How you changed the music

How Kanye West changed music

From the beginning of his career, Kanye has challenged rap’s time-honored conventions and boundaries, shaping them to fit his own beautiful, dark, twisted vision. In the process, he changed the music landscape forever. As a hip-hop production student, Kanye always had the upper hand, even when other artists didn’t let him have the time of day. It started with chipmunk soul as Ye distilled the uniquely powerful choruses of legendary black artists from decades past and updated them for a new generation, right down to classics like The college dropout and Late registration.

Kanye could have gone on like this, but name one genius who isn’t crazy. “I refuse to be boxed in,” he said in a 2004 interview with Complex. “I’m always like, ‘Damn, I’ve never heard that before.’ Even at the risk of people not liking it. Seriously – I think I’m really capable of making an expansion The college dropoutbut the answer is, I wouldn’t do it.” So he took his show on the road and started making electronic rap music that was built for arenas Diploma. Tracks like “Stronger” became the soundtrack for motivational videos and workouts. They made you feel unstoppable, and it was clear that Ye had finally become the rap superhero he knew he was.

He had a formula and it worked, but then he veered in a whole new direction. Kanye’s AutoTune era, signaled by 808 & Heartbreak, changed the game forever and inspired a generation of artists making introspective, melodic rap music. And because every origin story needs a devil, Kanye took his darkest desires and infused them on albums like My beautiful dark twisted fantasy and Watch the throne, which marked a significant turning point in his sonic career. It was when he made everyone feel as rich as he was just by listening to his beats. Listening to his high-end luxury rap records is like drinking Hennessy from a bronze goblet: sophisticatedly ignorant.

However, in true Kanye fashion, the gala was canceled to make room for a rave. Yeezus polarized the music industry. The explosive, speaker-shattering sounds turned a generation of rappers into rock stars. It bordered on blasphemy, but it set the stage for aspiring artists to rise from the depths of SoundCloud to rap without fear and not bow to the rigid confines of old-school hip-hop. Kanye had successfully removed those boundaries entirely. When Yeezy returned home in the new gospel era we are now in, he was finally free.

Through it all, Ye has remained a channel for listeners – artists and fans alike – to pursue their dreams with his music as a soundtrack. “If you’re a fan of Kanye West, you’re not a fan of me. You’re a fan of yourself,” Ye told Zane Lowe in 2017. “You will believe in yourself. I’m just the espresso. I’m just the one in the morning to get you going and make you believe that you can get through this situation you’re dealing with.

To celebrate his influence, we’ve chronicled the trajectory of his career (so far) and highlighted some of the artists who have been influenced by each of his periods. This is an era-by-era breakdown of how Kanye changed music.

-Jordan Rose

Images via Getty

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