Below are some thoughts I had written about TLOP in April of 2016 that I never published. Looking back on what I wrote about TLOP almost 8 months ago makes me realize I still feel basically the same. I might hate Kanye a little bit more now due to his recent pledging of allegiance to Trump but I think the main things that I wrote can be applied to his idiocy with Trump as well. In the end, 2016 has been one of the most complicated years of my life, where I have called 3 different cities home, was placed in charge of the education of 86 7th graders, had my first relationship come to an end and have made many new and amazing friends in my new adopted home town of Detroit. The changes I experienced this year have been unlike any changes I have experienced in my life up to this point and the only truly consistent thing for me has been this album…
Who knew that TLOP would quickly become my most listened Kanye album? For whatever reason (of which there are several) it has wormed its way into my subconscious and become easily my second favorite Kanye album after MBDTF… I think a lot of it has to do with the interesting time in my life I was and am going through, from a three year relationship ending to a huge looming transition in location, some serious life changes have started for me in 2016 and TLOP has been what I have turned to more than anything. On the surface, why I would go to this album of all Kanye albums let alone other albums of heartbreak and distress is an excellent question. It features Kanye at arguably his most vulgar and it features some of his most incohesive work. TLOP had some of the weirdest hype of any album in recent memory and it also was almost impossible to listen to legally for the first couple months of its existence. Everything surrounding the album was bizarre frankly and I approached it with quite a bit of trepidation. I thought that Kanye finally was going to let me down, that he finally was going to slip up. And yet, the beginning notes to “Ultra Light Beam” felt otherworldly. This was not the Kanye I was expecting; this was beautiful, soulful, and majestic. From there on, the album rose and fell from feeling rebellious to joyous to sorrowful all within a few tracks. It was messy and grandiose all at the same time, sampling from his entire discography of influences and styles.
There are just so many perfect moments on the album to gush over, but some of my favorites have to include Chance’s line, “I made Sunday Candy so I’m never going to hell, I met Kanye West so I’m never gonna fail,” the feature of Desiigner and the sample of “Panda” so perfectly placed, the angelic singing of “I need every bad bitch up in equinox” on “Highlights” and the meandering talking at the end of “30 Hours.” There were so many little instances that just grabbed my attention in a way I haven’t experienced on a Kanye album in a while.
I identify with Kanye so much on this album and I was so hesitant at first. This is the first album I truly started to fathom the misogyny that he employs with a disturbing amount of regularity on his albums. I think it is wrong to treat this album as the first album he comes off as a misogynist, but it is the first album I personally started to realize some of the bad choices Kanye makes lyrically. I was then conflicted with how I should feel. Musically it was blowing my mind but at the same time, some of the things he was saying were just so wrong.
I had legitimate guilt the first time I told myself I loved TLOP. How could I, a person who considered myself “woke” listen to a bastard like Kanye anymore? How could I support him after he supported Bill Cosby? And yet, the more I thought about renouncing Kanye, I reflected on the rest of my media indulgence. I watch professional athletes that have been accused of murder, domestic violence and drinking and driving. I listen to musicians who have done much of the same and rap and sing about much worse. So was I right in renouncing Kanye when I refused to change other aspects of my life? Even in my personal life I know people who have made mistakes, some terrible mistakes, yet I still associate with them and still interact with them, what makes those people better than Kanye?
I have had many conversations about how I should feel and what I should do and some of the things Ruben said to me really resonated. Maybe I am just rationalizing loving a sexist but basically what Ruben believes and what he convinced me of was that, treating musicians and celebrities like demi gods who were put on this earth to be perfect is wrong. Kanye has done amazing work for music but that does not necessarily mean that he is a perfect person. He has his flaws just like everyone else and he has his own issues. His may just be a little more well documented that the average person. So obliviously to renounce him for some of the things he said is not a bad reaction in anyway, I just believe it does not make someone bad to continue loving Kanye’s music while at the same time understanding he has quite a negative side to his large persona too and renouncing that part of him instead of blindly declaring their allegiance for him. Honestly, hero-worshiping Kanye makes him one dimensional because he is not some perfect god, he is a real human with otherworldly gifts but also true flaws he needs to change.
This album made Kanye seem more human than anything else he has ever done and that is at the root for my love of it. Yes 808’s was personal and MBTDF was magnificent, but never before have I felt like Kanye has opened himself up to the public in such an honest way. He has acted borderline demented with the way he went after Wiz Khalifa to the way he has openly talked about his relationship with Kim and as absurd and beautiful as some of the things he has said were, it really makes him feel like someone I could get to know. I know plenty of people, myself included who have over reacted and gone ballistic over nothing and I know plenty of people that have opened their souls to the Internet just as he has. People are not perfect and in fact, people can be terrible sometimes. People I interact with on a daily basis have fatal flaws and yet I don’t give up on them like I was thinking about with Kanye. Because in the end, as much as Kanye wants us all to believe he is God, he is not, he is just a mortal man with mortal flaws that yes, make him a bastard but they also do not take away from his ability to create music that has influenced this generation of musicians more than anyone.
I can confidently say that without Kanye music would not have been shaped in the same way. Where would rap be without 808’s and Kanye’s use of autotune? Where would music in general be without MBDTF and its use of grand statements and spectacular musical moments? Kanye has done so much and yet has some very real, very obvious flaws. Struggling with this idea of how to deal with flaws like this is at the root of this album and my relationship with it just as much as I have connected musically with it. At this point in my life I needed guidance of some sort, because I have been questioning myself a lot recently and questioning my life decisions more than I usually do. TLOP has been the most real, honest thing I have encountered this year, full of flaws, but also full of something else, something I think is just a reflection of humanity. There are such pure moments of bliss and such horrific moments of self doubt all collapsed into one project with not much of a collective direction that it fittingly seemed to be mimicking my life.
In the end, deciding how “good” an album is seems almost trivial to me at this point in my life. Deciding how good or bad an album is should be a personal thing, something based off of how it affects someone emotionally, not whether Kanye produced the album the right way or if he didn’t put enough effort in. When people get upset at me about putting 808’s so low on my PERSONAL list of Kanye albums, I don’t really understand. I never have denounced 808’s nor have I said I do not enjoy it immensely; I just didn’t connect with it like I have with other albums. I feel the same way about TLOP. For me, in my own personal state, TLOP was there for me to dive headfirst into, to immerse myself in as I did a lot of self-reflection. It is because of that and that alone that I have elevated it so high for myself. I needed something very honest that had both negative and positive aspects to it because life is not always going to be perfect and going according to plan, but neither is it going to always be sad and confusing. Life is something too complicated to really understand and it never will turn out how you’ll expect it, but god damn it its going to happen.