Inside the sold-out terrordrome of Earthlink Live, rapper Kanye West initially strikes a contemplatively composed pose as well. His neon apricot Polo and boyish grin conjure up images of a fourth-grade spring photo day. All that's missing is the umbrella flash and alphabetized lines. Turn your chin a little more toward me, Kanye.
Indeed, throughout the evening, West's relaxed, no-frills swagger feels more like the company of a schoolyard chum than heir apparent to a hip-hop empire. With longtime running partner Jay-Z headed for "retirement," acclaimed producer Kanye West has stepped forward to become furiously hyped Roc-A-Fella recording artist Kanye West with the release of his debut, The College Dropout. In 2004, West has enjoyed the kind of plate tectonics push that only he could, having built beats for the likes of Jay-Z, Mos Def, Ludacris and practically all points in between. West pulls an impossible amount of cred from hip-hop's bling, bounce and backpack factions.
Wisely, West has established a persona of hip-hop Everyman, and his informal stage presence proves an apt extension of that persona. Performing in front of a folding table with one CD player, a stack of neatly folded towels and an almost comically disengaged DJ ("Did you press play yet? OK, press play now."), West is the wisecracking rank-and-file foil to Jay-Z's ice-encrusted rap Übermensch.
Which isn't to say West doesn't know how to get the crowd hyped. The machine gun bounce of "The New Workout Plan" has the crunk-inclined Southern crowd in a collective swerve, while the raw energy of "Get Em High" gets heads bobbing and hands raised. West charges the party atmosphere with soul, spitting spiritualism on "Spaceship" and "Jesus Walks."
Unflanked by hype men or big crews, occasionally stopping to tweak sound and even forgetting his lyrics at more than one point, West seems unimpressed by his own musical celebrity. When he likes a certain part of a song, he'll stop and play it again. Or he'll speak the words a capella and riff on what he was trying to say during that part of the song. Part of West's appeal comes from this comfortable self-awareness and self-reflexive wit. Rapping about his much-storied near-fatal accident in 2002, West rhymes, "There's been an accident like Geico/They thought I was burnt up like Pepsi did Michael."
A favored topic for West was the popular perception of him as an arrogant rapper. "I said I'd sell 500,000 records my first week, and it happened," he preached from the stage. "The more I predict the future, the less arrogant I seem." Checking West out live, it's hard not to agree with him. You get the feeling that Kanye West is less about arrogance, and more about impenetrable self-confidence. Roc-A-Fella's changing of the guard is like the first whiff of the changing seasons -- this boy is fresh.
Nashville has more dive bars than ATL now that sucks. tbh i think that new…
*Christ, Lord sorry
"Punk" style like this seems like it is the polar opposite of punk. Bradford Cox…
They're kind of starting to look like a joke of themselves. Song's good though.