YEAR IN MUSIC: This year, hip-hop experienced a major renaissance — and underground troubles
And then there was Kanye West and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He created a spectacle out of an hour-long justification for his obnoxiousness, invited the genre's biggest stars to support his meanderings on chauvinism and virility (or "my black balls") and, most provocatively, continued a public call-and-response with Gil Scott-Heron. The conversation began with West's sampling of Scott-Heron's melancholy "Home Is Where the Hatred Is" for his 2005 album Graduation. Then Scott-Heron replied by using West's "Flashing Lights" melody for "On Coming from a Broken Home," the bittersweet coming-of age tale from Scott-Heron's valiant yet muddled comeback, I'm New Here.
West ended Fantasy by sampling a large section from Scott-Heron's 1970 spoken-word performance "Comment #1," and retitling it "Who Will Survive in America?" The poem originally captured the COINTELPRO era and the U.S. government's eradication of black radicals, but West seemed to use it for a different point. Perhaps he's saying that fame serves as a protective armor against systemic racism and how "at the airport they check all through my bag and tell me that it's random." Or maybe he's making a wry comment on celebrity culture as the only way to survive in America. Fantasy's cryptic epilogue perfectly summarized this year's rap dreamers, lost in the pop Matrix.