Early delights lost in a sea of sermonising

22:04, Feb 03 2009
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO KANYE: Who did Kanye West think he was fooling with his endless preaching to the faithful?

Kanye West made his name as a producer to the stars, sampling old soul records to give shiny new hip-hop-influenced pop music a different feel.

From there, he ventured out under his own name and just last week put out his fourth album, 808s & Heartbreak, which ditches the hip- hop genre to focus on the Cher-meets- Daft Punk sound of heavily Vocoder- drenched vocals Auto-Tuned to provide a robotic slur in place of bad notes. It is obnoxious when used sparingly and, over the course of an album, is close to unbearable.

West's show sees him dipping back to the catchy hip-hop delights from earlier albums; it is not enough. And his decision to "sing" with his robot-microphone and take time to lambast the video editors into focusing only on his good side, tell the band how to play the numbers and announce to the audience when certain songs are very good (being schooled in rap, he uses the adjective that rhymes with trucking) does not endear him.

At one point he stumbles through a long diary-like spiel about how, if he is done with hip-hop, so be it. He tells reviewers that they don't know anything unless they have played or produced. And his defensiveness is neither catchy nor interesting.

The sermons might have been lapped up by a few, since this was the church of Kanye he was preaching at, but really, you have to wonder who he thinks he is fooling.

The decision to focus on a crowd schooled on radio-ready pop music sees West oversell his product, which means he is underselling his art. The stumbling start ruined what could have been an exciting, dynamic show. History will remember Kanye West as nothing more than Puff Daddy Version 2.0.

Nasir Jones, who records under the moniker NaS, delivered a passionate set, proving that hip-hop, when taken seriously and performed with flair, can be an art form; more than just posturing and bluster.

Black President must feel good for NaS to sing now; it was released earlier this year announcing Barack Obama as America's next president well before the election. But NaS took a trip back to his classic early-1990s album, Illmatic, a lean, mean rarity in the rap canon; a near-perfect album and it still sounds vital and real.


The Dominion Post