Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kanye West Mixtape is Neither a Mix nor a Tape

I'm not one to pause for self-reflection, but I have to momentarily address my lack of postings this month. It all has to do with a tight schedule and project-work, so please forgive the massive hole. Wont' happen again, I promise.
Now, let's get back to the reason we're all here - Music.

Mixtapes are supposed to be illegal, or something like that, which means an artist has to give them away in order to avoid any legal wrangling.
So when Kanye West, one of the few hip-hop artists who matter anymore, drops a free mixtape on Memorial Day weekend, it becomes an event. The fact that it's pretty damn good is pudding on top of ice cream cake.

“Can't Tell Me Nothing” is one of the rarified mixtapes that is worth seeking out. Of course, mixtapes nowadays are total misnomers. They're neither mixed by a DJ nor tapes. A linguist would have a field day pointing out the flawed premise.
But 'Ye's mixtape does what all good mixtapes are supposed to do: provides anticipation for an upcoming project (in this case, 'Ye's upcoming album "Graduation), keep the artist accessible and, gasp, offer new, banging beats and rhymes.

It opens up with 'Ye punching a dateline on the mix, ”May 25, 2007.” This is almost the equivalent of a hostage holding up a newspaper in a photo to prove what day they are actually alive (one of the few uses print newspapers have these days). 'Ye talks big shit over a Daft Punk sample, which eventually cuts into a snippet of his second album single “Stronger.” Again, 'Ye flips the Daft Punk sample, adding space age thump, synth, and much boasting.

Then the album gets weird.

'Ye teams up with Lupe Fiasco and Pharrell (the new super group CRS) to rap over a Thom Yorke track. That's right, a Thom Yorke track. Later on, Kanye jacks the Peter Bjorn and John hipster delight “Young Folks” to rap about porn and his Rolling Stone cover story.

Sounds tacky, but by the grace of trucker hats and PBR, it works.
The title track has been released as a single, with DJ Toomp providing a bed of epic organ keys and dramatic vocal chops, upon which Kanye dreamily warns "Wait 'til I get my money right."

Although awesomely self-centered, Ye isn't too caught in vapors to share the spotlight. Tracks from Common (off his album "Finding Forever"), Sa-Ra Creative Partners, Big Sean, Consequence and GLC stand strong alongside 'Ye's offerings. It's a G.O.O.D. family affair.

What makes this mixtape work is its revelatory nature, like 'Ye is giving us an exclusive sneak peek into his steez, almost a day in the life of. It's a good look for today's most relevant rap star.

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