3) He Takes Bolder Artistic Risks Than Jay-Z And Eminem
For much of the decade, Jay-Z and Eminem have dominated the commercial landscape of hip-hop and pop. The seemingly indestructible Slim Shady has sold 32.2 million albums in the 2000s, making him the biggest selling artist of the last 10 years. Meanwhile, Jigga Man, who has amassed a $450 million business empire, surpassed Elvis Presley for the most No. 1 albums in Billboard history (2009’s Blueprint 3 was his 11th chart-topper, trailing only the Beatles).
But, according to Caramanica, both Em and Jay take a back seat to West’s boundless musical pursuits. “We’ve seen him be different kinds of artists,” he says of West’s unpredictable genre-jumping nature. “We’ve seen him be more of a backpack artist, then a pop oriented artist and then a [conceptual] artist. The fact is over the last ten years he’s been the person to evolve the most, and still be successful commercially every step of the way. Maybe Eminem and Jay-Z have sold more records this decade, but Kanye has been the most adventurous. “
Rodriquez agrees, adding that even West’s much debated 808s & Heartbreak album, which divided many in his fanbase due to his use of the popular voice processor AutoTune, is now getting a second look as a cult classic. “I believe that Kanye’s true masterpiece years from now will be 808s,” says Rodriquez. “The idea of showing a range of raw emotions and doubt was very polarizing at the time. When 808s first came out, about 25 percent of the fans thought it was dope and the rest didn’t like that album at all. Now people are coming around to 808s. To me, just Kanye’s sheer audacity and will combined with his talent really makes him an unstoppable force. Who else is going to make a 35-minute video like ‘Runaway’? People can talk about it, but Kanye does it; he pushes it to the limit.”