It’s a hot and rainy evening here in Possibility City, and the suicide of Anthony Bourdain has popped up, plastered and trending everywhere, which means I’m drinking beer, smoking well and listening to 808s & Heartbreak, the somber, ultra-reflective, experimental masterpiece by one Kanye West, in an attempt to come down and sober up from having drank in too much new music from Kanye West the night before. It’s been a wild four weeks living with the greatest artist in any medium of the 21st century, to say the least. Like, I’m in a sonic-hair-of-the-dog situation, so to speak, when Shelby comes bursting into the room and tells me to open the blinds and look at the sky. A storm system is sitting directly over our house. It’s suddenly dark out and, in a voice drenched in pain, Mr. West comes quaking from the boombox “Memories made in the coldest winter/ goodbye my friend/ will I ever love again?” Kanye, like me, is a fan of “Tears for Fears” and suddenly the memory of every loved one in my life who has attempted, or successfully, committed suicide shifts in my soul. “Damn it” I mutter to myself “Kanye has struck again.”
Unless you live under a rock with the Dead-Head symbol carved on top of it, you are probably somewhat aware that Kanye is in the middle of a song-making cycle, Herculean in vision and execution. He’s releasing five albums of seven songs apiece to be dropped on five Fridays in a row, and so far he’s three for three.
It’s this sort of manic creativity and personal daring that keeps us Kanye fans jumping out of bed and hooking up for another G.O.O.D. Friday installment. It’s our speaker-shredding Eucharist, our invite to enter the mind space of Yeezus. And we dare not say no.
I used to get furious to a point of unhealthiness at people who publicly voiced their hatred for Kanye West. It seemed so stupid that it baffled me to my bones. This is it! What art is supposed to be! Innovating on every page! Personal to a point of no return! Sharp and messy like a serrated blade covered in the blood of fastball samples; just how crusty and blind do you have to be to not just deny, but actively throw rocks at this throne?! But now I just write off these ever dwindling naysayer’s negativity to their own fear of becoming obsolete. The half-dead hippies, the punk rock grandpas and the quickly-graying grungers have been bested! Squashed, utterly and completely by the boom-bap. So fuck ‘em. Kanye, and hip-hop as a whole for that matter, is not for the pearl-clutching, wine-sniffing goons who want weak tea from their entertainers. Ye is an honest artist incapable of lying in his work, with that cavalier boldness and self-assured swagger, mixed with intense ups and downs, love and rage, lust and sorrow; a human in constant turmoil and putting it out there so brash and so wide that it is shocking to the dusty headed, and that’s why I say it should be celebrated from up high. Anthony Bourdain was found hanged to death by his own hand on June 8, one week to the day after Kanye had released “Ye” the second album in his five album cycle, which opens with the most chilling song released by anyone in 18 years; not since Shellac’s “Prayer to God” has a single song cattle prodded us to reflect on our inner, spinning horror show like “I Thought About Killing You,” a defiant, non-call for help, an extreme head-crack track on suicide that so utterly blossoms, perfectly, into a blistering showcase of a brain in trouble that if Kanye wasn’t completely in charge of the output of Kanye it would have never seen the light of day. The song is planted so firmly within the mindset of self-annihilation it’s completely uncomfortable and comforting; it’s yet another revelation we can relate to from an artist who is working completely lawless. Kanye has a cranium whose wires arc-fault constantly, the same as mine and, probably, the same as yours. Self-love and self-hatred exist on the same plain, sparking wildly, against code, and yet we navigate for as long as we can, trusting no other with our person. “I’m a problem that will never ever be solved” thus spoke Ye on his track “Amazing,” and I got it immediately. Mr. West wasn’t speaking about being an everyday problem, like your toilet is leaking. He was speaking on being an equation, a stack of math, numbers on the board, that are unsolvable and unlovable to the dusty-headed palookas gliding along on neutral nonsense that prods no thought and is lacking of soul because real soul exposed is troubling. You are a trash mammal no matter what else you pretend to be. Your grandstanding is a shield of straw to be laughed at, and that’s why Yeezus just keeps on crushing It, completely unstoppable. There’s no filter, no fog, no matter how ugly it gets, Ye just keeps moving forward, ever expanding, reaching and exploring; gone forever is the car crash kid spitting a hit into a microphone with his jaw wired shut, proving fat cat gatekeepers wrong, he is now a self-made god of sagacity and folly laying waste to the moldy tastemakers and out-of-print dinosaurs wherever he finds them. He’s free, He’s Ye, he sees ghosts, and he’s not afraid to be exactly who he needs to be.