Brett Easton Ellis has a podcast. His first guest is Kanye West. The episode is an hour long, and it claims to be part one of two. These are the things that make commutes endurable.
The hook of the show is simple: two of pop culture’s most outspoken icons speaking out about pop culture. You’ve probably already predicted that Ellis’s first question meanders on for about five minutes and he mostly talks about himself. You’ve probably already heard that Kanye responds by quickly describing himself as a “Creative Genius,” the title he’d put for his occupation on his customs and immigrations forms if he knew how to spell the word “genius.”
Ever since founding Def Jam Records from his NYU dorm room and catapulting the careers of the hip-hop, punk and heavy metal greats (with a few pop stars sprinkled in), Rick Rubin has been one of the most well-known producers in the music industry. Working in a role that typically goes unrecognized in the realm of music creation, Rubin and his beard, his monk-like philosophy and his penchant for going barefoot have made him an icon in his own right.
Seeing the words “Pusha T Feat. Future— Pain” above the SoundCloud player for Pusha T’s latest song can be slightly confusing as the song begins to play. Overlook the “Feat. Future” in the title and you get “Pusha T—Pain.”* The song begins with T-Pain-esque, auto-tune-driven vocals, making it all even more confusing.
But those vocals do belong to Future, the Atlanta-based hip-hop artist that utilized auto-tune so extensively on his major label debut Pluto earlier this year. Future brings more, well, pain and emotion to his auto-tune singing than T-Pain, making this track much darker than if the other artist were signed on to deliver the hook.
When he emerged, Kanye was all about the Windy City. After achieving fame, he dipped out quick to globetrot and, among other things, to pursue a fashion career in London. Sure, he and Chris Martin reminded us of his love for his hometown, but at that point ‘Ye seemed like the guy that’s getting too old to be going to all those Homecoming tailgates. He’s an international superstar, no longer confined to the Chi-town underground.
When Jay-Z and Kanye West performed in Los Angeles last year, in the peak of the “N***as In Paris” popularity, they played that song nine times. Nine times. And the crowd went crazier with each subsequent performance.
When I saw the Watch The Throne show in London, almost five months after the song was in the height of its radioplay, they played it four times. On the duo’s fifth (FIFTH) night in London, they reportedly performed it twice as many times as they did that first night.
British people are nice. At least their concert venue employees are, judging by the London 02 worker‘s attitude when I asked him about the night’s set times on Friday. While employees of large stateside venues might’ve responded with a quick, unfriendly one-word answer in order to get back to dealing with the stressful crowd (which definitely existed at the 02), this guy replied with a smile and a careful explanation. “Every artist that comes here has a supporting act,” he said, before explaining that Jay-Z and Kanye West, headlining their first European show as Watch The Throne, chose to forgo an opening band for their opening night in London (and, of course, the four following nights).
Remember when Kanye West transformed his album into a short film? That was pretty cool. But while Yeezy favored mindblowing visuals over narrative structure, The Roots’ video actually makes sense. It’s based on undun‘s complex concept about a drug dealer/criminal named Redford Stevens. The black and white video begins in the early 90s and follows Stevens throughout the following nine years as snippets of tracks from undun (the group’s recently released album) play in the background.
Donald Glover is probably having a mixed week. Saturday, he played a show that people who are Donald Glover would have to consider a major success. The show was good, and I’ll get to that in a moment. The rapper/comedian/actor sold out the Nokia Theater at LA Live, while doing only the first of those three things under his Childish Gambino moniker. Tuesday marks the release of Camp, his first full-length album, the future of which looks promising given the small-sample response that was this show. Today, though, NBC announced that the third season of Glover’s show, Community, would be shelved indefinitely at midseason. NBC has promised all 22 episodes of the show’s third season will be filmed and air at some point, but still, this is not great news for the critically acclaimed and audiencely unwatched series. I can’t say I feel bad for Glover in particular – dude figures to be OK – but that has to put something of a damper on an otherwise celebratory occasion. Anyway, Saturday’s show.
Well, here’s something strange. Today footage surfaced on YouTube of Kanye West and Rhymefest’s never-picked-up comedy pilot Alligator Boots. The show, it appears, was shot in 2009 – pre-VMA meltdown. The show looks like mostly sketch comedy presented in a live-actors-meet-puppets format (the pilot was produced by Jimmy Kimmel’s Jackhole Productions and the puppets are very similar to those from his old Crank Yankers show). From the video, it’s not a mystery why this thing never saw the light of day: it plays like a television-show’s worth of hip-hop skits. Kanye appears as the first of what would be weekly guests – a live rapper or comedian who would come to visit the behind the scenes world of Rhymefest’s character, a pig who is also a rapper but who most people don’t recognize as a pig unless they are “really smart”, or something. Whatever, as I said, it’s mostly comedy with the clarity and cleverness of the laziest rap skits (e.g. a super hero who has to save the day – but not before he hits that blunt!) Kanye stiffly pokes fun at his oversized ego in the same way that everyone with an oversized ego does – he doesn’t, really. Kim Kardashian makes an appearance in a Princess Leia slave-girl outfit: “I’m really Kim Kardashian, but today I’m supposed to be Princess Leia,” she explains, helpfully. It’s a surreal ten minutes to watch, particularly the interviews with puppeteers and producers who gush about how funny the whole thing is when certainly they must be aware that, no, it’s not. Regardless, it’s a bizarre look at what could have been. Check it out below:
It’s Labor Day weekend, time to relax and take at least one week off from having a case of the Mondays. In honor of the federal holiday, I’ve compiled a list of hip-songs about rappers that had jobs. We all know the famous union and working songs a la Woodie Guthrie, but plenty of MCs have given their two-cents on the 9-5 grind.