In an interview typically full of unique quotes, one specific sentence that lovable ol’ Kanye West barked at Zane Lowe particularly resonated around the world. Speaking of his rapper brethren, he bragged: “We the real rockstars and I’m the biggest of all of ‘em. [Pause for dramatic effect] I’m the biggest rockstar on the planet.”
Usual behaviour for Mr. West sure, but amongst a confusing rant about his frustrations within the fashion industry, it really stood out. Who could argue against his claim anyway? Sure he doesn’t make rock music, but in many ways Kanye embodies the stereotypical rockstar: everybody knows who he is, his erratic behaviour is legendary, but he thankfully produces masterful and exciting music to back it all up. As much as we’d like to disagree with his statements that he is “the Number one most impactful artist of our generation”, in terms of music at least he’s not far off.
So far in his career he has seemed ahead of the curve every step of the way, from the chipmunk-soul on his early work to the harsh noise on his latest triumph ‘Yeezus’. On top of that, the man has done everything within all that power he has to turn himself into pop culture. Remember those impractical shutter shades he wouldn’t leave the house without in 2007? That little-known Taylor Swift incident saw a bit of coverage too. The man is easily atop the list of the world’s most controversial and talked about musicians and celebrities.
Of course Kanye is not the only rapper rockstar (no Fred Durst, that term was not said with you in mind) though. 2013 was an incredible year in terms of album releases, and many of the most heralded records fall under that flashy, gold umbrella of Hip-Hop. There were notable releases from Jay Z, Eminem, Drake, Tyler, the Creator, Danny Brown, Chance The Rapper, Earl Sweatshirt, Childish Gambino, Death Grips, Run The Jewels and Pusha T. To put it simply it is an exciting time for Hip-Hop at the moment. It is quite possibly the only genre currently standing with a foot equally in mainstream accessibility and experimental convention-bending, rendering it both extremely popular and yet with a certain edge retained.
It certainly helps its case that rock music itself is experiencing somewhat of a concerning lull in creativity and excitement arguably over the past couple years. As The Guardian pointed out in its own article backing up Kanye’s rockstar claim, “in the UK, the year’s big breakthrough guitar acts were Bastille, the Lumineers, the singer-songwriter Passenger and Imagine Dragons, none of whom are selling albums on the basis of their fathomless charisma and gripping unpredictability.”
Hip-Hop is the home of some of music’s biggest characters at the moment. Contemporary rock cannot compare to the tragic, can’t stop partying lifestyle of Danny Brown or the cheeky, sensitive college kid Chance The Rapper and it definitely has no one to measure up to the outrageous, self-proclaimed deity of Kanye. From now on we better start paying more attention to his ‘visionary streams of consciousness’ as every now and then he might just get something else spot on.
Words by James Barlow