Kanye West may be crazy, but he’s still important to rap culture

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Photo: A.R. Shaw for Steed Media

Kanye West found a new foe in Bob Ezrin. West was blasted by Ezrin, who wrote a scathing letter which dismissed West’s contribution to hip-hop and rap culture.

In an attempt to discredit West’s achievements musically, Ezrin wrote, “Sure, he [Kanye] made some great music for himself and others. But in spite of what the aspirationally-cool media keeps saying about him, unlike other creators in his genre like Jay-Z, Tupac, Biggie or even M.C. Hammer for that matter, it’s unlikely that we’ll be quoting too many of Kanye’s songs 20 years from now. He didn’t open up new avenues of public discourse like NWA, or introduce the world to a new art form like Grandmaster Flash, or even meaningfully and memorably address social issues through his music like Marshall, Macklemore and Kendrick. Instead Kanye’s greatest achievements have been in the form of excessive behavior, egomaniacal tantrums and tasteless grandstanding.”

Ezrin, 66, is a producer who created music for rock legends such as Phish, Pink Floyd, Kiss in the 1970s and recently did work for Taylor Swift. He has an established record within ’70s-era rock, but his rant against West proves that he is severely misinformed when it comes to rap.

Of course, West’s Twitter rants and tantrums often serves as a distraction from his music, but it has never overshadowed his creativity. To understand how important West is to rap, critics must first start with September 11, 2001. It was the date the nation was attacked by a vicious act of terrorism, but it also served as the date that Jay Z released his magnum opus, The Blueprint. West, who produced half of the album, ushered in the era of sped-up soul samples that became a staple sound for rappers in the early 2000s.

Three years later, West released his critically-acclaimed debut, College Dropout. The album was released at a time when overly-aggressive stories of street life were the standard. West countered by taking the position as a regular kid, with regular problems, whose only desire was to make music. He could appeal to the person who had never sold drugs while also highlighting social activism within the Black community.

But West’s greatest gift could be his ability to recreate his sound. Each album that he has released stands alone musically and in theme. There is a vast difference in sound between College Dropout, 808 & Heartbreaks, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus, and The Life of Pablo. In rap, it’s almost unheard of for an artist or group to release more than three albums that each have distinctive sounds. And that’s one of the main reasons West will be important to rap culture decades from today.

West responded to Ezrin with a slew of Twitter posts which blasted the rock producer for comparing him to Macklemore and, hilariously, offering to give his kids free Yeezy sneakers because he says Ezrin is an embarrassment to his family. But West doesn’t need a Twitter rant to prove his worth at this point. The music that he has created thus far speaks for itself.

A.R. Shaw
A.R. Shaw

A.R. Shaw is an author and journalist who documents culture, politics, and entertainment. He has covered The Obama White House, the summer Olympics in London, and currently serves as Lifestyle Editor for Rolling Out magazine. Follow his journey on Twitter @arshaw and Instagram @arshaw23.



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