Kanye West (Pg. 3)

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kmurphy / December 15, 2010

4) Ye Is The Best At Transforming Disappointment, Heartbreak and Tragedy Into Riveting Art

From the misfit alienation of De La Soul’s early work and the bi-polar, paranoid psychological drama of Scarface to Eminem’s barebones white-trash testimonies, hip-hop has long been a platform for communicating struggle. Yet for much of this decade, no one has pontificated personal struggle as epically and purely as Kanye West. Here’s an artist whose debut single detailed his own near death 2000 car crash. West welcomed listeners to relive his near tragic accident on the 2003 track “Through The Wire,” with sobering lines like, “Just imagine how my girl feel/On the plane scared as hell that her guy look like Emmett Till.”

When his mother Donda West shockingly passed away in November 2007 from a botched plastic surgery, a courageous West performed his heartfelt tribute “Hey Mama” in front of a sold-out audience in Paris just days after her death. “This is a song for my mother,” he said before breaking down in tears and walking off the stage. Fifteen minutes later, he returned to finish the gig, which those in attendance hailed as an exhilarating show that only added to West’s burgeoning legend. Even West’s self-examination into his failed relationships with his fiancé Alexis Phifer (2008’s dark synth work 808s & Heartbreak) and stripper turned fashion it-girl Amber Rose (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) is riveting stuff.

“He wears his emotions on his sleeve in and out of the studio,” MTV’s Jayson Rodriquez says of West—who on the 808 track “Welcome to Heartbreak” self-deprecatingly rhymed of his own shallow life:  “My friend shows me pictures of his kids/And all I could show him was pictures of my cribs.

“I think that’s what makes Kanye greater than anyone else today,” Rodriquez adds. “It’s his ability to spin the tale of his own personal narrative into a musical thread. You think of MC’s who talk about keeping it real. But what’s realer than talking about your insecurities and personal failures?”

Ford believes West’s brand of self-reflecting Emo-rap has given birth to the new generation of MC’s from Drake to Kid Cudi. “He certainly created that lane,” she says of West’s overall impact. “Kanye helped launch a movement by being the guy that was bold enough to make an insightful song like ‘Big Brother’ about how his mentor Jay-Z on several occasions has pushed him to the side. Kanye’s drive is propelled by him wanting so bad to be respected and loved. That’s what pushes him.”