Author: Mizell, Larry
Date published: November 18, 2010
HIPHOP YA DON'T STOP
KANYE WEST'S BEAUTIFUL FANTASY AND KID CUDI'S REDEEMING RAGER
Thank you, internet gods, for this last week's GOOD to great music leaks.
Kid Cudi-whose debut album caught a bit of a shitting-upon in this column about this time last year-has rebounded in my eyes and regained the goodwill I had for him in his mixtape days. (I'm sure he's thrilled.) The Legend of Mr. Rager isn't perfect by any means (the terrible fakealt- rock song with Kanye is bad enough to be a new Weezer song, word to my mellow Andrew Matson). But joints like "Ashin' Kusher," "Wildin' Cuz I'm Young," and the Cage-assisted (there's a good look) "Maniac" justify his fi rst-world-problem child whining-not to mention his heaps of adulation from urbane, fashion-forward youngsters everywhere, much like the heaps of cocaína he laments hoovering up in his last year of fast-laning. It's a long way from the Purple Tape, but I fucks with it.
Like a good deal of people I'm sure, I spent a good portion of my day today listening to the clean version of Kanye West's fi fth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which recently leaked (some would say Mr. West leaked it himself, and I would agree). By the time you read this, the unclean version will also have leaked, and the retail version will soon be arriving in stores with all of its fi ve variant covers (how very '90s comic book of Yeezy). By this point, you have also probably seen his long-form video Runaway and heard that he recently apologized to George W. Fucking Bush for saying you know-the former being the ambitious bore that such affairs normally are, the latter being a head-slapping and unnecessary PR concession. I can almost forgive both, however, seeing as Fantasy is Kanye's most inspired work since becoming the living pinnacle of pop music some fi ve years ago. Seriously. Where he rang empty with an electro hollowness for the last couple of years, Fantasy brims with soul and vitality.
On Fantasy, everything is cranked to 11, super crunchy, all the way ternt up; heaven-bound strings ratchet up maximum drama, vocoders spit sparks like Star Trek NavComs-okay, nerdy, but whatever. West is lyrically at his most audacious, most crass, most rewindable-which, like the man himself, says a lot. His punch lines and his pop-culture penetrations scream, but even better are the insights, the hopes, and the failures of his fl esh and spirit; he understands too well the "Power" he wields ("Is hiphop a euphemism for a new religion?"), and while his unchecked hubris has pissed me off all year, to call him the best rapper in the pop-rap sphere is almost an unfair understatement. The song lengths run toward prog-rock excess, but the arrangements never feel excessive. The LP version of "Runaway," at two-thirds into its nine minutes-twice the length and strength of the previously leaked GOOD Friday version- features a searing, emotive solo of pure vocoder buzz that's absolutely heartbreaking. The chorus is barely recognizable in there, drowning in distortion, reminding how our voices can't always cut through the crazy, how ill-suited our words are to express the divine anyway.
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