When we talk about greats in the hip-hop world, the likes of Biggie and Pac, Jay-Z, Nas and Eminem, we are more often than not talking about their ability to rap and create amazing hip-hop songs. Of course you can point to the likes of Collision Course for Jay-Z and suggest that he tried to move outside of it, but fundamentally it was still rap, yet with a slightly different twist. These guys are the great rappers no doubt, yet Kanye West is unlikely to be put into that category. This is because of what I have been discussing with music expert Arie Eric de Jong this week on the podcast, Kanye should go down as one of the greatest artists to have ever done it.
Just the Vehicle
If we look at the greatest artists who have gone down through the years in music, they often use a musical genre as nothing more than a vehicle to get their art out. Take Prince for example, who began with funk hooks and that branched out to disco, soul, blue and rock. In the case of Kanye, he has simply used hip-hop as a vehicle to get his artistry out there.
The best examples of just how great Kanye is as an artist can be found in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and in Life of Pablo, two albums which experimented with sounds and styles, so much so that they were almost rejected by rap purists. This shows again the expansive mind which Kanye has, the type which only the very best music artists have.
Another measure of greatness that we see is the way in which certain artists influenced those who are coming through. Now the rap world is ever changing and because it has its foundations in competition, it is unlikely that younger rappers will look to mimic the styles of people like Jigga, Andre 3000 or Lil Wayne, usually they won’t get far if they do. In Kanye’s case however he is actively encouraging younger artists to find themselves in their craft. Kanye has featured on a huge array fo albums with artists from all over the globe, seeking to inspire them musically and artistically.
There is no doubt that all of these rappers who we have mentioned above will go down in history as the greats, in Jay-Z’s case he will also be remembered as a man who lifted rap out of itself and learned what it took to make this a business for the rappers, and not just the labels. When Kanye is remembered however, it will be as a creator, as an innovator, as someone who did not just toe the line but someone who stepped outside of the boundaries of his musical genre time and time again.
For these reasons, even at this relatively early stage, Kanye is certainly going down as one of the greatest music artists to have ever done it.