While I think that Kanye straddles the line between petulant child and idiot savant a bit too often, dude is definitely a brilliant artist. I won’t call him a musician because as of yet I’m not sure he can play anything other than a drum machine. But what makes him so brilliant as an artist is his vision. In fact, that’s what separates him from nearly every other artist out there in hip-hop, in my opinion. Kanye has figured out how best to tow the line between capturing the cultural zeitgeist, finding an innovative way to promote it, and dropping music that somehow manages to sound completely unique and niche but intended for mass consumption at the same damn time. That is a rare talent.
To take it a step further, the only thing separating Nas from Jay-Z is Kanye West. Kanye has enabled Jay to extend his run at the top much longer than it likely would have lasted. He’s allowed Jay to venture into musical waters he’d otherwise never venture without somebody like ‘Ye there to create it. I don’t know this for fact, but Jay’s taken a hell of a lot more chances with his music since Kanye showed up.
Vision. I get it. It’s allowed the man to focus on the experience of music moreso than just the sound of it. You don’t just get an album. You get the visuals, you get the package. Hell, even the simple cover art for every single they’ve dropped since the G.O.O.D. Friday’s experiment of 2010 was ahead of its time. No need for anything too crazy. It’s all about the experience. Which is why I understand why artists like Kanye and Andre 3000, get so bored with, well, everything.
“…I’m just underwhelmed in general…” ~ Kanye West, Cruel Summer promo video
“…I’m tangled in my chord, eh, bored…” ~ Andre 3000, “Mighty O”, Idlewild Soundtrack
I get it. I don’t think there’s been a time where I’ve personally been this underwhelmed by music that I hear. And to be honest, some of that output includes the music coming from the Grammy family too. I even find Cruel Summer to be underwhelming. Admittedly, I wasn’t a big fan of “Mercy” (outside of saying Lamborghini mercy because its just fun to say) or “New God Flow” when they dropped. “Clique” is perfect. Period. But I’ve listened to the album a few times and have yet to want to listen to it again.
I wonder if I’m just suffering from art overload and malaise. I consume an insane amount of music and create my own. The more I hear the less enthused I get by current musical output. It’s like the 9th Wonder Production Returns theory all over – the more you get of it the less good it all is. And it’s not to say that I don’t enjoy some of it. There are definite pop smashes that I enjoy in the moment. But I forget them shortly after they fade from public consiousness like that Cobra Starship song I loved so much featuring Saba. Or anything by Carly Rae Jepsen. But I won’t remember those songs in two weeks if I don’t listen to the radio.
It doesn’t translate solely to music either. Many things that once excited me have managed to create a sense of boredom. From reading blogs that used to rocky my socks that now bore the absolute living f*ck out of me to fashion, because believe it or not, I like fashion. Which could just mean that I’m getting old. Or maybe I’m just getting crotchety. Of course, I still manage to get excited for some things in the music world. While I wasn’t holding my breath for Cruel Summer, I know I will be for a new Kanye West album. Or even a Jay album. I would be for an Outkast album but I guess Big Boi would too. I’m waiting for Kendrick Lamar to drop and am truly excited about that, but, that’s about it.
Even while waiting for those projects, there will be lesser known items that will come into my purview and make me smile again. You know, it just hit me as I was writing this. Because I feel like I’ve grown up along with nearly every great movement in hip-hop, I got to sit live and direct for a lot of music that absolutely made me and everybody else appreciative for its existence. And that’s what I feel is missing now. That’s what creates the underwhelming feeling. The innovation is missing. Nobody is making anything, that I’ve heard, that truly makes me appreciative of the artistry that goes into it. People either aren’t taking chances or don’t know how to take chances. Sure, there’s dope music that is safe, so to speak, but it doesn’t resonate after you’ve heard it the first time.
There are no more Madvillainys.
So when I do hear something that resonates I’m happy as hell and I truly feel lucky to have heard it or been apart of it. And that doesn’t happen often enough anymore. I’m not going to say the music lost all of its integrity, I just don’t feel much of it in my soul. For instance, the last bit of music that truly hit me in my gut, was a little known outfit out of Chicago, called Milo & Otis, composed of a vocalist/poet/etc and a composer/producer, with an album called The Joy. I would recommend you give it a listen. Instantly, I was hooked. Instantly. It’s the only thing I’ve listened to since I got it. And I’m appreciative of that. Something that makes me want to hit repeat.
I think that’s what Kanye was getting at with his underwhelmed comment. Which is why he is winning. He is making music that folks will play on repeat because it resonates and achieves the goal of being compelling. He’s trying to make himself give a f*ck. Could be the Gemini in us (pause?) that gets bored easily but that’s what I’m looking for too. The reason to listen again.
I’m tired of being underwhelmed, but I do at least believe that more quality is on the way from somewhere. Whether it’s the Milo & Otis’s (for me) or the Kanye’s of the world, I know there’s talent out there. I just have to do my work to find it. Maybe it isn’ the destination, but the journey.
Maybe I like clichÃ©s.
Maybe I’m just bored.
-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. EATING SOUP WITH A FORK aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3
We’d like to do our first shoutouts to folks who have contributed money to our ongoing efforts to create a TV pilot based on VSB! Thanks so much for your donations and support! You’ll be hearing from our lawyers mothers…eh…we love you! Thanks for sleepwalking to the following folks: