Tirhakah Love (@GoonTherapy)
The dominant narrative surrounding Kanye West, the auteur, is his ability to influence modern musical micro-periods. The term cultural icon is wedded to West as he represents the duality of a controversial genius pressing up against artistic and corporate glass ceilings. Kanye hasn’t been shy about voicing his displeasure with corporate types, but also comments on his own complicity in consumerism. Lately though, the self-critique in his music has taken a backseat to his pomposity in reality and some of his longtime fans–including this one–question how long they can stomach the star’s antics.
Kanye West has been really excited about Waves. The album is set for release on February 11th and Yeezy has already christened it as one of the greatest albums of all time–he isn’t really known to exaggerate. That’s good. But this unofficial pre-release week has me tired. He jumped off on a Twitter-rant dragging Wiz Khalifa, his albums, his pants, his kids and their shared lover Amber Rose up and down his timeline. After showing his entire ass on Twitter, West promoted Waves with the subtlety of a jackhammer. But I wonder whether Kanye’s extra exaltation of Waves and all the shenanigans so early in 2016 is a result of his inescapable two-fold battle with time.
(Updated in real time)
And NOW, he’s changed the name again to a undisclosed acronym, “T.L.O.P,” a mystery that West has compelled his fans to solve–with the reward of Season 3 Yeezy’s just for good measure. The hype machine for this album is literally and figuratively inexhaustible. West has never tweeted this much since he joined the platform. He’s made outlandish comments on Bill Cosby’s innocence, has apologized to Michael Jordan, accused Puma of breaking up his family (a claim that sheds new light on his song “New Slaves” from Yeezus), and teased new fashion designs for the upcoming season. All of this would be fine if it didn’t feel like such a desperate attempt to garner buyers. The question is why?
Artistically, West’s most valuable asset is his ability to creatively incorporate various iterations of culturally tasteful sonics into his work. But because of his influence West upped the ante when it comes to production, creating Kanye clones like Travi$ Scott who are unabashedly swerving into his lane. The speed with which rap’s landscape is changing might have finally caught up to West as his released singles from the new work point backwards rather than push the envelope. Some fans view this folding backwards as beneficial. For some folks, including me, Yeezus, was minimalist to a fault. It felt like the artist had reached a thematic wall and traded his lyrical brevity for trap-inspired big bass bravado. But these new tracks are reinvigorated with a word economy that dovetails nicely with the work he produced early on in his career.
While fans of West will undoubtedly cop the new album, I wonder if the social media rants, the reality star paradigm, and the fatigue of his celebrity personality will affect how critics and fans hear this new project. While that question remains as murky and mysterious as the new acronym that Kanye has pressed his audience to figure out, the hundreds of thousands of people who have already thrown their guesses into the Internet ether does convince us of one thing; Kanye’s gravitas is unmatched. How much that will matter when his album drops,remains to be seen. The Kanye clock is ticking, and T.L.O.P. will either be a jab in the face of time, or the beginning of the end of Mr. West’s term as America’s most clever and divisive icon in recent history.