Half-way through 2020 and the year has forever become marred by tragic death around the world. Even worse, in the United States the recent murder of George Floyd has reminded us of the injustices African Americans endure on a daily basis in the United States. These continued injustices have sparked nationwide protests against police brutality toward African Americans, demanding change and accountability.
As a white musician writing and performing music that is influenced by black culture, I’d like to dedicate seven straight days of posts honoring some of the black musicians who have inspired me the most.
For day three I'm honoring Kanye West. Yes, I know, Kanye West. He hasn't exactly been popular with the black community recently for obvious reasons, but I saw today that he is paying for George Floyd's daughter's education. In addition TMZ is reporting West has donated 2 million to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Kanye West was also seen on videos across social media joining in on protests in his home city of Chicago. Maybe Kanye has had a change of heart, or at least a desire to do some good in the world and show some much needed aid and compassion to some families in need. All these things plus the fact that he is the greatest musical genius alive make Kanye West worthy of honoring.
I gotta be honest, I haven't always been a fan of rap. Until the middle of high school I was pretty much only listening to rock and jazz. Up until that point I always thought that rap music was too vulgar and just never really got it or even gave it much of a chance. My neighbor growing up helped change that. I remember the first two albums that got me into hip hop. They were Lupe Fiasco's "Lasers" and "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" by Kanye West. If you know anything about those two albums you might have chuckled. "Lasers" (Love Always Shines Everytime, Remember 2 Smile) is very positive, worldly thinking, and has a message of peace and unity. "MBDTF" is just that. An album based around Kanye's deepest desires and his life as an A-list celebrity. It was the yin and yang of hip hop for my younger self. Lasers introduced my virgin ears to the sound of hip hop and the style, and then Kanye hit me with one of the greatest fucking albums of all time.
At the time MBDTF was unlike anything I had ever heard. The opening track "Dark Fantasy" was regal, elegant, and then seamlessly dropped into a THICC groove. Ye then proceeded to spit some of the best bars of his career throughout MBDTF. I became a die hard Ye fan and fell in love with the music and the spectacle from that point on. I can't begin to say how much this album impacted me. It really threw me in to a whole new world of music. The production and mixing of samples with any Kanye West song are unparalleled. He is constantly pushing the borders of the genre and has so many hit songs. He is the best producer to ever live imo. Fight me.
"Life of Pablo" was another huge album for me. It helped me through a tough breakup, I'd listen cover to cover over and over. Life of Pablo was also the first time I ever listened to an LP the night it came out cover to cover with friends. It was the first full leak of the album and my friends and I had just come back from the bars. I'll always remember that first play through and all the times I'd play it on repeat in my room. I still think the first leak version is better than the more polished version on Spotify. These two albums aren't the only good ones though eventually I got around to listening to all the old Kanye I had missed. I still can't believe how many amazing songs this man has and has been a part of. I don't think the man has a bad record in his discography.
I owe a huge debt to Kanye West for opening me up to so much beautiful music, and we all owe him for all of the amazing artists he has inspired. Listen to this playlist and tell me Kanye West is not great. I cannot recommend this music enough. Pop culture would be lost without Kanye West.
To donate to help the protests against police brutality check out this great Rolling Stones article!