Later this month, plans are set in stone to hop in my car after work and drive to Philadelphia. Two paychecks will be under my belt. Gas is already accounted for and I’ve already began conditioning my body to live off a trinity trio of cheesesteaks, fries and libations of the alcoholic variety. My body’s ready.
But I’m not sure if my mind is.
The trip was booked in April at the behest of a group of close friends. “Let’s close the summer out right. Let’s take a road trip to Made In America,” the general consensus was. So I did. I booked the trip without the first clue of a list of performers. And with the inclusion of Los Angeles into this year’s festivities, blind booking took on even more of a risk.
But it’s about friends. It’s about kicking it with people who’ve seen you at your worst, your best and your drunkest. It’s about erecting memories in our 20’s capable of producing smiles in our 70’s.
Bonds are unbreakable. Or at least they should be.
On a card with J. Cole, Bauuer, The National and Steve Aoki, Kanye West is billed as Philly’s M.I.A. top act. It’s prized acquisition in a sense. As one of the biggest celebrities in the world boasting a catalog nearly unrivaled amongst his peers, selecting Kanye made sense. I was ecstatic then. I still am now. And when the day arrives, being geeked out of my mind is perhaps the best emotion to predict my forecast thoughts that late August day.
Truthfully, however, the excitement came channeled through memories, not expectations. Expectations flew out the window a long time ago in regards to Donda’s baby boy. Kanye’s a blowfish now. Kanye’s also a god, per his own confirmation. Kanye somehow convinced himself celebrities of his stature are comparable to civil rights activists of the 1960s. Kanye’s the guy hellbent on cementing his own greatness more through rants and exasperated statements in recent times than how he won a legion of fans a decade ago: rhyming.
Without speaking for anyone but the guy typing this, the genius of Yeezus missed its mark. And Cruel Summer, in hindsight, is nothing more than a decent project in an era overrun by decent projects. Kanye’s music doesn’t suck. But Kanye’s music no longer leads the pack in terms of creativity and inspiration, two of ‘Ye’s most iconic calling cards.
I’ve always seen music – the most powerful kind, that is – as an extension of self; the drum patterns, melodies, gospels and lyrics we discover slivers of our souls in. The songs and albums that fail to age, despite everything around it doing so.
The other day, I texted my friend Will, “We’re never gonna get ‘Good Ass Job.’”
“Nah man, that guy is dead,” he said. “This new Kanye can’t even rhyme.”
Good Ass Job was intended to be the zenith, or next step, in Kanye’s trek from college dropout to a living personification of the poem “Invictus.”
Then, his mother passed, an event continuing to impact his music and decision-making years later in ways both apparent and minute.
He became public enemy number one and thrust himself into seclusion following 2009 MTV VMAs.
His “Good Friday” series was an IV of spontaneity into rap’s bloodstream.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy spawned in 2010, a magnificent and breathtaking album in its own regard, but a much grim and complex glimpse into the life and cluttered mind of music’s most paranoid luminary. Watch The Throne was noteworthy, too. But the union was also more of a rap fantasy come to fruition than it was an album that changed the sound, direction and ideology of rap as the pre-release hype attempted to force fed everyone.
Everyone changes. Everyone experiences life at different speeds and settings. Kanye isn’t immune to that, nor should he be held to the impossible standard simply because he is a musician. It’s why Kanye’s explanation to MTV News in 2010 on the reason he abandoned the GAJ title was understandable to a degree. “I remember I just changed it because I didn’t want to do the Good Ass Job thing and have to stick to the skits and everything that went with that.”
Sometimes shaking life up is required and the only avenue for some sense of personal growth. But it was more than just the “skits” and “everything that went with it.” It was never really about any of that. The truth is, the soulfulness and transparency – two facets of Kanye’s attack he towered over an entire industry with – have been, for lack of a better term, M.I.A. for quite some time.
Kanye’s hopes, dreams, fears and imperfections crossed paths with our own at the apex of his powers.Despite his rise to mega-superstardom in the mid-to-late 2000s, there was always a chip on his shoulder resembling the same flavor on our own. Records like “Family Business,” “Heard ‘Em Say,” “Hey Mama,” “Bittersweet,” “Everything I Am,” “Runaway,” “Blame Game” or something as recent as “White Dress” manifest as more than songs.
They were reminders regardless of the level of notoriety, the mutating bank account or weddings in a far away land, we always had that one part of Kanye to latch on to; the part of Kanye Omari West that sympathized with the everyday man’s frustrations, depressions and pride even if his tax bracket had said otherwise for years.
Maybe fans, like myself, are inherently irrational whether we recognize it or not. Change, but don’t change too much. Make music, but make the music I like and not necessarily the kind you like to make. Be the same person you were when I became a fan, but nevermind the fact I’m a completely different individual than I was when backpacks and Polos were your wardrobe of choice, not leather jogging pants.
Maybe Good Ass Job remains a possibility. Life after Graduation is all about finding yourself, screwing up, screwing up some more, maybe settling down, starting a family and, if you’re lucky, landing the job that makes waking up at the crack of dawn worth battling traffic every morning. Maybe Kanye’s at the point in his career where he’s rotating from job-to-job in search of the level of success he fantasized about when life was simpler.
Or maybe it’s as straightforward as talking myself into believing a living legend, one of the preeminent artists of last 25 years won’t drop a dud headlining a concert and weekend road trip months in advance.
Believe it or not, the Kardashian-era, paparazzi vigilante Kanye West is capable of making Good Ass Job. And if he doesn’t, that’s fine, too. Our priorities haven’t aligned in years anyway.
Previously: These Dumb Civil Rights Quotes Are Brought To You By Kanye West’s Deposition | Here’s The Full Clip Of A 19-Year-Old Kanye Freestyling At Fat Beats | “Kim Is This Girl Who F***ing Turns Me On,” And Other Glorious Kanye West Quotes From His GQ Profile