t dress no more
You can’t say shit to Kanye West no more
I rocked 20,000 people, I was just on tour, nigga
I’m Kan, the Louis Vuitton Don
Bought my mom a purse, now she Louis Vuitton Mom
I ain’t play the hand I was dealt, I changed my cards
I prayed to the skies and I changed my stars

The College Dropout is a touching and inspirational soundtrack to Kanye’s life journey till that point. It falters occasionally with a few weak spots but its finest moments more than cover the spread. It galvanized Hip-Hop into a new age where rappers jettisoned their alter ego’s and spoke as their true selves; a landmark offering in just his first time at bat.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

File:My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.jpg

The album begins with the vocally talented Nicki Minaj paving the way for Kanye’s vision on Dark Fantasy. She verbalizes an urban twist on Roald Dahl’s poem, Cinderella, which talks about the classic story being much more gruesome than the public ever knew. Alterations were made to the original tale to make it child-friendly. It’s a precursor into West’s life where things are taking a turn for the worst and he sides with the devil in hopes of surviving the mainstream storm after the infamous Taylor Swift incident. Gorgeous, thusly narrates the uglier side of Kanye’s fame. Kid Cudi harmonizes West’s emotions as he tight ropes the periphery of celebrity success in the face of stereotypes that plague him in both the industry and daily life. The inimitable Raekwon finishes the song with a verse relaying their purpose: to teach newbie’s how to navigate the game and learn from their mistakes. Power is Kanye embracing his stature as one of the most important mouthpieces of his time despite the glaring criticisms his own self-destructive actions sprouted. The drums and hi hats hit hard as his temperament, confident and daring.

Fuck SNL and the whole cast
Tell them Yeezy said they can kiss my whole ass
More specifically they can kiss my asshole
I’m an asshole? You niggas got jokes

You short-minded niggas thoughts is Napoleon
My furs is Mongolian, my ice brought the goalies in
And I embody every characteristic of the egotistic
He knows, he’s so fucking gifted

I just needed time alone with my own thoughts
Got treasures in my mind but couldn’t open up my own vault
My childlike creativity, purity and honesty
Is honestly being crowded by these grown thoughts

Reality is catching up with me
Taking my inner child, I’m fighting for custody
With these responsibilities that they entrusted me
As I look down at my diamond encrusted piece
Thinking…

All of the Lights (interlude) is Kanye’s trademark preface to All of the Lights and it only heightens the ambiance once the latter actually starts. There are eleven different vocalists on the track, mostly used for the song’s choruses: Rihanna, Kid Cudi, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Tony Williams, Fergie, Charlie Wilson, John Legend, The Dream, and Ryan Leslie. The song is West’s welcome mat that sits at the massive door of his iconic lifestyle. It’s impossible to listen to without feeling the percussion in your bones.

Monster is a supreme team effort with some of the biggest names in the genre – Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and Bon Iver on the chorus. The title is a double entendre as each artist is a top-tier talent, or a monster in the game, and the track, having featured each of these artists, is a monster, as in a smash hit, in itself. It also fits thematically as Kanye is always surrounded by monsters in this fantasy.

The best living or dead hands down, huh
Less talk, more head right now, huh
And my eyes more red than the devil is
And I’m about to take it to another level, bitch
No matter who you go and get

Ain’t nobody cold as this
Do the rap and the track, triple double no assists

So Appalled proclaims Kanye’s distaste for the perks of his own incredible success. It’s as if it’s all too much for him; the women, money, and champagne are each at an all-time high. RZA, Swizz Beatz, Jay-Z, Pusha T, and Cyhi the Prince all elaborate the topic further in their own respects. It’s a dark climate set against the decadence.

Devil In A New Dress reveals Kanye’s attempt at a relationship with what is generally thought to be Amber Rose then. Balancing a relationship with his level of fame is quite challenging as West can’t discern if she’s with him for what he has or who he is.

You got green on your mind, I can see it in your eyes
Why you standing there with your face screwed up?
Don’t leave while you’re hot that’s how Mase screwed up
Throwing shit around, the whole place screwed up
Maybe I should call Mase so he could pray for us
I hit the Jamaican spot, at the bar, take a seat
I ordered you jerk, she said you are what you eat
You see I always loved that sense of humor
But tonight you should have seen how quiet the room was
The Lyor Cohen of Dior Homme
That’s “Dior Homme”, not “Dior, homie”
The crib Scarface could it be more Tony?
You love me for me? Could you be more phony?

Rick Ross brings the track to a strong close with his patented materialism.

Runaway is Kanye’s warning to his lover, practically his way of saying, “It’s not you. It’s me”.

Never was much of a romantic
I could never take the intimacy
And I know I did damage
Cause the look in your eyes is killing me
I guess you are at an advantage
Cause you can blame me for everything
And I don’t know how I’mma manage
If one day you just up and leave

Pusha T excels at painting the picture of success and infidelity without concern. The track is a hard-hitting, haunting homage to the trials of super stardom and its negative effect on polygamy. It’s Kanye showcasing superior songwriting skill. Nevertheless, clocking in at almost ten minutes, the eerie production solo may prompt forward button action.

Hell of a Life flaunts Kanye’s decision to spiral into hedonism. He’s completely enthralled by the sex and excitement available to him.

One day I’m gon’ marry a porn star
We’ll have a big-ass crib and a long yard
We’ll have a mansion and some fly maids
Nothin’ to hide, we both screwed the bridesmaids
She wanna role play, ’til I roll over
I’mma need a whole day, at least rolled doja
What party is we goin’ to on Oscar day
‘specially if she can’t get that dress from Oscar de
La Renta, they wouldn’t rent her they couldn’t take the shame
Snatched the dress off her back and told her, “Get away”
How could you say they live they life wrong?
When you never fuck with the lights on

The production is thoroughly thrilling and well-conditioned. Kanye layers it with storytelling prowess and precision. Blame Game plays out as the inevitable result of the previous song. West struggles with guilt for both party’s actions which brought an end to the climactic relationship. He recites Chloë Mitchell’s poem as a perfect subtext over the solemn beat:

“Things used to be, now they not
Anything but us is who we are
Disguising ourselves as secret lovers
We’ve become public enemies
We walk away like strangers in the street

Gone for eternity
We erased one another

So far from where we came
With so much of everything, how do we leave with nothing?
Lack of visual empathy equates the meaning of L-O-V-E
Hatred and attitude tear us entirely”

And Chris Rock finishes the song with a humorous skit as the current boyfriend of Kanye’s prior paramour, who now has much to offer after experiencing a relationship with West. It’s also lengthy cut but well worth every second. Lost In The World is a full-figured track. Here Kanye uses stark contrast to illustrate his ambivalent feelings toward relationships and success.

You’re my devil, you’re my angel
You’re my heaven, you’re my hell
You’re my now, you’re my forever
You’re my freedom, you’re my jail
You’re my lies, you’re my truth
You’re my war, you’re my truce
You’re my questions, you’re my proof
You’re my stress and you’re my masseuse

The production is up tempo and brash. Gil-Scot Heron’s prose decorates the song’s theme on the outro, Who Will Survive In America:

America was a bastard the illegitimate daughter of the mother country
Whose legs were then spread around the world and a rapist known as freedom, free doom. Democracy, liberty, and justice
Were revolutionary code names that preceded the bubbling bubbling bubbling bubbling bubbling in the mother country’s crotch

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is Kanye’s immaculate conception, his virtuoso audio diary. It’s a genius manifesto; over-the-top in the best way imaginable, free from defect, and as fulfilling a listen you’ll find in any music genre.

Winner: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy