Kanye's Tweets, J. Cole's Return, and The Best Stuff You Missed This Week
This week in Noisey features: Kanye West makes his fans question their faith, J. Cole Makes everyone mad somehow, Yeah Yeah Yeahs remain essential, and 'High Fidelity' takes heat.
This Is Not a God Dream
Last weekend, after pumping out a series of TED Talk-adjacent motivational missives that made next-to-no sense at all, Kanye West and his newly reactivated Twitter page took a turn. "I love the way Candace Owens thinks," he wrote last Saturday, boosting the profile of a far-right icon who thinks that Black Lives Matter protestors are holding onto a "victim mentality." That was just the start. Kanye, fueled by the inevitable backlash, spent his week professing his love for a xenophobic, misogynistic President, talking about "dragon energy," and posting selfies in a MAGA hat. On Thursday, in the midst of everything, Noisey Editor-in-Chief Eric Sundermann asked what West's fans are supposed to make of this apparent turn to the right.
Seeing Kanye align himself with a powerful white man who uses xenophobia as a pillar of his platform is as devastating as it is disappointing. This isn’t about political parties, even if that’s how Chance the Rapper seems to be reading it. This is about something larger—this is about history, and the future of humanity. Artists can translate the complicated aspects of existence into palpable ways, and this has long been one of Kanye’s strengths as a creator. We need him to align with the progressive future, and not confuse contrarianism with intellectualism. If he doesn’t, he’ll become a vehicle for weaponized hate and regression. I want so badly for him to understand that, because he can be such a force of good, but I am slowly realizing that it just might not be the case. The normalization of Trumpism will be the downfall of our culture. And here Kanye is, doing just that: tweeting his love for Peter Thiel—a man who is doing everything he can with his money and power to destroy the right to free thought—and wearing a red Make America Great Again hat. A hat that he proudly had signed by Donald Trump.
J. Cole Fires Up The Discourse Machine
Hey, J. Cole has a new album out! It's called KOD, and that can mean any of three things: Kids on Drugs, King Overdosed, or Kill Our Demons. These facts alone are enough to make most people fly into a violent rage. There is no middle ground with Cole now. You either believe that he's a GOAT-level genius worthy of defending in the strongest possible terms, or you think he's a corny dude who's barely worthy of the memes designed to poke holes in his persona. Lawrence Burney thinks there's a good chance you're approaching the North Carolina rapper all wrong, either way:
The wilding-for-retweets approach to Cole’s music didn’t happen unwarranted. At the top of this decade, The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights mixtapes earned him being dubbed as a new generation’s Nas. His debut album did nothing to uphold that type of crowning, and his follow up with Born Sinner dragged for most of its duration. And since, he’s fallen somewhere in the middle ground of being thought of as an upper echelon rapper and someone damn near incapable of holding people’s attention for an entire album. People tend to only see J. Cole in these extremes. You either can’t wait to hang on to every word, or you can’t stand to listen at all. But as someone who barely spends time engaging with the social media universe, it’s never been clear how the North Carolina rapper takes this all in—and if he does, how it informs his music thereafter.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Influence Is Still Being Felt
Fifteen years ago, SoHo icons Yeah Yeah Yeahs released their restless debut LP, Fever to Tell. The record came to define a generation's aesthetic and sensibility: East Coast, skinny-jeaned, coolly disinterested in your shit, probably still down to beat you up in a sweaty moshpit. But, unlike the perfectly coiffed, boy-fronted indie bands that grappled with frontwoman Karen O for the nightclub's spotlight, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs never made it to stadium shows or post-scene ubiquity. Instead, they've had an indelible infuence on the mass of incisive guitar rock that came in their wake. As Kim Taylor Bennett writes in her retrospective on the album, the trio always stood out from the crowd:
At 37 near-perfect minutes it still bleeds both hedonism and heart. It’s also a record that boldly left off every track from their self-titled 2001 EP, the microphone-fellating, DIY-punk collection that sparked it all. In its wake, Fever to Tell exceeded expectations while silencing the sceptics at the back who sniffed that Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ beer-slick, lawless live shows served as a mere smoke-screen for style over substance. “It's our time, sweet babe / To break on through / It's the year to be hated,” sings Karen on that debut EP’s closing track. Prophetic perhaps, but ultimately it was a triumphant taunt.
High Fidelity Is Partly to Blame for a Generation of Shitheads
Looking back now, the second-wave indie/emo scene that coalesced in the early-2000s—a movement that spawned a glut of internationally recognized rock bands, many of whom are still adored today—were suspect. The lyrics always bordered on violence towards women, and there was rarely any progress from one record to the next. Much of it was explained away by the sadsackery of the protagonists in every story but, depressing as this is, recent events haven't done much to back up the innocence of these bands' words. In his frank essay, published on Wednesday, Dan Ozzi suggests that the cult, John Cusack-starring 2000 movie High Fidelity has a lot to answer for:
High Fidelity introduced the world to Rob Gordon, a sad-sack music obsessive who is perpetually mid-break-up. To the sorts of “nice guys” who grew up valuing pop culture knowledge over athletic ability, the character became something of a cult hero. After all, from the perspective of guys who still live at home, Rob had an enviable lifestyle: he worked the dream job of owning his own record store, he was by default the least socially awkward member of his social circle which included Jack Black and Todd Louiso, and, most impressive to romantically inept music fanboys, he somehow managed to routinely bed women exceedingly hotter than himself. Gordon was either the coolest nerd or the nerdiest cool guy. But, despite having a lifestyle music geeks could aspire to, Rob Gordon was not a character to be admired. Rob Gordon was, in fact, a terrible human—a sociopathic womanizer, a stalker ex, and a shitty boyfriend.