Kanye and Kendrick: A God and a King

By Ana Lopez

MCT

For the first time in five years, the self-proclaimed “God” himself, Kanye West, is headlining a tour, stopping at TD Garden in Boston on Sunday, Nov. 17. West will be joined by Kendrick Lamar, dubbed “New King of the West Coast” by his contemporaries Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and The Game. The God and King are expected to have quite the turn out – both have received rave reviews of their respective latest albums “Yeezus” and “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.”

West’s recording and performing history extends back to 2003 when he made the transition from producer to artist, collaborating with Roc-A-Fella Records and recording his debut album “College Dropout” in 2004. Following that, he released two more albums; “Late Registration” in 2005 and “Graduation” in 2007. Notably, West focused on samples from soul albums, a new style that hadn’t been introduced into hip-hop at the time. His sophomore album included a live string orchestra, a completely opposite direction from his first album. Critics raved over the unique and precise sounds produced by West in both albums.

“Graduation” faced competition on its release date, but successfully out sold 50 Cent, signaling the changing direction of rap. In 2008, West released “808s & Heartbreak” to positive, if slightly mixed, reviews. For the first time, West utilized Auto-Tune and again changed his sound, keeping audiences interested.

After a two year hiatus from music following multiple behavior related controversies, he finally released “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” in 2010. West’s fourth album focused on the maximalist lifestyle of being a celebrity and the dark side of it all. In 2011 and 2012, he collaborated with Jay-Z on “Watch the Throne” and released a compilation album, “Cruel Summer,” including the hits “Mercy” and “Clique”.

Debuting at No. 1 of Billboard 200, West’s long anticipated 2013 album “Yeezus” received mixed reviews. While sales dropped in the few weeks following its release, many critics raved and the album quickly became a cult favorite. Sampling a new style yet again, Kanye’s sound is dark and compositionally experimental. For this album, West cites acid house, industrial music, Chicago drill and dance hall music as influences melodically. The only single released from the album is “Black Skinhead,” filled with abrasive electro, rage filled sing-yelling and minimalist beats.

His whole album, due in part to co-producer Rick Rubin, follows a less-is-less strategy, ensuring the intensity of each lyric to be heard and understood. He bounces from grinding electronic sounds to classic Kanye, with a bluesy feel on tracks like “Blood on the Leaves” and “Bound 2.” West has always cited RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan as one of his biggest influences throughout the years.

The opener, Kendrick Lamar, is no small act either. Since his introduction to the mainstream, he’s been claiming his stake in the hip-hop community. Born and raised in Compton, Calif. he adopted the nickname K-Dot. Of the many mixtapes he released pre-2011, “O(verly) D(edicated)” received praise from critics for his lyricism over simplistic beats about his own life. A member of Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) since 2003, he remains a core piece of the Black Hippy group, including fellow rappers Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock. In 2011, he released an independent rap album, “Section 80.”

The success from this got him signed to Aftermath Records, founded by Dr. Dre. From that, he flourished with his single “HiiipoWeR,” based on his HiiipoWeR movement looking to lift this seemingly doomed generation to peace; through heart, honor and respect, which is represented by the three i’s.

Released in 2012, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” gained mainstream popularity with hits like “Swimming Pools,” “Poetic Justice” and “Money Trees.” Since then, Lamar has been appearing on numerous songs, most infamously on Big Sean’s “Control” in which he calls out a list a rappers warning them, “I got love for you all but I’m tryin’ to murder you n—-s,” drawing the spotlight directly on Lamar, who received many defense-driven responses from those listed as well as not.

It’s questionable whether or not TD Garden has enough room for these two egos, but at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 in Boston they’ll battle it out on stage, definitely a show for the ages.

Ana Lopez can be reached at [email protected]