Kanye West

Kanye covers Complex

Complex‘s December issue has a great cover story on the making of Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I would kill for an opportunity like the one the author of the article, Complex editor-in-chief Noah Callahan-Bever, had: Hang out in with ‘Ye and friends in a Hawaiian recording studio for several days, witness the creative process, have the ability to ask all the major players — in person and in a relaxed, informal setting — about their thoughts on, and approach to, the project. Moments like these, to me, are what make music journalism really, truly, rewarding. It’s a wholly satisfying feeling to immerse yourself in a story you’re excited about, to use our 26-letter alphabet to paint a vivid and vibrant picture of everything happening, to convey the energy around around you.

Sigh. I miss it.

Here is a link to the story, which includes a 40-flick photo gallery. Three of my favourite shots:

Kanye, a bowl of Crunchberries, and the day's notes. Nabil Elderkin photo.

Just a few things for Rap Camp attendees to keep in mind. Nabil Elderkin photo.

RZA and Kanye in a rare moment of repose. Nabil Elderkin photo

Absolutely smitten…

…with Kanye’s new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I’ve loved his work since his pre-College Dropout production days, and it’s so incredibly rare to thoroughly enjoy an artist’s work through every change and creative step over the years, but I do with ‘Ye.

MBDTF track listing:

1. Dark Fantasy
2. Gorgeous (Feat. Kid Cudi & Raekwon)
3. Power
4. All Of The Lights (Interlude)
5. All of the Lights
6. Monster (Feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Mina & Bon Iver)
7. So Appalled (Feat. Jay-Z, Pusha T, Cyhi the Prynce, Swizz Beatz & The RZA)
8. Devil In A New Dress
9. Runaway (Feat. Pusha T)
10. Hell Of A Life
11. Blame Game (Feat. John Legend & Pusha T)
12. Lost In The World
13. See Me Now (Bonus Track)

It was really interesting to see the curve from “underground” beats to College Dropout, to Late Registration and Graduation, and after 808s and Heartbreak I waited with baited breath to see how he could possibly advance his sound. After only two full listens, I’m going to go ahead and say MBDTF smashes 808s — no easy feat. Even Rolling Stone, a magazine I love (or at least loved, in its prime), notorious for questionable hip-hop reviews, came around and gave it five stars:

When Kanye West sings about “jerk-offs that’ll never take work off,” you’d best believe he means himself. Being crazy is this guy’s job, and judging from the sound of his music, business is booming. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is his most maniacally inspired music yet, coasting on heroic levels of dementia, pimping on top of Mount Olympus. Yeezy goes for the grandeur of stadium rock, the all-devouring sonics of hip-hop, the erotic gloss of disco, and he goes for all of it, all the time. Nobody halfway sane could have made this album.

Last time, Kanye went minimal for the electro melancholia of 808s & Heartbreak. But on Fantasy, he gets ridiculously maximal, blowing past all the rules of hip-hop and pop, even though, for the past half-decade, he’s been the one inventing the rules. There are hip-hop epics, R&B ballads, alien electronics, prog-rock samples, surprise guests from Bon Iver to Fergie to Chris Rock, even a freaking Elton John piano solo. It’s his best album, but it’s more than that — it’s also a rock-star manifesto for a downsizing world. At a time when we all get hectored about lowering our expectations, surrendering our attention spans, settling for less, West wants us to demand more.

(Read the whole review here.)

*Golf claps*

The Kanye-Today Show interview that went sideways

Here’s the whole Today Show interview that prompted Kanye West to cancel his performance scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving and “fall back a bit on interviews” for the time being. (He tweeted that it was “very brutal,” that it left him feeling “very alone very used very tortured very forced very misunderstood very hollow very very misused.”)

‘Ye felt they were exploiting him by talking George Bush, Taylor Swift, etc., and rolling footage of these moments as he spoke. Matt Lauer’s response: “It’s something we do every day: When a guest is talking about an incident or a location, we run video of that location or that incident. There was nothing improper about it, nothing unusual about it whatsoever.”

I can understand Kanye’s annoyance. Even indie artists are often pummelled with the same annoying questions over and over again, so I can imagine how many times Yeezy’s had to respond to questions about the already-grating “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” and Taylor Swift fiascos — many crassly or poorly articulated, no doubt. They’ve become monsters of their own, drawing attention away from some of his ridiculously creative, original work as of late. (Runaway short film, anyone?)

But it’s also expected that a major media outlet is going to ask him about the things he’s made the most international headlines for in the past year. These are questions that, for better or worse, many people want to hear the answers to. Also, consider this is The Today Show — not Behind the Music or Sunday Night Sound Session, where the focus is on the craft, an artist’s passion and vision, the making of the music. It’s a light, celebrity-centric, breakfast-time talk show for the masses, with a smidgen of news.

Some media organizations will want an interview so badly that they’ll agree to avoid certain topics — and they’d be wholly in the wrong for breaching that after agreeing to it — but I’m guessing this wasn’t the case for Kanye’s interview. I also agree with Lauer that there’s nothing improper about playing a clip of the Taylor incident while discussing it. That said, I think that whole thing was overblown, and didn’t deserve 1/4 of the attention it garnered. Bush was newsworthy because he had addressed Kanye’s criticism in a recently released book, calling it “one of the most disgusting moments of my presidency.” (And Kanye was very humble and mature in his response before he got pissed off.)