I'm sure that in the coming month we'll all get in on the discussion of the new Kanye West album (which I am officially obsessed with, even if I have some mixed feelings about it). I just wanted to point everybody to Nathan Rabin's review over at the AV Club. It's the only review I've seen that spends some real time addressing what to me is the most remarkable aspect of the album: the debt it owes to rock songwriting, instrumentation, and production. This album is crawling with electric guitars, keyboards, and driving drums that often owe as much to indie-rock as they do to hip hop. There of course have been rock-rap crossover acts for decades, from Run-DMC and Aerosmith's famous collaboration, to Lil' Wayne's recent, less successful efforts. But I actually think that in the last few years there's been growing interest from the hip hop community in cross pollinating traditional hip hop sounds with electric guitars and rock sensibilities (perhaps on another day when I have more time I'll offer a few more specific examples), and it's been interesting to watch it happen, even if up to now there have been a lot of sonic missteps.
Whatever else you can say about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I think that Kanye has blown the door open on rock/hip-hop crossover, and has created something that could (and hopefully does) serve as the blueprint for a lot of new music going forward. He has successfully fused elements of both styles, and made something thoroughly rock-oriented, without losing the hip-hop underpinnings that made his music so great in the first place, resulting in a mind-bending sonic landscape that I can't stop playing over and over again.
Does he also share some archaic and/or stupid views about women and relationships in the process? You bet he does! But when the music is this good, and the self-examination this intense (there are moments that almost remind me of Blue era Joni Mitchell...maybe I've just been listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell, but I think there are actually similarities) it makes you want to overlook all that. Kind of like the way everybody overlooks the noxious antisemitism in The Merchant of Venice, because the author certainly has a way with words.
But I'm sure I'll post more on that when I've had time to wrap my head around this album a little bit more. In the meantime, I hope everybody is listening!