On Tuesday, a collection of old Kanye West beats from before The College Dropout ran roughshod through the internet.
While listening to the tape several times, I found myself constantly thinking about how good it is, and how far the Kanye of today has changed from those days. It makes me miss the Kanye of old.
Let’s talk about it.
Actually, can we talk about Jensen Karp (i.e. the dude who found said the tapes in his garage) first?
I don’t think we need to.
Can we at least mention that his name sounds like a character from a Mission Impossible movie?
It sounds like a made-up name.
Let’s move on and talk about the tape.
Fair enough. What do you like most about it?
Beside that it’s really good? I’d say that it serves as a pleasant reminder of why we all fell in love with Kanye initially.
It does sound light years away from what he’s doing now.
It most definitely does. It’s Fun Kanye, as opposed to “I Am a God” Kanye. ‘Ye instead of Yeezus. I love Fun Kanye. It’s easily my favorite incarnation of his. But we’re so far removed from that version — so much has happened since with Kanye, musically and non-musically — that I’ve forgotten how truly enjoyable it is to listen to the old music he produced. His combination of old-school break beats, soul samples, and string breaks were on point. His first three albums are great, but what always made them special for me was the music, not the rapping. He just knew how to put things in the right places.
Listening to these beats is like looking at old photographs of the good times you had with a friend you’ve lost touch with in recent years. We all have that person in our lives who we used to be tight with, and then you drifted apart from for some reason or another. That’s how I feel about Kanye. We used to be buddies, and now we’re not. But listening to this tape was me essentially dusting off a photo album of old exploits, remembering when times in that relationship were better.
Did you like Yeezus?
I respected Yeezus, especially the further away I got from it. But I knew right away that after spinning it for a day or two, it’d disappear from my rotation. It’s not a very re-listenable album. Whereas early Kanye is super re-listenable.
Does this tape change your current view of Kanye?
It does and it doesn’t. It makes me simultaneously appreciate Kanye for everything he’s done since these beats, but it also makes me miss the Kanye of this era even more. I had kind of forgotten how great those old albums were. They had been lost in the fog of war, so to speak.
For a second, I thought this might make me revisit newer Kanye albums, too, but I don’t think that’ll be the case. This reaffirms my love of old Kanye, but does nothing for my feelings toward the current version.
This would all be different if his upcoming album, So Help Me God, sounded more like this than Yeezus. But I don’t see that happening; nothing we’ve heard from the album thus far points in that direction. And that’s fine. We want our musicians to evolve. But they sometimes evolve in directions we are not totally keen on. But this tape has taught me that it’s important to not let that evolution distract us from what we really loved about the artist in the past; Kanye changing his sound doesn’t mean those old albums have changed at all. They’re the same ones I’ve loved.