Hey folks how’s it going? I hope you enjoyed my last group of suggestions (maybe at least one of them) and I suppose I want to give myself a little bit of props for sticking to this every other week thing (for now). I’ve not always been timely with getting new posts up on this site so here’s to a new habits and standards. Anyways I’m coming back this week with another set of four podcasts centered around a single theme, except I guess that theme is a person. Each of these podcasts is either centered around or somehow related to Kanye West. 2018 has been difficult for Kanye West and people are either all the way in or all the way out on him right now, but he’s been on my mind lately. I’m not a Kanye stan, I haven’t been there since the beginning furiously listening to his college trio, and I’ve not listened to Pablo or Yeezus. But every now and again I enjoy listening to 808s and Dark Twisted Fantasy and I’ve been listening to them a lot lately which has sparked my reconsideration and this post. The release of Ye along with the Kanye’s actions in the lead up sparked many an internet thinkpiece with a lot of them calling for a disavowal (for now) of him and his music. In that context I think these podcasts (and specifically Dissect and Still Processing) see through some of the confusion to how Kanye’s work simultaneously challenges us be more critical and more empathetic consumers of media. In the post-modern (or is this post post-modern) world the definitions of art and celebrity are sort of up for grabs and Kanye is emblematic of that complexity. He’s not simple, his music is anything but, and so maybe our understanding of him should not be. Anyways I hope you enjoy these pods and find them as thought provoking and funny as I did.
We Wouldn’t Leave Kanye, But Should We?
You can always rely on Jenna and Wesley, the hosts, to unpack the intersectionality of whatever they may be talking about. Whether that be going to the beach, Black Panther, the song of the summer, or Kanye West, they always seem pull on forgotten threads or incorporate seemingly disparate ideas in the most elegant way during their complex unboxing. They have a wonderful and very relaxed interplay and the comfort they feel with each other sometimes spills out from the podcasting booth into your ears/heart as they are not afraid to be emotional or upset (or any number of emotions) on the pod. For me their podcast is often a weekly reminder not be afraid to feel things and feel them strongly. This Kanye episode captures all of that, the intensity, the emotion, and the critical analysis. Maybe they won’t sway your opinion about Kanye, but they’re not really trying to. This podcast is for them, to process their feelings, and we are just lucky enough to listen to it.
S2E6 Power by Kanye West
Cole Cuchna is seemingly on a one man mission to remind everyone that hip-hip can/is art of the highest form. After a brilliant first season covering To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar, the biggest change in the second season is the how much he leans into musical theory (he has a background as a classical musician and composer) to help break down these songs. The mini music lessons enclosed within a number of these podcasts are wonderful and create additional levels on which the music can be appreciated. Power is a particularly great example of this as Cuchna gets into musical theory, social and personal context, and Greek myths, plus the song is and absolute banger. If you love hip-hop, or just pop music in general, then you will appreciate the care with which Cuchna dissects this (and every) song, treating it like the work of art it is.
The Bill Simmons Podcast
This may seem like the odd pod out of this group, but Ansari and West became friends around the time Dark Fantasy was being made and it was Ansari who introduced West at the 2010 VMAs where West first debuted Runaway. He shares a number of stories about interactions he had with Kanye during the making of Dark Fantasy and Watch the Throne that recontextualize Kanye as someone really dedicated to making good music (which Cole Cuchna will tell you all about). Simmons and Ansari also spend time discussing the Death of Ansari’s friend Harris Wittels and Aziz becomes audibly shaken during the recording. Summarily it is very warm and candid interview/discussion from one of the most interesting comedians working today.
The Longform Podcast
#308: Jon Caramanica
Jon Caramanica, as he explains in the pod, was the only journalist granted access to Kanye West during the release of his most recent album, Ye. The story of how that album launch took place and Caramanica’s process for gaining access is an interesting story, but I don’t know if this pod contains any revelations about Kanye or even particularly thoughtful meditations about him as an artist. It is though, an interesting discussion about a long tenured music writer who has had to challenge himself to avoid the ‘kids and their music’ take. When you grew up with one set of values that has given way to something very different, can you change to appreciate that new value set? This is Caramanica’s challenge and something he’s acutely aware of as he works to stay relevant and objective. It’s an interesting chat about a very specific type of journalism, that reminds us to remember that the kids will be alright.