Is Kanye West Fading Into Obscurity?
It pains me to write this article. It really does. Kanye West receives so much criticism, especially as of late, so I don’t want to contribute to making him more of a scapegoat for all things absurd and evil.
I’ve been a Kanye West fan for years. Ever since getting into rap music, I’ve listened to most of his albums and I’ve been able to appreciate his artistic vision and evolution between his works. His career has hit some speed bumps (a few too many to list), but he’s always spat in the face of adversity and recovered.
The best example of this is his year in 2010. After 2008 and 2009, where he lost his mother to surgery complications, disrupted America’s sweetheart, Taylor Swift’s, VMA acceptance speech and dropped his first album -- met with mixed reviews -- he rebounded. With My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, an album that is considered one of rap’s best ever, Kanye regained his status in 2010. However, that was the beginning of an artistic decline.
Watch the Throne had some good tracks and Cruel Summer was an enjoyable display of the artists under Kanye’s wing, but they weren’t pure Kanye albums. In 2013, after some weird video projection content and a crazy SNL performance, Kanye released Yeezus. To this day, I haven’t been able to understand this album. Was it Kanye’s ego leading him to believe that he could drop whatever he wanted? Was it an artistic statement too abstract for a listener like me? I don’t know. All I can say is it was more miss than hit.
Kanye has been the epicenter of several more scandals, and a source of constant meme entertainment due to his marriage of Kim Kardashian. The year 2014 was a year more focused on fashion than music, but when Kanye dropped the Paul McCartney assisted Only One on New Year’s Eve of that year, the stage was set for Kanye’s year: 2015.
In the beginning months of the year, Kanye created buzz over his new album after the playing of the Vic Mensa and Sia assisted Wolves at one of his fashion shows. Kanye had a smash radio hit with Rihanna and Paul McCartney, FourFiveSeconds. Kanye’s ever-popular Yeezys released with an odd but incredibly hype-building promotional campaign. There was no stopping Kanye. Then it happened: the Grammys. Kanye once again went on a quest to defend Beyoncé, this time against Beck. This resulted in about a week of media questioning and criticism. Days later, Drake dropped If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, his acclaimed mixtape-album and snatched away what was meant to be Kanye’s year.
Drake had had a relatively quiet 2014 as well, however, it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Kanye’s fans had been starving for something that didn’t sound like Yeezus and wasn’t a big collaboration with another artist. He looked to be doing just that, until Drake stole all the attention away.
The “6 God’s” mixtape seemed to please everyone with its collection of bangers that had a new sound. IYRTITL had a near constant stream of quotes and anthems that would be repeated in social media. Kanye did regain dominance for a few days in early March with the release of All Day, a track that had leaked in 2014 and fans had been thirsting over for months. However, it wasn’t enough. Kanye went pretty much silent after that.
Since, we’ve been supplied with more controversy surrounding several protested festival headlining spots and a VMA Video Vanguard acceptance speech that was just a tad too long. In that speech, Kanye even announced his 2020 presidential bid! This was just more fuel for internet humor with Drake continuing his takeover of Kanye’s year.
Here we are in October 2015. Drake has ridden the waves of his mixtape, made a fool out of Meek Mill, dropped a collaborative album with fellow 2015-favourite Future, and now has a radio hit under his belt with Hotline Bling. All of this has gone Drake’s way, not to mention, his Views From the 6 album. Drake has been one of the most consistent artists of the year. In contrast, Kanye’s album still seems far off, maybe a year away. He lost his steam to someone new, and now he’s paying for it. Whether it’s his ego, his family, his fashion obsession, or all of the above, Kanye doesn’t feel like the force he once was. I believe he has the ability to be one again, but for now, he’s lost my interest.