1) Kanye Is Hip-Hop’s Most Complete Package
During this decade, there have been superior MCs (Jay-Z, Eminem, Andre 3000, Nas, Lupe Fiasco) and more influential producers (Dr. Dre, Timbaland, J Dilla). But no one has put it all together like Kanye West. When you consider that the same guy who produced standout tracks on Jay-Z’s classic 2001 The Blueprint (West’s dusty soul-sample production on songs like “This Can’t Be Life,” “Heart Of The City,” and “Never Change” became the go-to sound in hip-hop) has become a respected and praised MC in his own right.
“Usually when people do two things, they can only do one of those things very well,” says Rodriquez. “It’s like the producer who can rap a little. Or the rapper who makes decent beats. But Kanye raps and produces at a very high level. And he writes most of his own rhymes, which a lot of producers who rap don’t do. To me, he is like the first legitimate two-sport star in hip-hop.”
Caramanica says he is still amazed at West’s overall growth. “If you looked at Kanye during the Blueprint period you would have never anticipated that he could become the artist that he is today,” recalls Caramanica. “Someone at Roc-A-Fella opened the door for Kanye and said, ‘Okay…you are a good producer, we will let you have a recording deal.’ This was the time period where you had Kanye, The Neptunes, Timbaland and all these producers that were becoming performers themselves. But they were never at the same level as the people they were producing. Kanye, however, stayed and got bigger and better. You can’t say that of Timbaland; you can’t say that of the Neptunes. Only Kanye took advantage of that opportunity and made something for himself that’s sustainable.”
Sooner or later, says Rodriquez, West will get his due. “What’s funny about Kanye is you say that he’s the greatest of the decade and there will be that knee-jerk reaction from people who are like, ‘No!’ “But then you stop and think and go over his discography and you start to count: 1, 2, 3, 4 critically-acclaimed albums; the huge record sales; and a groundbreaking headlining tour (West’s $30.8 million grossing 2008 Glow In The Dark tour). Then you look at the great production he has done for other artists and you come to the realization—‘Yeah, it’s Kanye West.’”