A Toast to a Douche Bag
woke up early this morning with a new state of mind/A creative way to rhyme without using knives and guns/Keep your nose out the sky, keep your heart to God/And keep your face to the rising sun. Business
Ten years ago marked one of the most important days in my life. I was 12 years old and in middle school, in michael kors purses a time where popular music was dominated by 50 Cent, Eminem, Ludacris, and Lil Jon. Being one of the shortest, thinnest kids in school, I was the frequent target of bullying, and thus I tried everything to fit in with my peers. I sagged my jeans, wore a chain, and I dove into rap music. While this phase of my life did have some good on me (I made some good friends with popular guys who turned out to be absolutely decent human beings, even in a time as barbaric as middle school adolescence, and I still am deeply in love with rap music), it hard to fit in when you and everyone else knows you pretending: my parents didn let me buy explicit rap albums, besides Eminem Eminem Show and when I independently began listening to rap, I ended up delving into Nineties Gangster Rap, more familiar and at home with the Geto Boys and Wu Tang Clan than G Unit or Murder Inc: I would argue Ghostface Killah was an unappreciated Emcee when most would scratch their heads, I didn get the hype between Lil Jon, and my favorite Ludacris songs were tracks like Pains or 2 America instead of or Codes Even when I tried my hardest to not be a nerd, I was still the geek who came off as too smart, too conscious, and too into aspects of culture my peers cared little about. I was a total fraud. michael kors purses
In 2004, the College Dropout was released. My father bought it for me; he had heard reviews about this new rapper who presented himself as a middle class art school dropout, known for his production michael kors purses work for Jay Z, and heavily sampling soul music. I felt lucky my father actually never listened to it himself; my parents had very little tolerance for rap, and I can only imagine what my dad reaction would have been to Don Care and its surrounding skits. And that was the beginning of the album. But beyond the tongue in cheek gab about drug dealing, which never felt quite serious coming from Kanye, that opening was memorable: here we were presented with Kanye, a seeming bright student being asked to perform a song at graduation, a great honor. Yet immediately Kanye revealed himself to us less as a Lisa but a Bart Simpson, opening the album with a beautifully orchestrated song and child choir singing about selling crack cocaine.
It was funny. It was new. But more than anything, it was musically and clever. It didn feel like ordinary rap; it felt like music. Even Kanye lines often felt ambiguous enough that you could apply middle class, white frustration to it. With every song, I hear another line that struck me, even at 12 years old. When I worried about being accepted, I pop in Falls Down and nod along, laughing at Kanye self consciousness and reflecting on my own. Let Me Down and the Wire reminded me of perseverance and overcoming the odds when everyone doubts you. Business reminded me who always was there for me in my hardest times, even when teen angst threatened it. Even In, Breathe Out made me laugh at the character I was trying to be. The College Dropout wasn just an album for me; it was the key to really figuring myself out.
It funny, even when I discovered Kanye, along with my peers, I still didn fit in when it came to what I liked about Kanye. I think Workout Plan was the weakest song on the album, I later go on to detest Digger and I thought Graduation was his worst album. I didn even own a copy of 808 Heartbreaks until a month ago. What I loved Kanye for was his clever wordplay, the complexity of his production, the craft of his songwriting, and the progressiveness of his message. Kanye was the thinking man rap artist: he was the sensitive nerd in a tough man game who was completely uncompromising. My peers liked Kanye for cheap snickers of lines like ain messin with no broke nggas and the danceable songs. Hell, he wasn even that popular with my peers when College Dropout was released; his only real hit with my age range on Late Registration was Digger other than a brief pop of enthusiasm for from Sierra Leone lot of people cock eyebrows at me today when I mention Kanye West is not only one of my favorite artists but a personal hero of mine. In some ways, I feel like people have forgotten who Kanye was before the Taylor Swift incident. When you not a rap fan, it almost impossible to explain why Kanye West is not only important but maybe the most important musician of this generation. When you never really listened to the College Dropout or Late Registration when they first dropped, it hard to separate pre Graduation from post Graduation Kanye (I go as far as to say is his undisputed most successful single, and Graduation was the album that truly propelled him to the top of mainstream popularity). I still remember Kanye West as that guy who wore a backpack on Def Poetry Jam, the guy who challenged the music industry to market a single about Jesus (and won), the guy who beat 50Cent in a record sales battle (signaling the end of Gangster Rap and the new direction of hip hop), the guy who put J. Ivy on a track, the guy who never rapped about carrying a pistol, and the guy who seemed just as out place with his peers than he did with the establishment he was rebelling against. Kanye was the prototypical unproven genius who overcame all odds and proved every doubted wrong. The impact, to a young teenager, of watching a career like that be built first hand was absolutely irreversible. Kanye was who I wanted to be; who I could see myself being. In someways, you could say Kanye West saved me.
So a toast to Kanye West for 10 years. Some people absolutely hate him, and I will not argue with them on their opinion. Some love to hate him, a position I sure Kanye wouldn want anyway. But, from a true admirer, congratulations Kanye West; this anniversary means just as much to some of us as it does to michael kors purses you. Thanks for everything.