Wake Up, Mr. West

Levine, Ben

Throughout my life as a music lover, I have usually been the last person to scream the ever-familiar hipster battle cry, “Sellout!” Artists have the right to grow and change as they see fit and more often than not that change is for the better.
This is not the case with Kanye West.
Kanye has indeed changed as an artist, but that change has been unapologetically regressive.
To understand Kanye’s fall to mediocrity, we must first understand his rise to superstardom. Kanye West began his career as a producer, making beats for some of hip-hop’s most recognizable names.
As he became well known among the hip-hop greats, he desired to show the rest of the world what he was capable of, and he did this when the released his first album The College Dropout in 2004.
The College Dropout was a breath of fresh air for hip-hop. It was a declaration that the mainstream and underground could coexist on one album.
Kanye took celebrated artists of the underground, like Mos Def and Talib Kweli, and threw them on the same album as mainstream giants like Jay-Z and Ludacris. This was something new and something great.
While the musical content of this album was an achievement, it was the response of music fans that made Kanye truly remarkable. I saw people with very different musical tastes finding that they loved Kanye West.
I fully realized this when I saw Kanye perform at Lollapalooza in 2006. I went to this show with my best friends: A NIN loving lighting designer, a homosexual psych major, and a Jim Morrison idolizing hippie. The second Kanye started playing “Diamonds,” all of my friends threw up their hands in the shape of diamonds along with about 70,000 other people. Now that’s some mass appeal.
Kanye continued to make this wide appealing music. His follow up, Late Registration, was similar in style and content but with a slightly different twist.
Enter Graduation.
With Graduation Kanye set out to make a mainstream hit parade, and it worked. He put together a tight album that was fun to listen to in the car, but something felt different. This wasn’t the same College Dropout Kanye, but a Kanye who seemed to be all about money, the club, and T-Pain.
I still had faith though. I defended Kanye whenever people called him arrogant or a sellout. I knew that Kanye was still capable of great things.
That is until I saw the famous “Glow in the Dark Tour” at Bonnaroo this summer.
At Bonnaroo, Kayne decided to play a late night 2:45 to 4 AM set with his full light show. Due to the ridiculous size of his stage, Mr. West was two hours late. He finally got on stage and played a one-hour long set containing one of the most awkward and arrogant stage acts I have ever seen. The crowd was stunned and angry, and I was done with Kanye.
So now here we are. It’s the MTV Video Music Awards and Kanye is set to premiere his latest single. As the beat thuds, so does a glowing heart on Kanye’s chest. He begins to sing a vocal distorted love-lament a la T-Pain and Usher. The name of the song is “Love Lockdown,” and this is where Kanye has quite literally given every fan that defended him the middle finger. The song was composed in two weeks and has set the tone for Kanye’s new album, 808s and Heartbreak (SWEET title). No more thought. No more guests. No more beats. Just Kanye and and auto-tuner.
What the hell happened?
Please, I’m begging you, wake up Mr. West!