I'm still not entirely sure what to make of Kanye West. He's a temperamental ego-tripping maniac, but at least he's not run through some triple-filtered publicity wringer until he's just another generic pop star. He's done a lot to turn modern hip hop into some kind of bizarre disco-robot fashion-show spectacle, but if Afrika Bambaataa got started today people might wonder what the fuck was up with the dude in the Mad Max/Pharoah/punk rock costume spinning Giorgio Moroder tracks in between James Brown breaks. And 808s & Heartbreak -- well, that could be one of the messiest disasters of the year, or it could be my generation's There's A Riot Goin' On. Who knows with this dude anymore?
I will say that his production style is more or less amazing in my eyes (or ears), though. Up through Late Registration, I figured he was a solid-enough beatmaker with interesting sample sources, albeit a little too reliant on the "chipmunk soul" concept the RZA already mastered back in the mid '90s. But as this immaculately-assembled montage of pop reconstruction proves, he goes a bit deeper than that: we all know about how "Through the Wire" and "Gold Digger" were built around Chaka Khan and Ray Charles, but I didn't know how much of his more recent work owed to underrated prog/AOR mainstay Alan Parsons. And though the "Move on Up" horns were pretty blatant in "Touch the Sky", I had no idea that those woozy, fluttering strings that opened "Flashing Lights" originated in "Little Child Runnin' Wild" -- and I adore the hell out of Super Fly. There's some additional interesting surprises in here (Laura Nyro!), and now it makes me want to see more montages like this for some other producers I enjoy. Maybe someone could put something like this together for Madlib -- though seeing as how prolific he's been since his Lootpack days, it might wind up running six hours or so.
(Might wanna watch this one ASAP; there's a Prince clip in it and that means its days on YouTube are probably numbered.)