Why Kanye West May Prove to Be the Perfect Punk Rock Rapper
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As a daughter of '80s post-punk hipsters, I was raised on bands like Depeche Mode (who were the first band I ever saw live at age 12), Souxsie & The Banshees, and Joy Division. As I grew up, I came to find my own identity in hip-hop music and culture. For these reasons, "Blk Skn Head" might just be everything I've ever wanted in a rap song. It's dark, it's furious, it spits in the face of racial class-system hypocrisy. Sampling chords from Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" and drums from Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People," Kanye screams and shrieks through verses under a voice filter that can only be described as the harsh antithesis of his 808's & Heartbreaks autotune phase. This is Kanye at his most fed-up and fearless.
Some have argued that this new sound is derivative. Also, water is wet and this is Kanye West we're talking about. Everything he's ever done has been a little derivative, but you can't deny that he puts his own signature on every style and sound he references. Like Death Grips or more specifically, Apathy's 13-year-old "Personal Jesus" cover using the same samples, Kanye is exploring industrial and drone-influenced rap music. That doesn't mean anyone's been able to pull it off like this before. Like Saul Williams or Killer Mike, he's addressing heavy racial injustices in his music. But this is content that's bigger than hip-hop, and most often goes ignored by the mainstream media. So to hear this kind of subject matter on NBC, even on an edgier late-night show like SNL, is a major triumph in spreading the message behind it.