I Miss The Old Kanye (or, 1400 words on 'Poop-di Scoopty')
On Friday evening, while my wife and my boss were in the basement having a band rehearsal, I was sitting on the couch, awkwardly navigating my laptop with my left hand, while giving gentle and reassuring pats on the noggin of my rabbit, Annabell, with my right hand, as she took a moment of silent reflection on the floor next to the couch.
As I internetted around, I happened to read that a new Kanye West song, “Lift Yourself,” was now streaming on his website—the song itself, or at least the title alone, had been announced earlier in the day.
So I sat, with the faint sounds of my wife and my boss working out an acoustic guitar and bassoon cover of Nick Drake’s “Things Behind The Sun” coming up through the closed basement door, and the sounds of “Lift Yourself” coming from my laptop’s chintzy speakers.
Needless to say, I was not ready for this new Kanye West song.
Arguably, “Lift Yourself” is not even a real song—it’s a joke. An expensive one, at that, with West and producer Mike Dean presumably going through proper channels to clear the heavily interpolated sample of the 1973 Amnesty song, “Liberty.”
“This next verse,” West barks, well into the song. “This next verse though….these bars.”
This statement, I found confusing, because up until that point, there had been no first verse, so how could their be a next verse; I wondered if this was some kind of rough mix of an uncompleted song—possibly missing a guest verse from somebody that hadn’t been recorded or included yet.
No. That’s not the case.
Since his auspicious debut in 2004, The College Dropout, and even before that, as a rising producer, Kanye West has been a game changer. And with “Lift Yourself,” you could say he changed the game again, by dropping lines like “Poopy-di scoop,” and “Scoop-diddy-whoop,” and “Whoop-di-scoop-di-poop.”
And my favorite—“poop-di scoopty.”
You see, with “Lift Yourself,” West is doing what is commonly referred to as ‘trolling.’ He’s having a laugh at the expense of his fans, his friends, and the growing population that cannot stand him.
Mere hours after unleashing “Lift Yourself” onto the masses, West actually did release what you could call a proper song—“Ye VS The People” debut at midnight on Power 106, and was made available to download and stream via the usual channels later on Saturday.
Throughout his career, West has made a lot of incredible and innovative music; however, his more recent output has been one of diminishing returns. The maligned, perplexing, and maddening Life of Pablo had moments that flickered of brilliance, but the whole thing was rushed and extremely unfocused; the work of someone operating without a safety net, without anyone telling him ‘no,’ and the work of someone who is, more than likely, having a slow moving mental health crisis.
Without a doubt, “Ye VS The People” is one of the worst songs in his nearly 15 year canon of solo material—truthfully, I’d rather take more poop-di scoopty songs over uninspired garbage like this.
* * *
Following his on-stage meltdown and hospitalization at the end of 2016, Kanye West had, for the most part, remained relatively quiet until he returned to Twitter, and, among other things, made outrageous claims about producing five albums all slated to be released in either May or June—one of which is a seven song solo album of his, one of which is a collaborative album with Kid Cudi, and one of which is the long gestating sophomore release from Pusha T.
The very idea that West will meet any of these release date deadlines is about as ludicrous as some of the other things he’s been sharing via Twitter—like philosophical non-sequiturs that he is calling a ‘philosophy book,’ as well as his admiration for Donald Trump—feelings that he is seeing the most push back on.
For a little over three minutes, “Ye VS The People” is, more or less, ‘stating the obvious’ set to a chopped up Four Tops sample, as West trades verbal spars with, of all people, T.I.
I mean, T.I. is fine and all I guess—he had some big hits throughout the mid-2000s that you may remember, but I think in a modern landscape, he’s less known for being a rapper than he is being an actor, entrepreneur, and the star of his own reality television series.
Through his thick, Atlanta drawl, on “Ye VS The People,” T.I. plays the ‘what everyone is thinking’ foil to West’s ‘Make America Great Again grandstanding.’ T.I., born Clifford Harris, sounds like he just woke up from a nap, and was pushed into a recording studio to deliver his lines. This is, quite literally, some of the most uninspired rapping I have ever heard in my entire life.
And why T.I.? Looking at this from a critical standpoint, a slightly more socially conscious rapper, like Common, for example, may have been a better counterpart for West, and may have added a little more weight to the delivery of the lyrics.
West, for his part, sounds like he’s having a blast—his vocals seem to be mixed either slightly louder, or he’s just yelling his point across, as he regales us with how he is no longer in ‘the sunken place,’ and no longer ashamed of sporting that now infamous red baseball cap given to him by Donald Trump.
The main conceit of “Ye VS The People” is that West is self-aware enough to realize that he is, more or less, at risk of doing damage to his legacy with his current mindset. He’s aware what is being said about him—that he’s in the middle of a mental collapse, and that he should think twice before aligning himself with Donald Trump.
To his defense, during one of his latest Twitter diatribes, West did clarify (after getting a call from his wife) that he doesn’t agree with Donald Trump on everything. However, if that’s the case, why is he even advertising his admiration for the man in the first place?
While West is aware of what his fans and friends are thinking, he just doesn’t give a shit. Towards the end of the song, he, according to whoever annotated this piece of shit on Genius, wants to know why his morals are being judged as opposed to other topics commonly rapped about (e.g. drugs, bitch fucking, violence, money.)
However, I see this stanza as West’s struggling to authenticate what he’s saying—he could rap about something else, but that isn’t him.
This is, at least for right now, the Kanye West we are dealing with.
Musically, the song goes nowhere—shuffling along lifelessly as the T.I. and West trade lines. There’s no refrain, and the song ends with no real resolution. West states that they could be ‘rappin’ about this all day,’ and the beat cuts off.
* * *
It’s tough to separate the artist from the art. West claims he’s still the ‘Ye from the telethon,’ meaning he’s the same person who looked into the camera and said that George W. Bush doesn’t care about black people. A little over a decade later, he’s paling around with and singing the praises of one of the worst people on the planet.
West’s new philosophy during this stage in his life is that he just wants to ‘love everybody.’ That is simply not possible, and through is metal breakdown and slow shift into being an outspoken, volatile conservative (whether he realizes it or not), he’s alienating his audience, as well as those close to him.
He claims that his seven song solo album will be out on June 1st; who is to say that this song will even be included on it. I certainly hope it isn’t. This is about as bad as a number of the forgettable tracks he released on Good Fridays leading up to 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. “Ye VS The People” is so ‘of this moment’ that it’s not going to age very well at all—the shelf life of this thing probably won’t even make it until June 1st.
I miss the old Kanye.
I’ll even take the unfocused, ego blown out of proportion, album premiere at Madison Square Garden over this; I’d take another Life of Pablo over a whole album of bullshit like “Ye VS The People.”
Poop-di scoopty, indeed.