Kanye West/Saturday, October 19
A large chunk of America, middle and otherwise, cares more about Kanye West’s antics than about his music. This is partially self-inflicted—knocking up a Kardashian comes with a tanker load of PR baggage, and Kanye embraces and manufactures controversy like few celebrities can. It’s also a shame, because it shows how much of the population refuses to interface with perhaps the most influential artist of the past 10 years.
Ye’s recent tiff with Jimmy Kimmel is where this sort of sentiment comes to a head. To briefly recap: Kanye gave an interview with BBC1’s Zane Lowe where he discussed, among many other things, his place in music and popular culture. Kimmel, as talk-show hosts sometimes do, played the incident for laughs, dismissing West’s claim that “rappers are the new rock stars” and enlisting child actors to re-enact and “decipher” the interview.
To many viewers, Kimmel’s takedown seemed horribly out of touch. Rappers have been rock stars “for a minute now,” as Lowe dryly puts it during the interview, and Kanye’s responses were largely lucid and self-aware. But for Kimmel’s intended audience, Kanye’s words don’t really matter; these jokes were tailored for people who still simply associate rap with overblown egos and can’t accept that in 2013 a rapper could reasonably consider himself the world’s most important musician.
Kanye’s detractors likely haven’t heard Yeezus, and if they did, it wouldn’t do much to change their minds. His sixth album is easily his most challenging work, inaccessible and jarring not just in the context of mainstream pop, but of rap in general. It’s a sonic departure as extreme as the one he took five years ago on 808s & Heartbreak. Considering that album’s considerable influence (hi, Drake!), it wouldn’t be surprising to see more rappers experiment with dissonant synths and industrial drum sounds in the coming years.
That’s the irony for traditionalists—and the clueless—who don’t like West’s music. The artist reinvents himself and pushes back against the mainstream in a way that was and is expected (and accepted) from rock greats like the Beatles, Bowie, and Radiohead. The rapper is among the world’s biggest rock stars, whether we accept it or not. With Kendrick Lamar. KeyArena, 305 Harrison St., 684-7200, seattlecenter.com/events/concerts. 8 p.m. $50–$194. All ages. ANDREW GOSPE