We don’t view the world as it is but as we are. Therefore, criticism often reveals more about the worldview and preferences of the critic than the thing being discussed.
Let me put it out there: I am a huge fan of Kanye West; however, over the last few years I have been experiencing mixed emotions when it comes to him. My unease was further exacerbated by the hysteria surrounding the release of his tenth studio album Donda.
I reluctantly listened to the album five days after it appeared on Spotify and became bored after the first six tracks. My initial thought was that Kanye West, the sonic explorer, had sonically regressed. In my opinion, Donda sounded like a fan paying homage to Kanye West – influenced by Kanye’s sound but not adding anything new.
It was a fair assessment, but I was aware that there were unexplored thoughts and feelings prowling under the surface of my consciousness. Why did I react that way to the music? What influenced my assessment? Since my respect is lower for people who impulsively dismiss music, films, or works of art, I figured I had to make the ‘unconscious conscious.’
In Nigeria, back in the 90s, TV was devoid of anything of interest – at least to my adolescent mind. This was way before the internet became a thing in the 2000s. I only had access to the music that was being played around me: Sade, Bob Marley, Celine Dion, Queen, ABBA, Tupac, and music on the Reek Dees Weekly Top 40. I had two criteria for liking any song or album – is it danceable, over-sentimental, on the top 40? If so, I enjoyed it. If my father loved it, I would avoid it. All that changed as I got older.
In 2013, I listened to Kanye’s album Yeezus on the way to visit my dad. After listening to the first two tracks on the album, I immediately switched off the player. I drove silent for twenty minutes while trying to make sense of what I had just heard. It was not like anything I had heard in mainstream hip-hop. That album introduced a whole new world of sounds for me. Not only was Yeezus my gateway into the weird and challenging, but it also changed how I engaged with music. …