Ethan Hein recently wrote a massive blog post diving into some stylistic analysis of hip-hop, including a theoretical analysis of Kanye West's song Famous.
I find myself relating to so much of what Ethan Hein values in hip-hop. Not to mention, he is totally leveraging the power of the Internet to provide countless links and references to very dense ideas that he only mentions in passing. This kind of comprehensive, media rich, exposition really leverages the diverse range and content of media on the web.
This is a must read. Don't let Kanye West's "offensiveness" stop you from checking it out.
Hip-hop has been getting plenty of scholarly attention lately, but most of it has been coming from cultural studies. Which is fine! Hip-hop is culturally interesting. When humanities people do engage with hip-hop as an art form, they tend to focus entirely on the lyrics, treating them as a subgenre of African-American literature that just happens to be performed over beats. And again, that’s cool! Hip-hop lyrics have significant literary interest. (If you’re interested in the lyrical side, we recommend this video analyzing the rhyming techniques of several iconic emcees.) But what we want to discuss is why hip-hop is musically interesting, a subject which academics have given approximately zero attention to.
Much of what I find exciting (and difficult) about hip-hop can be found in Kanye West’s song “Famous,” from his latest album The Life Of Pablo. The song comes with a video, a ten minute art film that shows Kanye in bed sleeping after a group sexual encounter with his wife, his former lover, his wife’s former lover, his father-in-law turned mother-in-law, various of his friends and collaborators, Bill Cosby, George Bush, Taylor Swift, and Donald Trump. There’s a lot to say about this, but it’s beyond the scope of our presentation, and also, words fail me. I’ll just focus on the song itself.
Side note: I am also really impressed with those embedded Noteflight players that display the brief excerpts of notation. Go Noteflight!