Sunday, December 19, 2010

Kanye and Me

“Why do you like Kanye so much?” Karen asked during another listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, this time in the Kia on the way to see Tron:Legacy.

It’s a good question. We are not kindred spirits and I don’t pretend to understand what life is like for a rich black guy, or a very famous guy, or a damn rich guy. I wouldn’t say Kanye speaks to me, but when he speaks at me, I listen.

West’s rhymes never fail to make me laugh. Best lines (from “Gold Digger”):

She was suppose to buy your shorty TYCO with your money
She went to the doctor got lypo with your money
She walking around looking like Michael with your money
Should of got that insured got GEICO for your money.
That piece of lyrical genius is, in itself, enough to make me a lifelong fan, but there’s more. Kanye is the ultimate popmeister, a master at spinning hooks that stab deeply and, coupled with brilliant wordplay, become as automatically quotable as the most memorable lines of your favorite movies and songs. When Robbie came home with a great report card last week, I burst into “Champion” (“This is the story of a champion”) when I saw his top grades. Kanye’s new songs feel old right away. That’s a good thing. With one listen, they are stuck in my brain – instant classics. The only other artist who pulls this off with regularity is Bruce Springsteen.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is, after two spins, deeply ingrained. Who else would reach back for that King Crimson beauty, “21st Century Schizoid Man” and take it for a ride in “Monster.” (By the way, Nicki Minaj steals the show; she’s at least five people on this track. Now I have to get her album.) “Runaway” pushes its way onto the list of best songs of the century in its catchiness and depth. Kanye’s turn at Maoist self-criticism is scorching, but, you damn well know he’s pleased with himself for being such a righteous asshole.

Let's have a toast for the douchebags
Let's have a toast for the assholes

We’ve all been there, right, and wished the world would recognize our dickishness as a positive. Well, I’ve been there. Right on Mr. West. And making Black Sabbath’s “Ironman” his own on “Hell of a Life”? Again, who else does this so effortlessly?

Why do I like Kanye? His melodies are indelible, timeless, his patter hysterical and soul baring. And he incorporates all the good bits that came before him, from any genre that fits. Isn’t that what all the true greats have done, from Dylan and The Beatles forward?

That’s why I like Kanye so much.

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