Saturday Morning Media: Kanye’s WTF Vs. Kendrick’s LFG (To Therapy)

Kanye has a new album out, and whenever Kanye has a new album out, I’m curious. 

I don’t think Kanye’s a genius, but I do think he’s incredibly gifted. “Crazy and bipolar” (his words), ok. But this new record, I’m at a loss, and I think I can explain.  

I do think Kendrick Lamar is a comparable and actual genius. At least in terms of vision, scope, and ultimately – execution. And while I don’t think Kanye wants to be Kendrick (at all), I do think this comparison is worth making. Especially given each artist’s latest hype/genre/full-length album approaches 

Kanye’s vultures 1 is very interesting musically. There’s enough Sly-surprising vibes with some 100 Gecs-level chaos in the changeups. But, as I played it I kept asking… what the *$^& am I listening to? And not in the Sly Stone every twist is a delightful surprise way, or the Gecs every twist is a jarring TikTok adventure way. 

Kanye’s all over the place and predictably boring at the same time. Which is a feat on its own. But, this just isn’t doing much for me. Curious beats and fun features, but so many of his lyrics… yikes. 

In Anthony Fantano’s review, he leads off by reminding viewers ALL reviews are supposed to make you think about the music you’re listening to, OR to excite the reader/listener into checking out the music. Can I get a critic’s amen? Amen. 

This is the role critics serve: explaining their perspective (biased!) on how to place a work into context, and/or excite the person engaging with the criticism to think critically about the work for themselves.

Fantano follows with some context about the public image issues Kanye keeps adding to his resume (you know, anti-Semitism, Hitler love, and bizarro conspiracy theories, etc.). He then speculates on if Kanye seems to be realizing the level of dumpster fire he’s creating. Abject chaos for entertainment and album sales is part of our world these days, so it’s a fair question. 

At this point, dear reader, please understand I am nodding my head in agreement with Fantano on this – I am of the “You can separate the art from the artist, but only to the degree you find it personally permissible to” school of thought.”  

So when Kanye says, “Keep a few Jews on the staff now” – guys/gals, this is only one of many examples of BAD here. Not interesting bad. Just dumb-bad. I can’t separate art and artist here. It feels like Kanye won’t let my brain do it anymore.   

Which brings me back to Kendrick Lamar’s 2022 release, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers

Kendrick never exactly had a self-started public dumpster fire, but his album wrestled with his personal dumpster fires very openly. Dad stuff, being a dad stuff, cheating on his wife stuff – it’s all here, feeling like therapy as music. 

Which does make parts of it hard to listen to. Choosing to listen is choosing to feel Kendrick smash some pretty rough artistic inputs into his art’s forms. But, when Kendrick does it, it’s both well constructed AND it serves as a self-aware constructive criticism of what we, in the audience, can learn from and do with it. 

These big ideas are what made Big Steppers worth discussing. It has layers and revelations to engage over, even if the songs-as-therapy looseness has rough edges. Vultures 1, in sharp contrast, leaves nothing to discuss – because the whole album is littered with overtly performative rage bait.  

I’m sad – vultures 1 definitely has some great beats and some fun features, but Kanye remains Kanye’s worst enemy. I’m not interested in this flavor of self-therapy (and it’s a stretch to even call it that). It’s just – sad? And not just for him, I really hoped this record would spread JPEGMAFIA’s name further, I was so excited to hear his beat-work on this album, just like I was for so many of the other guest features (Freddie Gibbs, I’m looking at you). 

Instead, all vultures reminds me is: you can separate the art from the artist until you can’t anymore. With Kanye, I can’t anymore. This is the wrong way to go about it. 

Listen for yourself if you want, but no link to it here. Go listen to Kendrick instead. There is a right way to do it, and I can at least offer Bigsteppers as the example. 

Everybody goes through their version of hard stuff. If you want to write about it, even if it’s tough to look at, more power to you. But be aware of what you’re saying, and give us something worth working with, not worth tuning out from. 

Here’s the Fatano review. For the sake of criticism, I highly recommend giving this 7 minutes of your time. He’s being criticized for this being a “non-review,” but I think it’s a perfectly acceptable path to take (RESPECT):