I heard something today that made me a very very happy man. Kanye West dropped a new song, Real Friends.
The song has a vibe which takes me back to the days of College Dropout. Now, I have to say, back in the day I was MASSIVE Kanye West fan. I was early on the College Dropout, at the time I was DJing at events around the UK and I used to go to Uptown Records in Soho to find the latest records. I’d always ask for the latest white labels so the guy behind the counter handed me a vinyl promo for a new album from a new artist called Kanye West. The vinyl included his songs Through The Wire and the original version of All Falls Down with the Lauryn Hill sample. After one listen I was sold. I could fully relate to his story. I couldn’t believe how much soul and feeling All Falls Down had, it’s like he was talking directly to me. I went on to play All Falls Down in every radio and club set I did, I credit myself with introducing a lot of people in the UK to Kanye West! This was the time before Youtube when you had to listen to the radio or go to the club for new songs as they were only available as vinyl promos which only the hardcore vinyl diggers (usually DJs) would have access to. A few months later and the Through The Wire video came out on TV.
At this point Kanye was still a bit underground but had a huge cult following growing. His College Dropout dropped to critical acclaim. The album was one of the main reasons I started producing music. The soul and realness was so refreshing, it was clear this guy was a talent. His ability to talk directly to me with his lyrics and also produce such soulful music was amazing. I remember going to one of his early shows in Hammersmith Apollo, this shows how underground he was at the time, he was doing arenas a few years later!
I followed Kanye through the next few years. I bought all the albums on CD (at a time when I wasn’t really buying much music). I loved his second and third albums, Late Registration and Graduation, and was a fan of the music he produced for other people. I tolerated 808s and Heartbreak and then was relieved when My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy dropped. All Of The Lights in particular was a massive highlight for me from that album, the production so fresh and exciting. I remember staying up analysing the beat on All Of The Lights until 4am on the day I bought the album, wishing I had produced the music myself!
Then something happened. It seemed Kanye took a turn. I know he had a lot of issues in his personal life and some battles behind the scenes with his fashion label etc but it just felt that he lost the elements that made him the Kanye West I loved; relate-ability, realness and soul. The contradictions on Watch The Throne and Yeezus felt like Kanye had turned into exactly the type of person he used to despise; flashy, out of touch and arrogant. He seemed confused and the music sounded lazy. The production no longer inspired me and his lyrics were much about nothing in my opinion. I didn’t understand his battle and his message seemed at odds with the music that got him to were he was.
I still had massive respect for Kanye throughout this period. I liked that he wasn’t scared to speak out, whether it got him into trouble or not. There are a lot of Yes men in the music industry, people turn a blind eye to wrong doings because they are scared of losing their position. So the fact that Kanye speaks out has to be respected.
So onto the present day. It’s Saturday evening and I turn on my laptop to check my emails and have a quick look on Grmdaily. It’s been a great day in Westfield with the family so I’m just having a quick look before I get some sleep. I see a new post from Grmdaily, it says that Kanye has dropped a new song and it says it sounds like College Dropout. Quickly I take a listen to see if i agree. Luckily I do. The song, entitled Real Friends, is an absolute TUNE!!! The song takes me back to 2003, being in Uptown records and listening to All Falls Down. The song has that Kanye soul that we all love. The message is so relatable, the production so raw and real, the delivery so passionate. Today has been a good day.
I hope this is a sign of things to come. I hope Kanye delivers an album with this vibe. Come on Kanye, do it for all the people who bought College Dropout. The world needs it!