Sure, I might be biased being a Chicago native but Kanye is one of my all time favorite emcees and you “Can’t Tell Me Nothin“. I’ve recently had some great conversations via Twitter about Kanye, his music and his ever evolving character over the years. You can count on YE to continually entertain us, which, in essence is what we expect out of our music moguls whether you admit it or not. You can’t deny Kanye’s staying power or legendary status.
Disagree? Are you going to let me finish? Damn!
Kanye has changed up the game whether it be through his artistic direction, lyrics, crazy outfits, or off the wall behaviors. I will forever be a fan of what he has contributed to Hip Hop.
I’d like to take a moment today to reflect on the evolution of Kanye.
2003 – 2007 | “B.Y. TIMELINE” (Before Yeezus) | ALBUMS: COLLEGE DROPOUT, LATE REGISTRATION, GRADUATION | “The Golden Era of Kanye West”
2003 – ALL FALLS DOWN – Ft. Syleena Johnson – COLLEGE DROPOUT
*Sigh* The College Dropout. Quite arguably one of Mr. West’s bests and the beginning of his success. Also when people actually referred to him as “Kanye West” vs. just “Kanye”, “Ye” or “Yeezus”. The message in “All Falls Down” depicts a story of a young woman who has to decide between a college major and the material things in life. Was it the song itself or the incredibly beautiful Stacey Dash that made this video so popular? I believe it was both, but there is no doubt about the fact Stacey was an added bonus.
2004 – SPACESHIP – Ft. GLC and Consequence – COLLEGE DROPOUT
I remember bumpin’ this album, ridin’ ’round the CHI in my “hooptie” with my 10″ speakers pounding. That was my “Spaceship”. We all related to the struggle. We were sick of our corporate jobs, minimum wage and office politics (as was Kanye prior to blowing up).
2004 – THE NEW WORKOUT PLAN – COLLEGE DROPOUT
Everything about this song is addictive and everything about this video is hilarious. Anna Nicole Smith doing aerobics, Tracee Ellis Ross acting as a French video girl, Vida Guerra playing the part of one of the Work Out Plan success stories and the Farnsworth Bentley rap combine to create the perfect Kanye comedy.
2004 – TWO WORDS – Ft. Mos Def and Freeway – COLLEGE DROPOUT
TWO WORDS? There were obviously more than two words that stand out in my mind. Kanye, Mos Def and Freeway all deliver a clever array of word play. I remember I had to add this track to just about every playlist for a few years. There are many political messages in this song that still hold relevance to this day. I loved the filming and production. It reminds me of what Kanye stood for and where he began: the streets.
2005 – TOUCH THE SKY – Ft. Lupe Fiasco – LATE REGISTRATION
How much do I love this song and video? Let me count the ways:
1) Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up” sample.
2) Kanye portraying the Hip Hop version of the legendary 70’s dare devil: Evil Knievel.
3) Pamela Anderson and Nia Long.
4) The introduction of another young Chicago hip hop icon: Lupe Fiasco.
2005 – HEARD ‘EM SAY – Ft. Adam Levine – LATE REGISTRATION
“Wake up, Mr. West!” Adam Levine’s vocals on the hook perfectly compliment the powerful message behind Kanye’s lyrics in this song. Kanye recognizes that nothing is promised in our lifetime. He also points out that honesty hurts, but it is necessary to our growth as individuals.
2005 – DIAMONDS – LATE REGISTRATION
“Foreva Eva Eva? Eva Eva? Eva Eva?” Yes, diamonds are forever. Kanye completed the ultimate tribute song in honor of his success with Roc-A-Fella records in 2005.
2007 – EVERYTHING I AM – GRADUATION
First, WHY did Common pass on this beat? Second, how amazing is it that DJ Premier cut and scratched on this track? Third, WHY is there no official video for this song? This song is especially symbolic and represents a very specific point of time in the “B.Y.” timeline. Mr. West speaks on his hometown of Chicago, his religious beliefs and most importantly, his loyalty to staying true and not conforming to the rap formalities or facade of which other rappers had fallen victim. Kanye states he will “never rock a mink coat in the winter time like Killa Cam” or “never rock some mink boots in the summer time like Will.I.Am”. Yes, he has since rocked some questionable fashion choices, but at the time it was a sincerely soulful beat with a real meaning of individuality and originality.
2007 – FLASHING LIGHTS – Ft. Dwele – GRADUATION
SON. This was my ringtone for an entire year straight. This song still remains one of my favorite Kanye joints of all time. It’s semi-haunting, but in a good way.
2007 – HOMECOMING – GRADUATION
Ask any Chicagoan who moves to another city (and is a Kanye fan) what their favorite song is en route to the Windy City. They will tell you it’s “Homecoming”. I will also bet that almost every Chicagoan who lives in the Windy City (and is a Kanye fan) will agree it is a classic. Much like Common’s symbolic and poetic ode to Hip Hop in “I Used To Love Her”, “Homecoming” is a lyrical tribute to growing up in Chicago.
2007 – CAN’T TELL ME NOTHING – GRADUATION
“I had a dream I can buy my way to heaven
When I awoke, I spent that on a necklace.
I told God I’d be back in a second,
Man it’s so hard not to act reckless.
To whom much is given much is tested.
Get arrested, guess until, they get the message.
I feel the pressure, under more scrutiny,
And what I do? Act more stupidly.
Bought more jewelry, more Louis V, my momma couldn’t get through to me.
The drama, people suing me,
I’m on T.V. talking like it’s just you and me.
I’m just saying how I feel man,
I ain’t one of the Cosby’s I ain’t go to Hill man
I guess the money should’ve changed him,
I guess I should’ve forgot where I came from.”
LET THAT BEAT DROP.
2007 GOOD LIFE – Ft. T-Pain – GRADUATION
Ye got a taste of that “Good Life” in 2007 and started rhyming more about the FLASHier things that he had experienced. Sure, we missed his backpack rap antics a bit at this point but we were rockin’ those signature Kanye sunglasses with the lines through the lenses too. He might have started letting the fame go to his head but it’s because his “grandma wasn’t the only one callin’ him baby”.
Some other noteable works of art from this three album collection include “Slow Jamz”, “Jesus Walks” “Get Em High” and “Good Morning”. I also love the bonus track “Late” on Late Registration. “Stronger” and “Gold Digger”, although most popular, were some of my least favorite.
After 2007, Kanye’s music and image continued to evolve through sentimental and experimental albums such as: 808 and Heartbreaks, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and, of course, the Yeezus album. Stay tuned for “THE VIDEO EVOLUTION OF KANYE WEST (Part Two)!