Wednesday, August 25, 2010
TBG Beats: Kanye West feat. Dwele -- "Power"
It's taken almost 10 years, but I'm ready to admit I've come around on Kanye West.
Wait, that's not true. I've always liked the guy. I think.
In my much-maligned review of Jay-Z's first Blueprint album, I described West's beat on the "Takeover" diss track as "fire" and I used the word "infectious" in writing about the Kanye-crafted crossover hit "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)".
West released his debut album (The College Dropout) in 2004. I wrote an underwhelming review that my then-editor never posted. In hindsight, he probably saved me from a Blueprint-like backlash from my readers. I'll be the first to admit that, at the time, I wasn't ready to embrace Kanye's elevated subject matter and nuanced production.
This was evident (in my old weekly "Bootleg Music News" column) by the embarrassing amount of mocking mileage I derived from a single lyric in West's "Jesus Walks" single:
"The way Kathie Lee needed Regis; that's the way y'all need Jesus."
Even on his best tracks, Kanye West is barely a competent lyricist. But, poking fun at his awkward wordplay misses the point. He's an entertainer and a presence and an image who happens to rap. Remember the clinically-insane caricature that Tupac became in 1996 or an opportunistic, shiny-suited Puff Daddy stepping over Biggie Smalls' bullet-riddled corpse in 1997? They're all cut from the same cloth.
It finally clicked with me on West's 2005 release Late Registration. The catchy, cartoonish enthusiasm of "Gold Digger", the convincing humility on "Touch the Sky", the social commentary on "Roses" and the purposeful ferocity on "Diamonds from Sierra Leone". Hell, I was so excited about his 2007 Graduation album that I watched 90 minutes of BET and wrote a running diary.
OK, OK...George Bush/black people, Rolling Stone cover/blasphemy, Taylor Swift, etc. Cool?
West has released the first single from his next studio album (Dark Twisted Fantasy due out later this year). On "Power", he balances between overt bravado and an "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" cockiness. Yup...I'm giving him credit for being a pr*ck and simply reveling in it. The production is lush and is complemented by the creative samples and neo-soul act Dwele's presence.
And, while I dug the "Kelly Rowland" line, West killed me with:
"You short-minded n****s’ thoughts is Napoleon
My furs is Mongolian; my ice brought the goalies in..."
Mongolian furs? Huh...so that's where the meat comes from.
We already knew who skinned it.