The Kanye You Once Loved Is Dead and Gone

kanye-west560.jpg
Miss this guy
Well, thanks for getting Kim Kardashian knocked up, Kanye?

Ever since the rapper announced from the stage that the world's most famous (and least talented) Armenian is now carrying his seed, everyone's on Kimye baby alert. To tell the truth, I'm starting to think that all the attention being paid to this new development seems like a calculated distraction, something cute and shiny to flash in our faces so we don't talk about the big problem with Kanye: his half-assed rapping these days.

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That's right--West has lost his edge as an MC. He seems to be becoming less of the brilliant asshole we all know and respect, and is just becoming a regular, run-of-the-mill asshole. This certainly became an issue last year when West released Kanye West Presents G.O.O.D. Music: Cruel Summer. An all-star mixtape posing as an album full of goodies from West's G.O.O.D. Music label, Summer basically consisted of West spitting bars with his various peers and underlings. But a lot of West's verses rang hollow; they were egomaniacal, self-aggrandizing riffs. This may be redundant to bring up since West is, of course, an egomaniacal, self-aggrandizing character. But he can also be witty, self-reflexive and socially conscious. It's the thing that still keeps us intrigued with the dude: here is a smart rapper and producer who rose to international superstardom by being, well, smart.

Now, I'm not going to say that Summer doesn't have its moments. (I'm sure "Clique" has become the anthem for guys who always wanted to walk into a nightclub in slow motion.) But, on the album, which has him rapping alongside such inexplicably popular new-ish MCs as Chief Keef and 2 Chainz, West presents himself as a man getting off on his own vaingloriousness. On "To the World," he raps about needing a home to hold his plaques ("Rick Ross'd told me that") and how he's "the only nigga in Beverly Hills, where the hell is Axel Foley at?" In "Cold" (originally known as "Theraflu"), he talks about having dinner with Anna Wintour and his $6000 pair of shoes. On "Clique," he declares, rather than buying a business or saving his money like responsible people do, he'd "rather buy 80 gold chains and go ign'ant." On more than one occasion on the album, West would get blown out of the water by his fellow orators. Both Pusha T and Ghostface Killah rap circles around him on "New God Flow."

Despite it being an obvious success since its release, some folk instantly recognized it wasn't Kanye at his best. (The Onion A/V Club's Nathan Rabin wrote that West "often seems disconnected from anything beyond his ego.") The same problem people had with Summer is the same problem people had when West joined forces with Jay-Z on Watch the Throne in 2011. More of a sonic spectacle than an epic meeting of the minds, as much as the album was filled with immediately downloadable hits, it was really just a couple of rich muhfuckas rapping about being rich muhfuckas. And no matter how many times those two did "Niggas in Paris" over and over again to sold-out crowds all over the world, in this age of fiscal cliffs and 99 percenters occupying Wall Street, the unappealing, I-got-more-money-than-you extravagance always reigned supreme.



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