My favorite Michael Jordan moment didn’t happen on the court. It occurred in 2009, during his Hall-of-Fame induction speech. People expected MJ, the greatest basketball player of all time, to be humble, retrospective — in other words boring — while delivering his speech.
Yeah, that ain't Mike.
For 20 plus minutes, a defiant and arrogant Michael ripped every player, coach and family member who had ever slighted him on the way to the top. It was a revealing speech; it was also a real one.
Even after all those years, Michael realized that the reason why he was there, the reason why he was so great, was because of naysayers and doubters. They drove MJ to greatness. And that's often how it goes for the greats. They need to be taken into deep waters to test their endurance.
Which brings us to Kanye West.
Um, have you seen dude lately? He has spent the last week in Europe basically breathing fire on whomever he pleases. He's been ranting like a madman. Against Justin Timberlake and his "Suit & Tie" record; against Taylor Swift, again, (that poor girl); against uncreative artists; and against anyone who tries to come at Queen Bey.
Kind of lost in the spectacle of the rants is the fact that Kanye said he’s coming with new music, soon. I’m scared of how good that music is going to be.
I read an article on AllHipHop recently that made a lot of sense. It quoted from a Vice magazine article (one I couldn’t find) which theorized that this was an act, that Kanye is acting crazy because he’s prepping his Black American Psycho album.
The Vice article is flawed; A Black American Psycho album was just a random rumor that was thrown out there a couple of months ago. However, I do think there is something bigger being played here.
Kanye is good, man. He's in a stable relationship, about to have a baby. He’s coming off a masterpiece of a solo album and a highly successful duet LP with Jay-Z. And he has one of the strongest crews in music.
Face it, Kanye West is comfortable. And I’m not sure if comfort is a good space for Kanye. Like MJ, and most of the other greats, he needs adversity to be pushed to his creative limit.
Kanye West has had five albums, which range from good to classic. On his debut album, The College Dropout, Kanye was starving, in full come-up mode. He was eager to prove that someone who wears pink polos and sweatshirts with Teddy Bears on them could fit in with the 50 Cents of the world. And he did well; College Dropout was a major hit and considered a classic, by most.
At least that’s what we say now. The truth is that The College Dropout received good reviews, but it wasn’t considered an out-the-box classic. In 2006, while promoting Late Registration, his sophomore album, Kanye said:
"Anyone who doesn't give (College Dropout) a perfect score is lowering the integrity of the magazine...I still feel, to this day, that The Source needs to change my score to five mics."
Adding fuel to the creative fire was the fact that Rocafella was in the middle of their breakup. The results showed in Late Registration: Kanye talked openly about the Roc’s split on the LP's first single "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" and Kanye went for a more serious, darker sound than his debut. It paid off. Rolling Stone gave it a glowing 5 star review and it got nominated for Album of the Year at Grammys.
While Kanye was disappointed with the reception to College Dropout, Kanye was actually disappointed with Late Registration. After its release, the rapper felt like the project was too long, too serious, too all over the place and he realized that he wasn’t making music that could move a crowd, something he noticed major rock bands could do.
So he went with a stadium sound on Graduation, his leaner, more commercially accessible third album.
Kanye's West mother died shortly after the release of Graduation: That heartbreak, plus the fact that Kanye broke up with long time fiancé at the time, Alexis Phifer, lead to the cold, depressing tunes on 808s & Heartbreak.
A year later, the 2009 VMAs occurred. This was the stage where the “ima let you finish” scandal went down. The media spazzed on him, and Kanye hid out in Hawaii, where he crafted the dark, often just plain mean My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
So how do you follow up the most universally loved rap album of the last 25 years?
I’m not sure; Kanye has to figure it out, and since he’s not facing any real adversity in his life, he has to create some.
He's psyching himself up, like when Tom Brady says clichés like “no one believes in us.”
Kanye isn’t going crazy, folks. He’s fine. You’ll see in couple of months when he starts letting loose with new, incredible music.
Until then let him get the press. Create the controversy. Ignite the flame.
Make the music.
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