MaddoggButtkin’Brown’s guest writer, T.H. Johnson
Ta-Nehisi Coats in a recent article compares Kanye West to Michael Jackson at the pinnacle of success during their eras by referring to them both metaphorically as Gods. Of course most of us have no problem comprehending the metaphor of divine genius in regard to Michael Jackson, both of whose singing and dancing moves brought immediate excitement recognized across virtually all age spectrums. That was largely because the milieu that enveloped him was crafted to match his energy on stage while adhering to the recognizable rules of good music, structure, melody, and harmony. His performance was akin to a rock ballet that captivated each time Jackson took the stage. Arguably, factor analysis of the basic elements of good music Kanye West does not have that same level of audience charisma because he does not bring any of those basics to his own creative works. Maybe out of respect for the title “music” they should begin calling what Kanye and others are being applauded for as music some kind of category of “spoken word”. An apt description of Kanye’s creative works is what the actor Wendell Pierce from series The Wire called it “the trite monotony you call music”. In essence, in the midst of all of the other madness that Kanye has chosen to engage with his embracing of Donald Trunp et al, what I am saying is that he should not be placed in the same category of greatness from an entertainment standpoint as Michael Jackson. Despite his own odd behavior of defiling his physical appearance, even though it too indicated a level of Jackson’s own self hatred of his physical features as a man of African descent, Michael was still compelling even in his what many considered grotesque appearance as he moved across the stage. With an electric energy from song to song, up tempo or ballad, one could not take their eyes off of his performance, that is not the same with Kanye West.
The music production was full of powerful melodic structure, proper tempo, with room for strings and horns to move in and out on top and around guitar riffs of a solid rhythm section. This was thanks in large part to when Jackson left Motown and signed with Sony and they paired him to his initial disenchantment with the music maestro Quincy Jones. The magnificent Q not only brought the most competitive young excellent song writers to the table to craft something magnificent for an initially disbelieving Jackson, but the challenge forced Jones to open the deep treasure chest of musical knowledge of his own involvement that stretched back into the 1940s with his association with the masters like Ray Charles and Lionel Hampton.
Quincy’s mature examination of the young michael’s potential was like a field marshal scoping the impending battlefield. He did so in a manner to deliver on the mandate that the executives of Sony could see as well, the exaltation to the highest level of the ability of the young dynamic musical phenom, Jackson. Both Michael and Quincy understood that the strength of Michael was born in the pentameter, rhythms, melodies and harmony of past geniuses of the black music idiom. Even though it was modern sophisticated it tapped into the brilliance of the Blues of Albert and B.B. King,
the Gospel sounds of the Mighty Clouds of Joy and their raw lead singer Joe Ligon is recognizable in Quincy and Michael’s music.
Including elements of Jazz and Rock, Michael and Quincy respected and delivered all of those idioms of soul with the melodic structure that each one presented. Even the syncopated rhythms of the raw second line bands on the streets of New Orleans are at the root of Michael Jackson’s Music. Although they may be found sparingly in West’s music, their existence is very minimal, and thus so are the other disciplines of identifying anything that resembles “good” music as far as West is concerned.
By the time it got to Michael by way of its perfection by producer Quincy Jones it may have been more polished and more sophisticated but the roots were thoroughly recognizable. Michael and Prince and many others gave recognition to the root of their music by metaphorically touching the hem of the garment of James Brown who certainly did not move far away from the rawness of the Gospel, Blues, and Jazz riffs that he blended so thoroughly within what became recognized as James Brown music.
However, as we examine the analogy of describing Kanye West as some type of Musical God, it is certainly perplexing to many of us, whether I like something or not, I am willing to recognize the richness of a creation. Yet with Kanye because most of his music lacks any type of recognizable harmonic structure, seldom any meaningful melody, off tempo rhythms due to an incessant need to crowd more words than necessary into a structured musical stanza it, in my opinion, is not music. If the stanza calls for 4 beats to the measure, Kanye is busy attempting to stick 6 or 7 into it. Without any melody generally undergirding the lyrical content being offered by West, he feels that he can get away with the off-beat rhythm of delivery of content and it will be pleasing to the ear but it is not, in my opinion, for him to be described as some type of musical God, or even musical genius. Get rid of the word music and you can call Kanye what you want but as it stands what he is now offering, along with a few others, defiles the concept of music. We wonder whether Kanye along with several unnamed other’s creations, since I hesitate to call it music, is not propped up by a cabal of manipulators with other purposes. If you look at the Grammys over these last ten years or more, music that would generally be delivered and hopefully awarded to black artists is being won by white artists who are performing such music, particularly the British artists. We have nothing against that but only site it to indicate that something has occurred where black music producers have abandoned a proven discipline of creative artistry that is well accepted around the world.
Thus, as far as some of Kanye’s other politics are concerned his embracing President Donald Trump is merely an act to gain attention that due to the lack of soulful rhythm, harmony and melody, it has to be propped up or it continuously will fall by the wayside because it misses those heretofore stated elements of quality music. Hence, what is left but making a radical move to gain attention but there is a big question mark as to whether that fabricated attention is going to keep Kanye relevant until he can sell some more records. James Brown was controversial but his music always stood out and was something people could dance to. Kanye’s music is not dance-able, it doesn’t make you snap your fingers, or bob your head and thus his causing controversy regarding slavery and embracing Trump I doubt is going to help West sell more new music or gain Trump any more votes. However, as far as being described as a God of music in this analysis of what others are analyzing as his own self hatred, you can delete that description because a music God he is not.
T.H. Johnson is a member of the Ocean Medical Investigative Group’s Research team that has uncovered the fraud in the OJ Simpson case from 1994-95 where evidence was hidden by lawyers in order to promote a false narrative based on the Shakespearean tragedy Othello. The cover up turned Simpson falsely into a jealous Negro who was fanatically infatuated with a white woman. However, the OMIG investigators have proven otherwise in their books and documentary listed below.