This, ladies and gentlemen, is the new Kanye West. Just when you thought he couldn’t reinvent hip-hop anymore, the original college dropout has gone back to school and rewritten the entire syllabus. How many school-related metaphors can you incorporate into one sentence? I’d bet Kanye could fit a few, considering how Love Lockdown breaks down the gates, tells the kids ‘we don’t need no education’ and has the drumming equivalent of ADHD lads robbing the cafeteria. It’s like Kanye’s come up behind the hip-hop lollipop man, stolen his lollipops, diverted the traffic, caused to head-ons and then made a song up out it. You know, it’s interesting.
Being a Kanye West fan myself and a regular visitor to his masterful blog, I have to say I kind of guessed this was coming. Call me Psychic Seidler, what you will, but I knew, following the increasingly strange trajectory of his blog posts (from car design to BAPE to anime), that the new album (which an announcement today has named ’808′s and Heartbreak’ – an 808 being a drum break on a synthesizer [thank you J] – primed for release sometime in December 08) was going to be something else. And something else it is. And something else it will be. And (from the future [thank you Swiss atom-smasher], looking back) something else it was.
But you kind of had to expect it (self-deprecating my own psychic abilities here). From the College Dropout which was an excellent record but reasonably safe in terms of the codes and conventions of hip hop at the time, Kanye has stepped up his game on each subsequent LP. On Late Registration he went all Jon Brion on us with the keys and the strings and the symphonies and with Graduation, he brought the dance subculture into hip-hop, exploding the very codes and conventions which constrained (again, not in a bad way) his first outing. Once you’ve got Daft Punk’s copyright permission though, where do you go from there?
To the vocoder, the big tribal-Japanese sounding drums and the cool grey suits – replies Kanye. This performance, at the VMAs (yeah, the awards show he’s supposed to have boycotted last year over their terrible treatment of him – but he didn’t know there’d be another one so soon!) showed up Britney. It showed up Lil Wayne and Kid Rock. Heck, it even showed up girl-kissing Katy Perry. It’s a fittingly epic song to announce a comeback (of sorts… ok it’s only been about four months) and, to my ear, far more stylish than the perennial favourite’s attempt last year (‘It’s Britney bitch’). With Love Lockdown, Kanye moves out of his comfort zone to embrace singing in its purest (slightly computerized) form, and shows that he’s still the one consistently pushing the envelope. Or the margins… of the exercise book.
Kanye West – Love Lockdown.