Kanye West Is Running Out of Platforms to Work With – but still, he’s got a good thing going
West first made a name for himself in a series of songs – the title track of his debut album, “Late Registration,” and the single, “Gold Digger,” that appeared in 1999 on the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues” (which also featured the Beastie Boys and Nas). The other songs on “Late Registration” were “Lost in America” and “I Am a God.”
West followed up “Late Registration” with “Only One” and “Touch the Sky.” The latter, a spoken word introspective poem set to a music track, is a standout among his albums’ more ambitious projects. “I Am a God” also received the usual treatment. And in the early 2000s, he appeared on records by Busta Rhymes (of the first great hip-hop band), Talib Kweli, and the late Tupac Shakur and was on the cover of the issue of Rolling Stone devoted to the late rapper’s career. Even West’s most recent album, 2012’s “The Life of Pablo,” was given a full-length treatment. But the themes of race, power, and masculinity were treated in far more subtle, if no less blunt form.
So how did West end up on the cover of the same magazine that published the cover of the greatest rap album of all time, the first hip-hop album of all-time to be certified platinum by the RIAA? The answer is he had good taste and great timing. But here’s my question: where, exactly, will West run out of platforms to work with?
I’m not talking about where he’s going. I’m talking about where he’s been.
West’s breakthrough album came with the help of Jay Z, whose own debut, “The Blueprint” was as much of a breakthrough record (an astonishing 17 weeks at the top of the Billboard chart, eventually being certified triple-platinum) as the debut of any