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Graduation (#110 of 2)

Single Review: Kanye West’s “Power”

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Single Review: Kanye West’s “Power”
Single Review: Kanye West’s “Power”

Ever since the sleek, electronic-influenced Graduation, Kanye West has mostly stayed encapsulated in his own celebrity bubble, concerning himself with little other than fake friends and shutter shades. His few rapped verses in 2009 (Kid Cudi’s “Make Her Say,” Drake’s “Forever,” Beyoncé’s “Ego”) were good, but they, too, revealed a self-absorption that provided old Kanye fans—ones with a hankering for the kindliness of cuts like “Family Business” and “Through the Wire”—with reason for concern. When West drunkenly disrupted an acceptance speech from 19-year-old country-pop singer Taylor Swift at the VMAs last fall, it was sad but not unexpected. He had long since lost any sense of humility, a tragic truth that is reinforced by his new single, “Power.”

West has spent the last nine months recording in Hawaii and citing everyone from RZA to Gil Scott-Heron to Nina Simone as influences. He knows his way around a Simone sample (the West-produced “Misunderstood” was one of Common’s last great songs before he began a steep decline), but “Power” shares little in common with 1970s R&B. Instead, the track recycles the echo-y tribal drums from “Love Lockdown” for strident effect, and that chaos builds toweringly as West growls at his staunchest critics. He’s taking no prisoners, and he’s making no apologies for the erratic behavior that landed him in the pop-culture doghouse.

Indie 500: Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Joy Division, & Pale Young Gentlemen

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Indie 500: Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Joy Division, & Pale Young Gentlemen
Indie 500: Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Joy Division, & Pale Young Gentlemen

As a rule, rap producers’ albums are poorly received. (And by “as a rule,” I mean Timbaland.”) In light of this (if admittedly little else), it makes sense to compare Kanye West and Swizz Beatz’s recent albums. Both are producers who a) are regularly derided for their technical facility as rappers and b) are occasionally more name-valuable than the rappers they produce. I’m exaggerating the similarities more than a bit: in relative importance, Kanye:Swizz :: David Foster Wallace:Mark Leyner. But still.