A look at Kanye West’s influence on hip hop before the release his new album

“Jesus is King” is set to drop…at some point

When he isn’t stirring up the world with controversial political and cultural remarks, Kanye West is making headlines in the world of fashion. Musically, West hasn’t made news, apart from the cancelling of Yhandi back in September of 2018.

While the musical phenom has been laying low this year (certainly by his standards), that notion will surely change when his upcoming album Jesus is King is released. While many may argue that this will result in Yeezy once again disrupting the hip-hop hierarchy, I would argue that his position in said structure – as King and Supreme Ruler, has never faltered.

West arose in a time period dominated by hip hop artists whose lyrics generally evoked expensive lifestyles and gangster personas, with the unspoken consensus being that these were themes that needed to be discussed in order to be taken seriously in the industry. At the time, West earned his credibility through his creativity as a producer for the record label Roc-A-Fella.

In releasing his debut album, The College Dropout, the self-promoted rapper did two things; he bridged the gap in hip hop that emerged between mainstream and underground empires over the last decade, and created a successful “regular guy” rapping persona that was significantly more relatable to listeners.

Wearing his original pink polo, West modified the prerequisites to having a fruitful career in the genre by rapping on subjects like materialism, religion, and family. By changing the general perception of what a rapper must be, he paved the way for new sets of talent that may have never emerged otherwise.

West induced a plethora of musical concepts consumers are exposed to today. The confident Late Registration formed a celebratory and grandiose feeling while he introduced instrumentation from other genres that hadn’t been heard in rap music before. If West needed any more justification of his dominance, he got it when hard-hitting Graduation outsold 50 Cent’s Curtis in a clash between contemporary and traditional rap. The album started a trend by blending hip hop and electronic music.

The most influential of his works is none other than 808s and Heartbreak, where a heavy-hearted West experienced a personal crisis and let it out in the form of exceptional ballads intertwined with auto-tune and a TR-808 drum machine. The result was a project so unique that critics at the time struggled to label it rap.

Kid Cudi, who helped in the making of 808s, saw all of his major albums that followed a similar archetype make the top-five on the Billboard Top 200. Auto-tune as a technique in rap became more popular after 808s through artists like T-Pain, Future, Travis Scott, the Weeknd, and Young Thug, who have made it a staple on most of their projects.

Drake, who has made a name for himself in his use of emotional breakdown and sorrow in his tracks, has gone on the record and said: “I [have] the utmost respect for Kanye West. I’d even go as far as to say he’s the most influential person as far as a musician that I’d ever had in my life.”

The fact of the matter is, West is the forefather of modern rap and R&B. He doesn’t need to headline mainstream news to be a part of it. Like how children emulate their parents’ values through their influence, Yeezy is constantly reminding the public of his musical supremacy through his effect on other artists’ works.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Musical influence in politics

Have you watched the Spanish hit series Casa de Papel? Although it’s about a robbery, the main theme in the show is a collective and bold revolution against the enemy of humanity: capitalism.

In one of the last episodes of season one, El Professor, the mastermind behind the greatest heist of all time, sat sipping a glass of wine with Berlin, one of the robbers. Agitated, anxious and trembling, El Professor looked terrified. Berlin then got up, grabbed his glass of wine, and sang:

Una mattina mi son svegliato

O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao! 

The marxist revolutionary chant was a theme song throughout the series, inciting this rebellious feeling inside every listener. El Professor soon began singing with Berlin, the look of fear turned into determination and excitement. That’s the role of sound in politics.

And just like everything in this world, with a negative influencer comes a negative influence.

It’s no secret that I see the President of the United States as the epitome of a negative influencer. Whatever positive economic advantage people might bring up, in my opinion, it does not make up for the fundamental moral wrongs he brings out in the world. For one, since his election, there has been a universal rise in the far right, or the populists as reporter Simon Shuster wrote in Time Magazine

How did Donald Trump gain so much influence when he’s a businessman who was once part of a reality show? It wasn’t his eccentric character and lack of formidable vocabulary. It wasn’t his white, rich man charm. It wasn’t even his blatant racism and sexism, although that did play a role in making already-racist people feel comfortable being so. No, it was the subconscious manipulation of people during his rallies — the use of music.

According to an article in the Washington Post, people don’t really talk during these rallies; they’re too busy listening to the music. Trump’s playlist since 2016 included the likes of Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, and Journey. All rock, folky, 60s-reminiscent vibes. You might enjoy them as well, naturally. It’s good music.

But these are methodically picked to bring back the nostalgia of what it meant to be an American in the 60s. “Make America Great Again” is Trump’s slogan and his choice of music is meant to take people back to the time when America was great, in his opinion.

The 1960s was the decade of civil rights movements, when things began to fundamentally change. Blasting the greatest songs of that time while talking about building a wall and grabbing pussies connects the great feelings these songs bring with those words; they become one and the same. This is a theory called the Hebbian Rule, by neuropsychologist Donald Hebb.

“Neurons that fire together, wire together,” Hebb wrote in 1949.

Now, remember this is my opinion, although I am stating some hardly refutable ideas. It’s a natural reaction in people to associate feelings with a song they’re listening to, like a newlywed’s first dance and love, or the song you first had sex to and feelings of longing.

Trump vows to build a wall to detain ‘illegal immigrants’ while Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” plays in the background; it’s an inspiring song and what people are being inspired to in this context is racism.

In 2016, The Rolling Stones issued a statement demanding that the Trump administration not use their music. In fact, according to the BBC, Neil Young, Adele, Aerosmith, among others, were all against the use of their music at Trump’s rallies.

If Trump were a song he’d be the melody people sway to, and his beliefs would be the lyrics they sing along to as if it were their own.


Graphics by @sundaeghost

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