Is Kanye West a genius?
If you believe what he himself says about this, then the answer is … yes.
If you can’t stand his egotistic swagger and his crazy lyrics, then you’ll probably say… no.
And if you actually listen to his music, you might reply… maybe.
I asked myself this question the other day while I was driving my son to an outlet mall about 45 minutes north of New York City. We began the ride by listening to the classic King Crimson album In The Court Of The Crimson King. I wanted my son to hear this album because it has influenced so many musicians over the years, and continues to be an influence today.
Listen to “21st Century Schizoid Man” and try not to think of “Iron Man,” for example. (Not to mention progressive rock, jazz fusion, etc.)
21st Century Schizoid Man
While listening to this track in the car, I vaguely recalled reading that Kanye West had used it in one of his own songs. I asked my son about this and yes, he knew the song from Kanye’s “Power.” Intrigued, I asked him to play “Power” for me, which led to a bunch of other Kanye tracks, including his recent foray into gospel music.
Wow – I became fascinated with the music! Kanye doesn’t limit himself by what the music industry considers to be “commercial.” If he wants to add an old-fashioned choir arrangement, he’ll do so. Solo sax with no accompaniment? Sure, why not? Piano improv behind a rap? Let’s do it!
I don’t know if Kanye’s a genius or not, but I do know one thing: he’s fearless and makes the music he wants to hear. Back in the day, musicians like Duke Ellington, The Jefferson Airplane, Frank Zappa, and Prince did this too, but nowadays it’s becoming rarer and rarer, especially in the realm of commercial music.
I got so involved in listening to Kanye’s music, in fact, that I completely missed my exit and drove a full hour north into the Catskill mountains before I realized it! No worries - we just turned around and continued listening to music until we arrived at the stores. The amazing thing is that the “lost” hour went by in a flash. It seemed like 5 minutes!
That’s the power of music, and Kanye is one musician who recognizes this.
Have a great week, and be sure to listen to some of your favorite music (but not while you need to find an exit!).