Hype, T.L.O.P and post-Yeezus Kanye West
Let me start by asserting Kanye West is my favourite artist of all time, every album he has released I both own and love. His passion, creativity and unique approach to making music is to quote Future is nothing short of ‘sensational’.
Kanye West has created a massively successful and robust brand in which anything he produces is almost assumed to succeed (see Yeezy Boosts or first week sales of MBDTF). This is, of course, being with good reason he has proved time and time again he can deliver. But in this blog, I want to discuss the ‘new’ Kanye, his new level of fame, popularity or hype and how it specifically related to one of the year’s most anticipated albums. The Life of Pablo.
It’s hard to disagree that over the past 3 years Kanye West has dominated the news whether this is the tabloids, newspapers, social media or the TV Kanye has made an appearance in all of them. Some may argue this is common for a celebrity (no pun intended). However, if we were to compare this with his peers: Jay-Z, Drake, Kendrick Lamar and J.cole you would realise Kanye has ascended past the title ‘rapper’. He is a celebrity in every essence of the word and a big one. Why this is significant is because unlike his celebrity peers he utilises this in a very unique and captivating way.
His first string of interviews after the Yeezus album portrayed a new frustrated and frankly unarticulated Kanye, but this constantly saw him raise his celebrity status with numerous headlines for his ambitious and egocentric statements proclaiming he is the new Walt Disney, Michael Angelo and Steve Jobs. In-between, this time, he released clothing line venturing outside the music world and married one of the most famous people alive Kim Kardashian. All of this propelling Kanye West to a new level of fame and a new level of polarisation.
But the fumbled release of T.L.O.P and its average rating from industry critics does highlight significant problems, although the reception of the album by fans was significantly higher, I would argue it still doesn’t enter most fans top 3 Kanye West albums. Another important gauge would be album sales which are impossible to attain as of now because the album is still exclusively on Tidal, which has refused to release its streaming sales. And with Yeezus being outsold by J.Cole’s Born Sinner in its second week I would have been very curious to know how T.L.O.P sold. All in all Leading me to question was T.L.O.P enough to reclaim the hearts of previous fans and hip-hop lovers alike after a disappointing Yeezus album. Personally, for me yes it was. I will still continue to be anxious to listen to his new material as soon as it is released. But I do wonder if I am in the majority and if so is the number growing or shrinking?
Kanye’s place in Hip-hop is shifting with his relevance or purpose in the hip-hop world being chipped away at a more conscious level by rappers such as Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole whose albums were amongst the highest selling of the last year. But also on a more commercial level by part-time road man and pop star Drake. All of this putting Kanye West in an ambiguous space with him no longer being the ‘people’s champion’ nor the ‘hip-hop’s biggest star’. Coupling this with Kanye’s attention drawn toward the fashion world and music in the back seat will Kanye West ever reach the top of the music game again even if he wanted to?