Sorry, But Kanye Is the GOAT

Categories: Kanye West

kanye is lame.jpg
Kanye West is the greatest hip-hop artist of all time. He's made the best albums and changed the game the most, and his music is the most likely to endure.

One thing before we get going: This isn't one of those arguments meant to piss people off or "start a conversation." We really mean it. And, considering we were born a few minutes after hip-hop was and we've been writing about it for over a decade, we feel qualified to say. So let's say it again: Kanye is the GOAT.

Rather than laying out all the evidence in his favor, though, we're just going to predict and shoot down your arguments, one by one:

See also: The Kanye You Once Loved Is Dead and Gone

1) He's not a very good rapper
Fine. Maybe. Sorta. Well, not really, but even if that were true, being the GOAT is not the same as being the bestest technician. If that were the case then Christopher Cross or someone would be the best rock dude instead of Bob Dylan.

2) Biggie Smalls is the GOAT
We love Biggie more than many members of our family, but Biggie died too soon to be the greatest. He never got a chance to experiment much with style, or to refine his story-telling abilities as he moved into different phases of his life. Maybe Ready to Die and Life After Death are better than The College Dropout and Late Registration (maybe), but would his next three albums have been as strong as Graduation, 808s & Heartbreak, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy? Would his music have evolved in such interesting, complex ways? The answers are most likely no.

3) Kanye's fallen way off since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Sure, Watch the Throne was not classic, and Cruel Summer is definitely not classic, but they are not Kanye solo projects and should not be judged in the same way. Are they evidence that Kanye has fallen off permanently? Absolutely not. Don't forget that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy -- an album that is Kanye's best, in the opinion of many -- is barely two years old. Let him get his kilt-wearing, kingmaking phase out of the way and see if he doesn't come back with an even more interesting perspective.

4) Jay-Z is the GOAT
Jay-Z is an absolutely first-rate songwriter, rapper, and performer, and his influence and style have unquestionably shaped the genre permanently. And, not for nothing, he brought the world Kanye West. (And Memphis Bleek.) But even putting aside Jay's great mountain of subpar work, very few of his albums are truly canonical 'art with a capital a,' whereas one can make this case for every one of Kanye's albums.

Though he's an expert boaster (not a slag) and makes stellar street anthems and pop hits with equal ease, Jay-Z doesn't often go to interesting places emotionally. In that sense, he's the best rap traditionalist; rap didn't used to be about psychiatrist couch confessions. But we believe the genre's tendency toward introspection is a positive shift, and while others deserve credit in this regard (including Scarface and Eminem) no one's more responsible for it than Kanye.

See also: Counterpoint: Jay-Z Saved Brooklyn

Also, shouldn't the greatest hip-hop artist be at least somewhat relevant when it comes to social issues? While one gets the feeling Jay hangs out with the president mostly because it makes him look cool, Kanye has legitimately risked his reputation on issues like gay acceptance and the diamond trade. He addresses issues like poverty, inequality, and access to education in his songs, in a way that is not trivial but is also not shrill or annoyingly Kwelian.

Oh, and this might be petty, but personally we'll never forgive Jay for ruining "Never Let Me Down." What could have been one of Kanye's best tracks evar is blemished by Jay. After J.Ivy offers one of the most heartwarming, uplifting verses we've heard, Jay-Z returns for a megalomaniacal, completely pointless second turn on the mic, and it's the absolute pits.

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147 comments
skad00sh
skad00sh

Kanye West makes conveyor belt pop-hiphop music. It's like Las Vegas. Nice place to visit, wouldn't want to live there. Flashy, but fake. Greatest of All time? At being trite, maybe. As usual, the most talented musicians never see a headline. They're too busy making music instead of becoming infamous. 

michaelbltn
michaelbltn

U wrote off outkast. And album for album outkast has equal maybe better work than kanye easily. Andre is the first, male, to go from rapping to singing and make look like a natural artistic evolution and big boi alone will eap circles around kanye. When comingto subject matter its pretty much equal but outkast can touch on the streets alot better and wat seems easier than yeezus. Outkast love below is kanyes 808s

idratherliveindreams
idratherliveindreams

As is the standard with articles written about Kanye West, you won't find a legitimate critique of the article's points in the comment section.  Just a whole bunch of hate-mongering from people who either, 1) don't like hip hop in the first place, 2) are too old and stuck in their ways to branch out, or 3) are hip hop elitists stuck in 1994, masturbating at the thought of boom bap returning to prominence and narrowing the talents of a rapper strictly down to their lyrical content and ignoring the hundred other things that go into being a reputable artist (I should know, I was an underground head in high school).  


Or maybe you just think Kanye's an asshole.


As much as I can agree with several of the article's points (though putting "Hey Mama" ahead of "Dear Mama" is a little more than blasphemous), it's just not the right time to up and declare Kanye to be the best of all time.  Yes, in the grand scheme of things, he HAS released the best music, he IS the most influential, and his music will more than likely endure longer than, say, a Rick Ross or a Chief Keef.  I can imagine my children someday envying the fact that I was at the Watch the Throne tour, much like I envy my own dad getting to see the legends of his own time: Zeppelin, Floyd, Frank Zappa, etc.  But realistically, the man's career is far from over.  He still has plenty of time to screw up and put out a bad record (no, you can't possibly count a compilation record like Cruel Summer where he's only featured on half the tracks).  There were times when artists like Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, etc. were probably considered to have GOAT-potential, but as time went on they failed to grow and their later output has been noticeably stale.  6 out of 6 albums is a damn good average, but until he retires or unexpectedly dies we can't say for sure.


As for Ben Westhoff's points,


1. Agree.  Compared to the likes of a Ras Kass or a Pharoahe Monch, sure.  But Kanye's always been more about what he says over how he says it anyway.


2. Agree.  If Biggie were alive today he'd likely be in the same boat as the rappers I mentioned earlier who failed to live up to the quality of their earlier projects.


3. Disagree.  As of this very moment in time, I would say that yes, he has fallen off since that record.  Granted, it isn't easy following up one of the greatest albums of all time, regardless of genre, but the uncharacteristic laziness of his recent verses was the last thing I'd expect after a record as well thought-out and flaw-proof as MBDTF.  I actually really enjoyed Yeezus for what it was.  It's hard to say whether or not it would've worked better with multi-syllable rhyme schemes or complicated flows (after all, those are fairly definite characteristics of rap music and I don't consider Yeezus to be a rap album), but some of the things he says are just downright embarrassing.  Knowing what I know he's capable of, it just doesn't match up.


4. Absolutely agree.  I always use the "quality album" argument when debating Jay.  The man's body of work is as inconsistent as it gets.  For every quality album he drops 2-3 duds.  I'd hardly say that Jay "ruined" Never Let Me Down, though.


5. Disagree.  You especially lost me with the Beatles comparison.  While undoubtedly his most influential release, 808s could've been so much better if he'd spent more than THREE WEEKS crafting it.  It's always been an album that I felt had so much unfulfilled potential to it.  It's not a bad album, and spawned a hundred imitators, but I can't help feeling it could've been something really spectacular as an ALBUM (as opposed to just a movement) if he'd fleshed it out a bit.


6. Disagree.  I feel like you aren't giving OutKast enough credit.  I'd say Kanye is incredibly indebited to them.  They were the first platinum-selling rap act to really experiment with their hip hop and get rewarded for it.  Plus Kanye's albums may be better overall but the gap isn't as wide as you make it seem.


7. Disagree, but only because I feel like 3 years is hardly enough time to judge if a record has "held up" or not (and it was only 2 years when this article was written).  You used the 2 year argument to dispel the idea that Kanye's fallen off, but not when debating if it's held up; everything goes both ways.  If you'd ask me right now, I'd say that MBDTF is my favorite hip hop album, ever.  It's defined my life in more ways than I can even begin to describe.  It's a swift kick to the face to anyone who's ever argued that hip hop is inferior to other genres of music and, based on the way it's assembled and performed, is unable to hold up artistically.  But I have no idea how I'll feel about it in 20 years.  In this case, only time will tell.


8. Agree.  Like Biggie, I feel that Pac's reign would have come to an end sooner or later.  Also, if we want to bring back the "quality album" measure, Kanye's first two projects blow Pac's out of the water.  Still don't agree on Dear Mama/Hey Mama though.


9. Agree.  And for anyone who's ever tried using this argument to critique the man's music, please fuck off.


10. Agree.  Don't get me wrong, I love and respect all three rappers you mentioned there.  I saw Tech in concert back in October and he put on a hell of a show.  But this goes back to what I said earlier about basing a hip hop artist's merit solely on their lyrics and ignoring the rest of the package.


It'd be nice to get an actual debate in the comment section on the points I've made but based on what I've read from other commenters so far that doesn't seem likely (maybe someone will surprise me?).  I love what Kanye West has done for my generation's music and I do feel like one day he has potential to be considered the greatest hip hop artist of all time.  I just think it's too soon to be making claims like this because, lo and behold, we can't predict the future.

Dee Q LeeJay
Dee Q LeeJay

Who wrote this ish!!! So disrespectful to hip-hop and our culture that created hip- hop! Take a seat, in fact take several seats!!

Jayson Messner
Jayson Messner

To the so called infant writers at Village Voice, I have been a club dj since the 70's and kanya is not a true hip hop rap artist. he is just a guy that got a break with his big offensive mouth. I believe that you so called music critics - writers, change your diapers and see what real music is. whether it be hip-hop, rap, rock, dance or plastic top forty. It lame writers like you that ignore new good talented artist and just keep hyping the old shit like kanye.

Michael Zvirblis
Michael Zvirblis

Another fine example of the media loving someone that the majority don't. Who likes Kanye besides Kanye and our media anyway?

John Kelson
John Kelson

Guess what village voice? You Dont speak for this country or evan New York. G.F.Y.S!

Adam Abramowitz
Adam Abramowitz

Not GOAT, SOAT (shittiest of all time)... I hate rap, and its hyper narcissism. I listen to church burning Satanists. Men and women who can actually play instruments...

Wojciech Magda
Wojciech Magda

and u need to stop smokin, whatever the fuck ur smokin, dude...

Jerry Dananberg
Jerry Dananberg

As a representive of the non black people or the white race, well he makes everybody feel less than. HE IS AN ASSHOLE and I wont waste my time even reading the article.

Bob Della Fave
Bob Della Fave

Sorry but you have no idea what you're talking about

Mark J Babyak
Mark J Babyak

How much did Kanye's ego pay you to write this?

James McAllen
James McAllen

This article is a year old... get over it...

Chris Scott
Chris Scott

Gtfoh. The black community frowns upon this worthless article.

Tommy Canarsie
Tommy Canarsie

ok whose smoking crack at the voice? kangay is trash

Freddie DeJesus
Freddie DeJesus

And how much did his record company pay you to say that...

DonDee Adams
DonDee Adams

BWAHAHAHA!!! Oh, wait. You were serious??? Dang, you got me on that one.

JoBlo
JoBlo

"Hey Mama" better than "Dear Mama". Are you f-----ng crazy???? I went back and listened to both songs just to make sure, and in one line Pac solidifies his song's legacy, and within 2 minutes Kanye's "Hey Mama" refrain becomes cloying and quickly overstays its welcome. Not that I don't agree Yeezy's an amazing artist, and destined to go down as one of the greats, but comparing those two songs-- no, just no.

heritic4life
heritic4life

I stopped reading at the opening line. To read something real about Kanye West go to my blog. www.thepeoplesmic.blogspot.com 

djbvax
djbvax

*Ahem* FOH. #thatisall

John Kelson
John Kelson

This might be the worst article Ive ever read. Not because of the grammar or style but because the author is so emphatic about their opinion which is completely incorrect

Àdouble Poisse
Àdouble Poisse

I would love to see DMX rip Kanye's face off right off his head. Kanye West is the GOAT like Ja Rule was the GOAT - NEVER!!!!

Ryan MacBride
Ryan MacBride

That wouldn't say much for the genre in general if it was true. Nas, Rakim, DJ Premier and the RZA would have something to say about that bullshit proclamation. It's like saying The Riddler is Batman's greatest villian.

Nell Gambino
Nell Gambino

I love that line from Randy Reaves 'Is this like being the smartest retard? lolol

Krista Warren
Krista Warren

Once upon a time Kanye West was a good rapper and producer.

passionara
passionara

"Also, shouldn't the greatest hip-hop artist be at least somewhat relevant when it comes to social issues? While one gets the feeling Jay hangs out with the president mostly because it makes him look cool, Kanye has legitimately risked his reputation on issues like gay acceptance and the diamond trade. He addresses issues like poverty, inequality, and access to education in his songs, in a way that is not trivial but is also not shrill or annoyingly Kwelian." ...............................Addressing Poverty for the sake of addressing it , or because it is cool and very Che Guevara/social fighter hero-esque , an activist does not one make...IF ONLY The sweat shop workers getting $1 a day to produce the atrocities of clothes he brands his own , could speak. ..SAD.

Andrew Arp Pinkowitz
Andrew Arp Pinkowitz

or the sublimely greatest self promoting jackass... hmm sounds right to me, but, I'm just the "world's most profound thinker and judge of matters artistic" so what do I know? Greatest Overbearing A-hole Tuchus

Thomas Johnson Jr
Thomas Johnson Jr

ha for real. I'm a huge Kanye fan and would never call him the GOAT. NASIR all day

Terence Degnan
Terence Degnan

Yo-yo Ma is the greatest fucking cellist of all time. Look at him there sitting on the damn throne! The best! List-making is masturbation for click counts.

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