The Kanye West LP is a masterpiece. Only the Junior Boys LP is remotely in its class this year.
I'm hooked. It's as sweetly addictive as Al Green or Julee Cruise or Scritti circa Cupid and Psyche.
- With its juxtaposition of celestial longing and hypernaturalist kynicism, 'Spaceship' is in many ways the album's signature track. Kanye's working a two-bit job ('this grave shift... like the slave ship'), idly fantasising about fleeing the planet. You could hear it as an earthbound elegy for the cosmic escapism of Funkadelic and Parliament, their dreams of interplanetary lines of flight as exploded as the Challenger space shuttle in the face of 00's drearealism.
- The samples. Like rave's spEded-up samples of yore, Kanye's trademark technique of pitching up vox (which are typically taken from 70s soul) has the effect of both dehumanizing and ultra-feminizing his vocal sources. The result is literally divine: West restores ecstasy to its sense of religious rapture. The Marvin Gaye sample in 'Spaceship' ---- the trembling 'heaven knows' ---- is a shiver/ sliver of pure yearning, both a reproach to human limitations and a breaching of them. The gorgeous Luther Vandross steal in 'Slowjamz' ('it's gonna be, it's gonna be, well, well...') and the Chaka Khan sample in 'Through the Wire' you already know about, the lovely Michael Bolton reconstruction on 'Never Let Me Down' you've probably already heard about.
- its diffuse eroticism. As Jamie Foxx establishes in his introduction, 'Slowjamz' is a song attuned to women's desire. In place of crunk's scopo/necrophiliac nihilibido, synergetically fused with porn's testicular thermodynamics, Kanye slow-cooks his grooves to simulate/ stimulate the simmering anti-climactic waves of female desire.
- its words. If you think 'Slowjamz' and 'Through the Wire' are mellifluously poignant, wait till you hear Syleena Johnson's throaty plaint on 'All Falls Down'. This has all the 'What's Going On'-acuity claimed for the Black Eyed Peas' 'Where is the Love', minus the preachy piety. The College Drop Out never has a simple message, an easy moral (indeed, its attacks on education are frankly puzzling).
- Miri Ben-Ari's vertiginous, cakewalk-crazy string arrangements, heard to best effect on 'Workout', an alternative universe's version of DJ Caspar's 'Cha Cha Slide'; just when you think it's reached its peak of funhouse frenzy, Kanye throws in a lascivious Zapp-style vododer.Posted by mark at April 8, 2004 12:11 AM | TrackBack