Kanye’s Blues

Have you ever seen that movie,

Mo Betta Blues? The lead character is Bleek Gilliam.  He’s a trumpeter;

an inspired musical force with a severe case of tunnel vision and

dedication to his craft.  His desire to use his body as a vessel for

his creativity is surpassed only by his need to stay true to the music

that comes from within.  In many circumstances, this is a true

creator’s edict.  The artist is a slave to the art.  The audience

either follows or they don’t.  Their love for the performer is more incidental than plan. 

Kanye West reminds me of Bleek.  His latest offering 808’s and Heartbreak is a

serious departure from what his fans expect, but it is supposedly the next step

in his artistic growth.  While presently in the throes of both evolution

and grief, I’m sure Kanye finds the music a fitting way to consequently memorialize

what he has lost and project what he may have gained.  I’m not sure

who among you has the contract; the one on which Mr. West signed away

his musical life to Hip-Hop, but you need to tear it up.  It looks like

he may have grown beyond our beloved genre, or at least taken a pause

from it for the time being.  

The art made him do it. 

Some of the fans are not

happy.  I understand you invest in these artists.  You

invest your money with the purchase.  You invest your time when you

listen.  You invest your mind when you dissect the lyrics and if you

love it, you invest your heart.  But you need to understand, this is

not the purpose of his creation, it’s a bonus.  And when that bond is

broken and the artist moves on to greener pastures, your broken heart

is collateral damage.  It’s not for the sake of the fan.   

It’s for the sake of the art. 

If you know this movie I’m

referring to, then you know Bleek had an arch nemesis, Shadow.  And

Shadow didn’t create for the art.  He bowed to the audience.  His music

didn’t come from within.  It was a half-hearted attempt at pleasing the

crowd and we all know once you start trying to please everyone; you end

up pleasing no one.  

The Shadows of the Hip-Hop

world are the emcees who garner the most disdain from those who pay

attention.  They are the leeches of the industry, hiding behind

figurative dumpsters waiting on a creator to walk by so they can steal,

copy and mass produce.  For me there is no grey area, you are either an

artist or a fraud.  However, being a fan of a true artist means taking

the good and the bad from your dude.  It means supporting them through

the awkward periods of their development and it means having their back

even when they aren’t coming with what you want to hear. 

So you don’t have to like it,

but you should try to understand it.  We have watched other artists

evolve in ways we wish they hadn’t. When L.L. dropped “I Need Love” the

most common question asked was, “What in the hell is that?”  The

hushed, sing-song delivery and sappy lyrics were more than many could

bear and different from anything mainstream Hip-Hop had ever offered.

Nas became Esco, left the timbs and fitted on the closet floor and gave

us his best Diddy impersonation. 

Take that.  Take that.  Take that. And we did. 

Wayne looks like he’s on his

way to becoming a rocker, Snoop did country and Flava Flav left Public

Enemy to become whatever that is he is now. (Ok.  Flav is a bad

example, but you get my point.) 

But you should understand West is not Shadow.  He is Bleek (no Memphis) and the art is what he creates for, not the audience. 

So as you listen to yet

another single from the album that you are probably not going to buy

and bellyache about his new style, try to respect him for his

artistry.  The desire to create has led plenty a lyricist down the

wrong path, but most recover (Electric Circus, anyone?).   

On second thought, I could

totally be wrong.  This could be an attempt on Mr. West’s part to

garner that pop money and he may very well be selling out his investors

to buy stock in auto-tune.  But since I don’t know for sure, I’ll role

with the dramatically somber version of this story. Forget I said that.

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