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GENRE. Kanye has several influences from an extremely varying genre range – soul, R’n’B, baroque pop, trip- hop, arena rock, folk, alternative, electronica, synth pop & classical music. He had a lot to say about the depiction of rap music and black music as a whole, when criticised for his ‘Love Lockdown’ music video:‘u not feelin the video? lemme guess. not enough ass shakin and cars?? yall some retarded ass people. thats whats wrong with our people now. we dont appreciate and accept other blacks if the push the envelope and break the status quo. Yeah its different but it works and i for one like it. And believe it or not, white people love it when we act like this. but hey. guess all we know is to hate each other. so sad really’
SAMPLES. As a producer as well as a performer, Kanye West is probably one of the most frequent users of sampling in his music. One of his most famous sampled tracks is ‘Stronger’, which uses pieces from Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ whose music video also pays homage to the French house duo. Another is ‘Diamonds from Sierra Leone’, which uses samples from ‘Diamonds are Forever’ by Shirley Bassey. West’s ‘Lost in the World’ uses a sample from Bon Iver’s ‘Woods’ (so heavily that he is credited as an featured artist on the tracklist) as the chorus base. Kanye’s collaboration with Jay-Z for the single ‘Otis’ uses samples from Otis Redding’s ‘Try a Little Tenderness’. These are just four examples, but there are many more. For instance on West’s debut album (The College Dropout, 2004) 14 of the 21 tracks contain samples of one sort or another, including the likes of Aretha Franklin, 2Pac, Chaka Khan, Lauryn Hill and Marvin Gaye. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZcZy09x5jk Kanye West’s Lost in the World. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZYVJlhnqxQ Bon Iver’s Woods.
INTERTEXTUAL REFERENCES One of the most prominent references used was Kanye West’s portrayal of his version of Evel Knievel, for which the daredevil filed a lawsuit. Other references include those to other texts like ‘Mercy Mercy Me’ by Marvin Gaye, ‘The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow’, and ‘Sex on Fire’ by The Kings of Leon, as well as several others just in the one song. West’s song ‘We Don’t Care’ referred to the song ‘21 Questions’ by 50 Cent & Nate Dogg.
POLITICAL AND SOCIAL STATEMENTS INMATERIAL. In ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out’ Kanye West discusses the materialist nature of society and its links to the hip-hop genre, as displayed in the lyrics, ‘Always said if I rapped I’d say something significant, but here I am talking about money hoes and rims again.’ In ‘All Falls Down’, he explores consumerism as a culture, and includes himself in this criticism (irony): ‘We buy our way outta jail, but we can’t buy freedom. We’ll buy a lot of clothes but we don’t really need them. Things we buy to cover up what’s inside, cause they make us hate ourself and love their wealth.’
IRONY. In ‘Jesus Walks’, Kanye West talks about the lack of religion in popular hip-hop music, and it’s absence on the radio. ‘So here go my single dog radio needs this, They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus, That means guns, sex, lies, video tapes, But if I talk about God my record wont get played?’ This is ironic because it contradicts some of the later work of West, as well as some on the same album, such as ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out’, ‘Gold Digger’, ‘Get Em High’ and ‘Drunk and Hot Girls’. In these, topics such as sex and drugs use are seemingly condoned by West, and religion is scarce in the rest of his work.
CHANGE OF STYLE AND AVOIDANCE OFTOTALISING FORMS. As a producer, Kanye not only selects snippets from other genres to use in his music as samples, he changes his own genre from track to track. Whilst his first 3 albums have a related school theme (College Dropout, Late Registration & Graduation) and feature West rapping, his later albums show a diverseness in style. 808’s and Heartbreak moves away from Kanye West’s signature style, opting for autotuned singing and more synthesised music, in contrast to his previous works more natural strings and brass instruments.
CHANGE OF STYLE AND AVOIDANCE OFTOTALISING FORMS. For his latest solo album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West moves further away from his trademark style, however at the same time provides a blend of a number of styles he has at some point explored. It is unclear to which genre this album belongs to, or what the theme of the album is, therefore it avoids totalising forms and includes discontinuities. He selects elements from his existing work to create a new style, for instance, the tribal drums from 808’s return, and so do the brass instruments (‘All of the Lights’). All of the Lights typifies the new style West displays in this album, featuring guests from varying areas and genres of music (eg, Alicia Keys, Elton John, Kid Cudi, Rihanna, Fergie, John Legend.). As a result, these genres are blended into one sound, showing disregard for the boundaries between genre.
‘WHO WILL SURVIVE IN AMERICA?’ –MOCKERY. The final track of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is ‘Who Will Survive In America?’. It is built on a sample of Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘Comment No. 1’. It discusses and mocks the idea of the ‘American Dream’ whilst also referring to treatment of African- Americans. Mockery includes the words ‘a rapist known as freedom. Free doom.’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2Wsy8jHPk4