PART I: Before and After College Dropout.
I find myself writing this based on the fact that I have honestly lived through three generations and evolutions of Hip Hop and Rap music. And just to get this out the way, I do not claim to be any sort of guru on the subject, and have always been a fan of mostly mainstream rap. I have dabbled in listening to ‘serious’ conscious rap made by the the deep underground artists, but that was honestly too real for me, so I stuck to what I knew I liked. Believe, I was listening to hip hop when Biggie and Pac were both still alive, and they were pretty mainstream for the time, lived through the tumultuous 2000s and now it’s 2018, and The Migos are “boogity-ing” through my speakers.
Now the current younger generation has this concept of “waves“, something I really like, and find simply interesting. It’s actually a very easy-to-understand, concept – it is just like the name says. Waves, and they are everywhere and you are the “surfer dude”.
Ironically this seemingly casual, detached and very temporary approach to everything life has basis is some serious science, But I am not getting into now as this is a bit of a foxhole, and as the “surfer dude” you wait for the wave, ride it as long as you can, have your fun, and once it recedes, you let go and ride the next one.
This aspect is basically applied by the “cool kids” to everything in life. From love and relationships, money, parties, to school and more. Basically, your whole life is one giant surfing day, and is a wave! All you have to do is ride it while it lasts and make the best of it. Whatever happens on that wave is up to you, and you choose where you do your cutbacks, foam climbs and alley-opps. Those are all surfing moves that I had to google by the way, and some of them are pretty cool.
This is the idea behind this article – well, and there is the whole Kanye aspect of it. Kanye has been a subject of the media waves recently so I decided to ride that wave see how much fun I could have with the whole situation myself. And waves are something Kanye West himself understands a lot. On his 2016 album The Life of Pablo he even has a track called Waves.
After watching the whole Kanye/Trump fiasco play out, I decided to go and listen to all the Kanye I had in my library to see if I could gain some insight on the Stunt 101s (haha – see what I did there?) , that Mr. West was up to. As I was listening to his song Power from his 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, it suddenly hit me…
Kanye the man...
In my opinion, Kanye has become the single most hated, or the most disliked person in the world right now. Kanye archived this status literally by moseying up to the single person possibly at the center of every possible controversy in the entire world right now, Donald Trump – the Head of State of the worlds biggest exporter of culture since World War II. But what if I told you that this move was deliberate and Mr. Fresh wanted to be hated?
That all the words he has been saying and moves he’s been making are crafted either by his own hand or the invisible hand other?
Kanye is largely viewed as a nonsensical and often blabbering buffoon and an egomaniac – which I’m not saying he isn’t, btw. He is also been labeled selfish, insane and… (feel free to insert your own judgments here…). However in my view the man is the exact opposite. I think not only is he misunderstood, but has also deliberately designed his own words and actions, to create and maintain a certain image that does not resonate well with the masses, and yet propels whatever agenda is being served to us on the grand stage that is that United States of ‘Murica.
In this series of articles, I am going to present to you a theory I have cooked up, with the help of some friends and others I have discussed this with, explaining what I think is happening. I will reference his music to explain some key lyrics and ket events that may or may not explain or reveal, according to my theory, the point of the Kanye Plan. Since I am terrible at keeping secrets, I am just gonna tell you the theory right now.
When I was listening to Power that one day, the thing that hit me was that Kanye was trying to become the first black Republican President or at the very least get a nomination. That’s it. That’s the entirety of his plan. Everything we have seen so far are all key moves to the plan to archieve just that. But how? And more importantly, why? Well, my answer is simple because he is Kanye West.
To me his entire goal is to just become ‘the biggest person to ever‘ anything. Anything at all that someone has done, the man is out there to just best that. And since according to Americans and other things, America is the greatest nation in the world, so what better way to become the ultimate but to become the pinnacle of that very nation?
I am going to try and justify this theory by quoting his music, and some key events in his life that according to me, serve and/or propel this plan. And since he has so much music, I will reference only his studio albums. I will refer to features and collab albums if they are key to the plot. This first article delves a bit into the character of ‘Ye, some background and what I would want to think Kanye believes in based on his history and the music off his first studio album The College Dropout.
Before the fame...
Other fans and then followers will know that at this point Kanye had already been in the game for a long time as a recognized producer but was fighting for a place on the charts as a rapper as well.
Now the first myth I wish to dispell is that the man is not smart, because this he is. Born to Ray and Dr. Donda West, a known Black Panther – a black civil rights activist group, and a professor of English at Clark Atlanta University respectively.
Being a child of divorce, and born to activist and well educated parents, he grew up with a very good understanding of what is considered the ‘black struggle’ in the greater United States, something that he took into his music. I have often alluded to the fact that the blueprint of this struggle is the same all over the world, and not purely as described in American Pop Culture. I am of the thinking that each region or country has its own unique ‘struggle story’ caused deliberately or otherwise, by the ongoing remnants of now abolished oppressive systems, but no matter the story, the blueprint is the same.
Kanye has himself some level of higher education. He received a scholarship to Chicago State University to study English, which he studied prior to dropping out to focus on his music, the inspiration for the name of his first studio Album. Prior to that, Kanye had shown a high inclination to the arts having started writing poetry at age 5, rapping in the third grade and eventually receiving a scholarship to attend Chicago’s American Academy of Art in 1997 and began taking painting classes. He started producing music after meeting his mentor No I.D., a Chigaco based hip hop and Rn’B producer, who taught him sampling and beat programming.
At this point another thing we can establish about ‘Ye is that the man is an artist. This is something that a lot of people will argue with, but at the same time, something I have no page space to really argue. Kanye has a history in visual arts, can rap, sing, write, produce, paint, draw and is a fashion designer. And there is no argument that he has certainly received critical acclaim in a lot he has done. This also brings another character trait which this article will aim to prove – if anything is going to be done, it should be done by Kanye. And if Kanye is going to do it, then he is going to be the best who has ever done it, or the worst, as long as his name goes in the history books.
If there is any argument I am willing to entertain at this point about Ye’s art might be that he is not very original. The man himself has admitted that his whole production style was birthed through sampling, which is basically taking other people’s music and manipulating it. However I am also willing to argue that sampling is a technique more than it is an art and the art is in the production. Many a producer will agree that no two producers can do the same thing with the same sample. So let’s leave that one for another article.
Kanye's official arrival.
So far, I have simply stated things about Kanye based on the history available to the public through sites like Wikipedia. It has taken me years of listening to his music and actually growing up in this world to get to making deductions and conclusions based on his music.
Earlier I mentioned meeting Kanye in 2003 in the single “Through the Wire’,
The College Dropout Album Cover
which was actually released as the lead single prior to the release of the debut album. This song samples Chaka Khan’s Through The Fire – a deeply emotional song with a sad and somber tone and narrative.This track is key to the plot and was strategically released as an announcement by ‘Ye. Now at this point I have to call into argument another key characteristic of a Kanye West. The Man is woke, AF. From the conversations I have had with a couple of self proclaimed ‘woke’ people and a few YouTube videos later, I have found that it usually takes a cataclysmic and heart rendering event for one to evolve into ‘wokeness‘. In ‘Through the Wire’ Kanye West, describes the difficulty of coming back to the music industry after a near death experience in a car crash, and making a song with a wire in his jaw, from post accident surgery. At this point I am pretty sure he met God or someone there that sent him back on his mission.
2003 - College Dropout
The underlying message of ‘The College Dropout’ album is really just simply Kanye’s hate and despise of the standardized higher education system. The album title is a reference to his own dropping out of university to pursuit his dream in music. The album starts off with a simple request that he received from the suits behind the desks after he had ‘made it’. Remember Kanye had been making music prior to the accident and the release of this album since the 1990s, but it was purely just for the fame and the money. At this point I could argue that he had not yet fond the real purpose of the beautiful tool of music he possessed.
Some of his more notable production work before the release of this project include Jay Z’s – “Izzo (H.O.V.A.) and “Girls, Girls, Girls” in 2001, Mos Def’s “Brown Sugar (Fine)” and Jay Z and Beyonce’s”’03 Bonnie & Clyde“.
Upon receiving his “request” for a family friendly track from the suits at the record label on the intro to the album, his first song on the album, “We Don’t Care” is a nod to the “by any means necessary” method of survival a lot of poor families have to resort to. In the song he advises kids to “do what you have to do” to survive a rough world, even if it means selling drugs and possibly dying while doing it – a theme featured by the last of the gangster rappers, 50 Cent on his debut album Get Rich Or Die Tryin‘. 50’s debut album was released the same year as Kanye’s and their relationship takes an interesting turn as you will in the next part of the series. On the track he also strongly alludes to the fact that when in survival mode, and when you are called to action, when you have to do what you have to do, you have to not care what people say – you just gotta do what you gotta do.
The second track, “All falls down” starts off as another grim picture of education again, with a young black female stuck at university with an uncertain future. It quickly turns into his own struggle for identity as a rich black man, and then ends in a third verse where he addresses police brutality, another struggle for identity, that we often use branded clothing to cover up whats eating us up on the the inside in our struggle for identity, and how all our systems are set up to, at the end of the day pay one man.
The rest of the album follows the same schematic and theme as each track presents a different angle of the struggle, what the possible solution in that case could be and shares some of his thoughts on the subject.
‘Spaceship’ is a bunch of guys, (Kanye, GLC and Consequence facing the struggle of a s****y job and trying to make it in the very competitive world that is the music industry.
‘Jesus Walks’ – is an uptempo and protest sounding, church-like song, complaining about how ‘gospel themed music‘ doesn’t get played in the club, where the most lost and damned are found, or on radio. The song also a delves again into the same issues of police brutality, rich black man in America struggles etc. My personal favorite and notable lyric on this song is,
The next notable track is “Never Let Me Down” where they seriously ‘bromance‘ with Jay Z and promise to “never, ever let each other down”, and I am sure you see the prophecy here and at this point, I need to stress that Jay Z and Kanye were basically best buds here.
Like any other commercial album, there are some tracks that were put on the project either for to beef up the project or simply to appeal to the mainstream listener.
“Get Em High” (featuring Talib Kweli and Common) to me was one such project, however it is worth noting that Kanye was able to get two 90s rap legends on the same track. I don’t think Kweli and Com had worked together prior to this, but I stand corrected if I am wrong on this.
Its the followed by the “Kanye’s workout plans” song and skits, Slow Jamz” (Twista featuring Kanye West and Jamie Foxx) and “Breathe in Breathe Out” (featuring Ludacris; co-produced by Brian “All Day” Miller), which to me is just some more commercial stuff. However he does open the first verse with a provocative line about the nature and content of rap and makes a quick reference to the ‘blood diamond‘ trade of Ghana and Mali. This article here from 2006 says, “…a recent report said that between $9 million and $24 million worth of (conflict) stones are now entering the market through Ghana and Mali.”
Towards the end of the album Kanye comes back to his school bashing antiques with two skits and a song tilted “School Spirit”. In the first skit he discuses finishing school, picking up drug habits, and again getting a s****y job, under the boss’ family member who is not even remotely as qualified as you are. On the actual song he talks about graduating at the top of the class and ending up as a waiter at a Cheesecake. On the second skit, he speaks about being a carreer student and never earning a proper living.
After that is “Two Words” (featuring Mos Def, Freeway and The Boys Choir of Harlem), which is in itself a statement and has great features but not relevant to this article. This followed by “Through the Wire” whose great significance has already been discussed as the start.
The next track is “Family Business”, where he gets back to talking about ‘the struggle‘ and the age old oath to secrecy about what goes down in the family, in our daily struggle business. This is a deeply entrenched oath of secrecy that is almost mafia/militaristic in nature. It does not matter what the ‘thing’ may be, you simply do not speak about it outside the family. Family fights, the hustle, the uncle with the drug problem, or illness. It DOES NOT leave the family.
The song includes a 10 minute narative of the story of how Kanye came to success according to Kanye. If you want to get a little insight into the the story, I highly suggest you listen to this song.
So to wrap up, I am sure at this point there are a few things that we can agree on(or not) about Kanye West. Kanye is not the uneducated buffoon that most people view him as. He has a massive command of the English Language, which he studied at an advanced level, he comes from some sort of struggle, being a child of divorce, and was often on the road struggling for rent and more. He knows and understands the fight for his own identity as a man who was once poor but made it. He also understands the struggle of others, as referenced by addressing “the kids” in the opening track and identifying with the African struggle of ‘blood diamond‘ trade, something he speaks on again later. He is arguably an artist, and a very good one at it, based on his history in the arts and other skills he has up to now, shown. He knows what he wants and will not hesitate to sacrifice other things to get it. If someone else does it first, this does not deter Kanye, he will simply do it better, or as previously mentioned, worse.
In the next part I will combine the next two studio projects Late Registration and Graduation. The next installment will conclude the ‘struggle and decision making’ phase of the Kanye Plan. In the meantime let me know what you think so far in the comments. Do you think the image that a lot of people hold of Kanye is justified? Do you think there is no real plan to what Kanye is doing and its all blind stupidity? Let me know below.