Kanye West.

Beth Dykstra

Last year at the State Theater in Detroit you kept the crowd waiting for more than two hours before you decided to stumble on stage and slur your way through your equally rank album. Even when you traipsed across stage you couldn’t silence the pockets of fed-up and frustrated fans shouting, “Fuck Kanye! Fuck Kanye!”

Now I know I’m pretty much alone in slandering your art, your performances and your general ethos. The College Dropout has become the year-end object of worship for seemingly everyone from The New Yorker to record shop owners in Bed-Stuy. You’ve taken credit for bringing the following things “back into hip hop”: introspection, collared shirts, humor, intelligence, cleverness and Jesus. With a chip roughly the size of K2 lodged firmly on your shoulder, you refuse to praise other producers and have drunkenly proclaimed yourself “the biggest producer in the game.”

Remember that? It was right before you started performing a song, forgot the words and demanded that we, the audience, sing it in your stead.

For the record, Kanye, your sole production trick, speeding up vocal tracks until the vocals sound like helium-fed chipmunks, is a pithy rip off of DJ Premier’s scratching technique and Just Blaze’s furious loops of sound.

Okay, so “Stand Up” and “Guess Who’s Back” buoyed Ludacris’s and Scarface’s albums respectively. Good job, you made a hit song. That’s your job. In terms of sales performance and diversity of work, I’d place you somewhere behind Timbaland, the Neptunes, Dr.Dre, Swizz Beatz, Just Blaze, Hi-Tek, Lil’ Jon, Red Spyda and Irv Gotti. It’s been easy for you to get on the charts; you’ve worked with Jay-Z and other Roc-A-Fella stars for most of your career. Bad things generally happen when you stray from your comfort zone. That song you did with Brandy for her latest album, “Talk About Our Love,” how long did that stay in rotation? About three weeks? Thought so.

Behind the boards your reputation is a bit inflated. But the cruelest chatter flowing through the hip-hop world started up when you made the worst move of your young career: You started rapping. Honestly, it’s not fair to completely ravage your flow. Not all of us are blessed with a Method Man or MF Doom caliber voice. But really Kanye, most of the time we can hear you gasping for air in the middle of your 16 bars. Common and Talib blew you out of the water on your album and your take on reality involves folding shirts at the Gap and bitching about how you had to go to college.

God has always been at the forefront of rap. When B.I.G. raged against the mindless drug hustling who was he demanding answers from? When Scarface and Bushwick Bill were burdened with guilt and remorse, from whom did they seek solace? You aren’t the first artist to rap about God. You’re the first artist to yell his name 20 times in a song and call it innovation. Some ill-advised mix-tape appearances later and your complete lack of breath control, horrible syntax and childish self-involvement doomed the album before it even dropped.

In truth, you got lucky. The blue chip magazines (Time, Entertainment Weekly, etc …) piled on the rap bandwagon, and Dizzee Rascal and 50 Cent found themselves getting shout outs in The New Yorker. Your album was released on third base and you think you hit a triple. If anyone had made an album as middle-brow, pseudo intellectual and self-congratulatory as yours, they probably would have reaped the lion’s share of the praise. Instead, most critics seemed content to overlook Ghostface and MF Doom and gush over a young black man who was so daring to talk about college.

And that, Kanye, is your most frustrating sin. In inane skits and the loose “concept” of College Dropout, the recurring characters are garish stereotypes of college-age black youth. You claim that you are just making sure that colleges don’t “use” black students, but what do you mean? You claim that college doesn’t really improve the socio-economic status of young men and women but what do you know about practical knowledge? You’re the spoiled son of a university professor mother and college educated-father who used his free ride to college to study piano. You’re a hypocrite and fraud who claims that a wardrobe of Ralph Lauren sweaters and deluxe leather backpacks makes you less materialistic than the Rolex flaunting men at Cash Money. You misrepresent your generation, your peer group and you presume to give life lessons that you yourself have yet to learn.

You may fool the public, but history and art are not so easily swayed. The sand foundation of stolen ideas and limp rap ability on which you have built your home will collapse and then Kanye, you will be as stranded and forgotten as the fans you neglect at each show.

 

Evan secretly wishes that he were a tenth of the rapper Kanye West is. Exchange fetish pieces from your Kanye shrines with him by e-mailing evanbmcg@umich.edu.

 

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