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808s & Heartbreak Week: "Amazing" featuring Young Jeezy

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Besides musical reasons why “Amazing” is a success, Kanye’s finally working with a complex concept that’s triumphant, but on the defensive, and fully aware of its absurdity. It’s a song about hiding behind his fame and celebrity to conceal all the ugly personal bullshit he’s going through and using that fame and celebrity as a kind of ultimate dig at his ex. But his languid vocals and obsessive “No matter what, you’ll never take that from me” make it clear that his fame makes him feel awesome but doesn’t protect him and the “I’m famous” bit’s just a ruse. It’s not as overtly harsh, but it comes from the same above-it-all cruelty he affects on “Robocop” during that devastating “spoiled little L.A girl” outro.

There’s some truth there, but its blatantly lashing-out, last chance assholism. It’s “everybody loves the bad guy” in Scarface, the “hero” fucking falling apart, leaning back on his own myth at the point where real-world events are surrounding him and friends, girlfriends, or whatever don’t give a shit about image, myth, or hype anymore.

But “Amazing”s got neither the energy of the last ditch bragging you get from most rappers, and none of the devilish glee of “Robocop”s taunts. It’s this depressed, monotone that’s part super-confident, doesn’t even have to sell you on this shit-talking bullshit anymore for you to buy into it and part, a performance of going through the motions of shit-talking that Kanye himself doesn’t buy into much these days. The rote melody perfectly lines-up with the Danny Elfman-ish haunted house pianos and it sounds great, but Kanye’s unmoved.

Again, auto-tune is hardly something to take issue with on 808s as Kanye twists and turns it all these different ways, from the warmed-over glow on somber tracks, to a kind of resigned vibration around his voice on this song or “Streetlights”–the two songs where he’s the most upfront about what he’s doing and the least full of shit. On 808s, auto-tune’s used more in a pre-digital production style, like old weirdo rock and pop records that wrapped tons of reverb around the vocals or tape manipulated them into some crazy shit.

Jeezy’s verse isn’t particularly great–even when judged by the Jeezy curve for good rapping–but it’s an obvious contrast to Kanye’s depressive boasts, as it’s all rumbling exclamation. One of Kanye’s better qualities, even when he was a young nerdy producer was his rap fandom which led to all kinds of Fantasy Football style pairings of rappers. On “Last Call”, the final track of College Dropout there’s a point where he nerdily talks about how he made one of those Dynasty beats “for DMX” and you vividly imagine rap fan Kanye–the one that cites Chi Ali or Ma$e as favorites alongside Tribe and Dr. Dre–sitting down and making his ideal beat for DMX.

Imagine him sitting there with Mike Dean and NO I.D and whoever else being like, “okay and then all the shit you’ve heard in the previous songs, pianos, overwhelming washes of synths, triumphant insanely catchy hooks are gonna meet up with these crazy click-clacking drums–that’ll be in a couple more of the songs too–and then, they’ll suddenly drop-out–save for these pterodactyl groans–and then Jeezy’ll come in and it’ll be incredible.”

That’s the Kanye that cops to “biting the drums off “Xxplosive”…the deconstructive rap superfan that sees through the sub-genre bullshit and thinks how cool it would be to hear Mos Def and Freeway on a track and then, does it. The guy that uses Ludacris as a goofball counterpoint to Kanye’s self-loathing conscious rap tendencies on “Breathe In, Breathe Out”. Putting Cam’ron over a million-dollar version of the trebly soul he’s been rapping on since forever, etc etc. Kanye knows how to use guests and highlight their abilities (unless it’s Lil Wayne, then who knows what’s going on) and that’s viscerally felt on “Amazing” as everything making-up the beat falls out to announce Jeezy’s arrival. It’s sort of the inverse of “Put On” where the beat slows down for Kanye’s depressed counter-verse; here Jeezy breathes some dumb, hard-ass stuff into a song (and album) that’s could use a bit more of that.

Written by Brandon

December 10th, 2008 at 3:34 am

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