It would seem that with the release of Yeezus, everyone seems to be stroking Kanye West’s already massive ego. And while I haven’t drunk Yeezy’s Kool-Aid yet, I realize that it is a very significant album, but not for the same reasons everyone else feel. Now, I’m not gonna anger the world with a full review of Yeezus (at least not yet), but I will say that it makes me think of another legend in music, Miles Davis.
I know that this website isn’t meant for jazz fans, but if you don’t know who Miles Davis is or have never heard of him, I pity you. He was one of the greatest trumpeters of all time and one of the greatest musicians of all time. Now, let me say this: I am in no way saying that Kanye West is just as good of a musician as Miles Davis. That’s just unfair to Kanye and disrespectful to Miles Davis. Don’t get me wrong, Yeezy is no slouch, but he doesn’t even come close to matching up with the original Prince of Darkness. With that being said, their careers are very similar for the following reasons:
They Learned From The Best
Both Miles Davis and Kanye West had mentors who are legends in their respective genres. Miles Davis got his big break by touring with Charlie Parker, the greatest saxophonist ever and one of the originators of bebop. That’s like Van Gough letting you paint with him everyday. Kanye West was mentored by another Chicago hip-hop legend, No I.D. He produced Common’s first three albums and his most recent one, and also produced the last track on Yeezus, “Bound 2,” which is the only track that’s gotten praise from hip-hop “traditionalists.”
They’re Both Assholes
Kanye West isn’t the most loveable guy in the world, and neither was Miles Davis. He would often insult musicians he didn’t like in the press and even reportedly bitch-slapped Kenny G backstage at a concert (which I’m personally not too mad about). When Miles appeared on a talk show, some kids were given the opportunity to play in front of him. Instead of offering words of encouragement, he was critiqued the shit out of them and basically told them that he was unimpressed. As for Kanye West, well, we all know he’s a dick. Just ask George W. Bush and Taylor Swift.
They Made Others Better
The names that have played in groups led by Miles Davis reads like a who’s who of jazz. John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans, Ron Carter, Sonny Rollins, and Wayne Shorter are just a few of the legends who’ve said that their careers wouldn’t have been the same had they not worked with Miles. Through his work as a producer, Kanye West has helped the careers of many. He produced Jay-Z’s most successful record, The Blueprint, and took Common’s career to new heights with Be and Finding Forever. In fact, in his autobiography, Common says that Kanye saved his career. He also produced the debut albums of John Legend and Kid Cudi. That’s a pretty impressive resume.
They Changed Their Musical Styles
Yeezus reminds of a Miles Davis record he released in 1969 called In A Silent Way. Prior to 1969, Miles played what most people would call traditional jazz and was releasing classic after classic. He was the top dog of the jazz world. Then, he made In A Silent, which was unlike anything anyone had heard before. It marked the beginning Miles’ “electric period” where he used mostly electric instruments to combine jazz with funk and rock. He then followed it up with Bitches Brew, which is considered to be a jazz classic and is the 2nd best-selling jazz album of all time. Even though Miles lost many of his most loyal fans, he gained so many more. He was also notorious for “never looking back.” Once he released Bitches Brew he never performed any of his more traditional hits. It wasn’t until 1991, the year of his death, that he performed his older work with Quincy Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival. To me, Yeezus is Kanye’s In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Now despite what you may think or what people have told you, it’s not original or revolutionary like its Miles Davis counterparts. However, in my opinion this marks the beginning of a new chapter in Yeezy’s career. Even though Miles Davis is my favorite jazz musician, I’m not a big fan of his the later stage of his career, and I’m not a fan of Kanye’s work the past few years. But I do understand that sometimes musicians want to expand their horizons. And I respect that. Just like Miles, I don’t think Kanye is gonna look back at his older stuff, even though he teases us from time to time (like “Bound 2” on Yeezus). Yeezus will probably be the last Kanye West album I’ll listen to, not necessarily because I don’t like Kanye West anymore, but because I realize that he isn’t going to make music for people like me anymore. And that’s perfectly fine.
They Are Legends
No matter what you think about their personalities, or changes in music, at the end of the day Miles Davis and Kanye West are legends in music. Remember when I said that Bitches Brew is the 2nd best-selling jazz record of all time? Well, guess who released #1? In 1959, Miles Davis released Kind Of Blue, which is not only the best-selling jazz album of all time, but it’s also considered to be the greatest. It secured his place as one of the greatest musicians of all time. Kanye West’s first two albums, College Dropout and Late Registration are hip-hop classics. They are the 2 most successful alternative hip-hop albums and revived the alternative hip-hop renaissance. Miles Davis and Kanye West are titans in the world of music, and whether you like or dislike their music, there’s no denying that fact.