Halfway through Kanye West’s seventh album The Life of Pablo for the first time, I was prepared to declare it a disappointing addition to his otherwise stellar body of work.
For starters there wasn’t a single track inspiring me to bust a move.
Kanye has always offered thought provoking reflections on spirituality (“Jesus Walks”), relationships (“Gold Digger” & “Heartless”), hubris (“Stronger” & “Power”), materialism and consumerism (“Diamonds from Sierra Leone”) and being a jerk (there are too many to name but “Runaway” is arguably the apotheosis), but in ways that belie their depth by deploying sarcasms, fearlessness, vulnerability and wit all while inducing the urge to boogie.
As a married father of two young boys, I have an appetite for somber introspection and soul-searching—I’m a huge fan of “Only One” an ode dedicated to his deceased mother and young daughter—but I wanted less moodiness, more simplicity and fun. Kanye expresses a similar feeling on “Last Call” the closing track on his debut album College Dropout about the first time he worked in studio with Jay-Z.
Perhaps because of unmet expectations, the tracks at best felt like low quality facsimiles of earlier work, but with even more braggadocio. At worse, he appeared to ape the lesser works of artists who walked a trail West blazed. Sadly, I thought, the creativity of Kanye had been reduced to imitating himself and those who imitated him.
Just as I prepared to dismiss this current offering by West, “I Love Kanye,” an acapella track played as I was as in the shower.
It is dedicated to his critics. Mocking them for seeking to define him by a caricature of himself he created as West’s authentic self.
As all things Kanye, it is best to let the man himself speak:
I miss the old Kanye, straight from the go Kanye
Chop up the soul Kanye, set on his goals Kanye
I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye
The always rude Kanye, spaz on the news Kanye
I miss the sweet Kanye, chop up the beats Kanye
I gotta say at that time I’d like to meet Kanye
See I invented Kanye, it wasn’t any Kanyes
And now I look and look around and there’s so many Kanyes
I used to love Kanye, I used to love Kanye
I even had the pink Polo, I thought I was Kanye
What if Kanye made a song, about Kanye?
Called “I Miss The Old Kanye,” man that would be so Kanye
That’s all it was Kanye, we still love Kanye
And I love you like Kanye loves Kanye
Wow! Here was the Kanye I was looking for but without his trademark layered production. I realized I’d been hearing the album, not listening. It was as if he was listening to the running commentary in my head and said “Wake Up, Mr. Palmer!” Wow.
I didn’t download The Life of Pablo to write a review of or a retrospective of West’s work. But recently, I have been ruminating on the art and science of bringing ideas to life in ways.
Like a spoon full of hot sauce, “I love Kanye” opened my ears and consciousness.
As with gumbo, or any dish meant to simmer, at some point the mélange of ingredients become something different, but not necessarily a new creation. This takes time. The longer the items – celery, carrots and onions, or thoughts, creative and critical—are able to sit with each other the fuller the flavor develops. Time and mindful cultivation enriches adds depth and texture.
Writing and thinking function the same. The more you sit and wrestle with an idea or concept the more it’s essence enhances.
I’ve been working on one particular writing project for more than a decade. There are periods that I commit a certain amount of time each day, usually in the morning to develop this project. This is ain’t easy because I’m a night owl—versus an early bird, but due to other considerations I don’t always have the time at night to commit to creative outputs. However, I find that when I do make time in the morning, what I write—if I write at all, sometimes I just think—stays with me throughout the day. The time spent in between what I allot for composing and creating, I consciously and unconsciously reflect on the storyline, character development and dialogue.
The more time away from a project or dream, the voices and personalities of the characters becomes faint, distance and ultimately flutter away. The less I hear and see the vision, you drift further away from the reality you have—I have—created.
When creating or giving life to an idea, notion, project or enterprise, one should dedicate a portion of your waking hours to this endeavor. If you are intentional, your mind will do this when dreaming—eyes open or shut.
Thinking Good is the result of a quest to better understand my various roles in life and how I can be the best and give my best in all that I do.
I would not be writing these words, you would not be reading them, because they were and are nurtured and cultivated with the intention of giving them life with the desire to share, inform and inspire.
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