I have a very dirty secret that will make most people with a musical inclination gasp: I’ve never listened to much Kanye. As terrible as this might sound, let me reflect on how I caught myself committing such an unspeakable hip-hop sin.
You see, there’s a lot of music out there in the world — a whole lot. If you want to bring out some fancier words you could say there’s a plethora, or perhaps a surplus. So much that one doesn’t have time to listen to all there is. I’ve never listened to The College Dropout or 808s & Heartbreak. And yes, of course I’ve heard singles like “Heartless,” “Jesus Walks” and “The New Workout Plan” at a party or in a friend’s car. But there’s just so much of Yeezy’s discography I don’t know.
Are you angry with me? Or just disappointed?
Let me bring the discussion to a place you might find yourself, too. When I browse around Spotify or YouTube and find some tune that will keep me feeling good while I’m strolling around campus, I don’t just listen to it a few times and then put it on the shelf. I abuse the song. I listen until I know all of the words. I press play until I dread the song, until I can’t enjoy it for the next six months because I’m so sick of hearing it by the time I’m done with it. I’m currently in the middle of this process with much of the Arctic Monkeys discography and Born Sinner by J. Cole.
Listening to a song this frequently, or at least in relation to all the other music available, is taxing and time consuming. One artist I simply haven’t focused on is Kanye West, but I do have some working knowledge of his work because hearing his songs is inevitable. While it seems he’s advanced to a miraculous level of media attention since somewhere around the time he interrupted Taylor Swift at the VMAs, his music has been on the radio far before that. “Gold Digger,” “Flashing Lights” and “N****s in Paris” are prime examples of songs I’ve heard despite the dense walls of the rock I live under.
Being conscious of my gap in popular music knowledge, I figured I’d give Yeezus a play when it came out.
All the hype was there. I figured it’d prove to be solid ammunition for some future casual conversations. But man, it was harsh on the ears. I had to cut my listening short somewhere in the middle of “Blood on the Leaves.” For all I know, “Guilt Trip” “Send It Up” and “Bound 2” may be rad tunes, but I wasn’t feeling it. I know what Kanye was doing, but he did too much: Yeezus was too artificially artsy for me to take any joy out of it. Kanye was simply trying too hard, but then again that’s Kanye as I understand it.
Yeezus was not my jam. I said it. I’ll start bracing myself for the shit storm.
So as bizarre as it sounds, I’ve barely listened to any Kanye and I despise Yeezus. I’ll listen to The Life of Pablo, though I fear it’ll be akin to Yeezus, but appearances by Kendrick and Chance the Rapper sound appealing. Classic Kanye records will definitely make their way to my playlist in the coming months when I get around to it, but as a student there’s only so much time to listen to music and I simply haven’t prioritized Mr. West.