Just the other day I was sitting on the couch with my roommates listening to all of the new hip hop that’s dropped over the past week or two. From Travis Scott to Mac Miller, we covered it all including smaller releases like Mick Jenkins’s recent diss track. After listening to “Vice City” off Jay Rock’s 90059 for the hundredth time (shit’s a banger), it dawned on me that we hadn’t even mentioned “Fade,” a new track that Kanye West surprised the crowd with during the debut of his Yeezy Season 2 fashion line. How could a new track from the all-powerful Kanye just slip through the cracks like that? Even something as minor as Ian Connor sparking up during the fashion show out-shined “Fade.” Unsettled, I thought to myself, is Kanye West’s music becoming irrelevant?
Let me preface this piece by saying that I am a huge Kanye stan. You can throw on any Ye track and I will start bobbing my head without fail. I know songs like “Gone” by heart and can spew out a plethora of fun Yeezy facts. For these reasons and many more I am shocked at the lack of hype behind “Fade.” When’s the last time Kanye dropped a track, good or bad, and it didn’t get put on repeat? I still bump “Wolves” despite the lack of a CDQ version, and while “Fade” has an arguably better quality version out there I haven’t thought twice about replaying it. Hell, even Post Malone and Ty Dolla Sign helped lay down some backing vocals for the track. Unfortunately, their efforts fell short leaving the song lack luster.
Perhaps it’s the strange echoing sample that the song opens with or the lack of lyrical depth from Kanye. The short verse that Kanye spits is too deficient in substance and doesn’t do enough to fill out the song. The beat is kind of catchy, but it’s really nothing more than a heavy bass line with a steady backing drum. This song reminds me of “Who Will Survive in America” in that it seems like it will most likely be some sort of interlude. Hell, it may not even be on SWISH at all, it may have just been something produced solely for the fashion show. Whatever the case, that’s something that we may not find out for quite a while.
However, it is not the quality of the song that has me questioning my sanity, it’s the fact that this track was mentioned the day it was released and I haven’t heard anything about it since. People haven’t been bumping it, no info has shown up on the hiphopheads subreddit, media itself just isn’t as interested in his music as they used to be. Instead, Kanye’s name has been more associated with fashion and politics than it has been with music. Ever since Yeezus’ insane declaration of his intentions to run for president of the United States in 2020 at the VMAs, it seems like the media and even Ye himself have put more attention on these topics rather than that of music. Just like Tidal has become the first subject to be associated with Jay Z these days, could the titles fashion stylist and politician come to replace rapper and producer?
Even West’s performance of 808’s and Heartbreaks is getting less attention than his interviews in which he confirms his candidacy in 2020. There’s no way to tell what’s going on in that chasm of egotism and brilliance that is Kanye’s head, but to think that music is starting to come second is mind boggling. I will always respect the crazy shit Kanye is doing, like calling himself a god or ranting about this or that, but a world where music comes second to Kanye is not one that I want to live in. You can say it’s selfish, but it’s true nonetheless. Although that’s not to say that Kanye music isn’t irrelevant in the sense that it no longer has any meaning in hip-hop. His direct influence that his work has had on hip-hop as a whole is clearly demonstrated through his instrumentation on Late Registration. Auto-tune wouldn’t even be a thing if it weren’t for 808’s and Heartbreaks. His best stuff may very well be behind him as classics; his influence becoming less of a rap staple.
It’s not entirely Kanye’s fault though for the lack of an impact he’s been having in rap. Like any artistic medium, trends change, and hip hop is constantly changing with the additions of new sounds and ideas. Take Goldlink for example. Goldlink’s unique rising and ebbing synths paired with his stop-go flow is a new type of trip hop that’s taking traction in certain circles. Even Mac Miller has begun to incorporate more electronic elements into his music, some of which can be heard throughout GO:OD AM. However, you can’t mention new rap trends without mentioning one specific genre: trap. Trap influences are being found everywhere now, and even artists like Drake, someone known for his ability to flow seamlessly between singing and rapping (a softer style) has dabbled in trap with his release of What a Time to be Alive. Yeezy himself has helped contribute to this sect of rap culture with his upbringing of Travis Scott, one of traps biggest stars at the moment. Now it’s artists like Future and Migos that have an impact on the hip hop world, not Kanye or Jay Z.
When you reach icon status it’s important to remember your roots and where it all began. Even Dr. Dre focused all of his business ventures around music with Beats, and he’s better off for it. I’m not going to say that I hope Kanye’s political aspirations don’t come to fruition or that his clothing line is unsuccessful, but I will say that I hope I can forget all about them once SWISH finally graces our ears. So here’s to you and yours Kanye, a toast to your family (good luck with the second kid on the way), your fashion, your candidacy, and most important of all, your music. Whether SWISH is your last album or far from it, make it great and make it count, because after this “Fade” nonsense I’m starting to lose hope. Restore it.