As a hip-hop producer, Kanye West's near-ubiquity -- producing hits for Twista, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Talib Kweli, and Alicia Keys -- isn't surprising; like a hip-hop high-wire act, his productions effortlessly balance walloping, riddim-fueled momentum and supersized choruses with more nuanced samples and deceptively intricate drum patterns. But as an MC, Mr. West's ascent is somewhat of a surprise. With a flow that dips in the middle -- slow and syrupy -- before rising for the inevitable punch line with a gleeful drawl, West sounds more like Bad Boy castaway Ma$e than P. Diddy's other protégé, the late, great Christopher Wallace.
In this age of crunk and gangsta revivalism, it doesn't help West's case that his lyrics betray a certain thematic complexity, alternately accepting and rejecting his peers' conspicuous consumerism and reconciling his middle-class, Judeo-Christian upbringing with hip-hop's nihilistic archetypes.
But West's secret is that he clings to the only rule that matters for an artist: Speak from your heart on what you know. Or, in hip-hop terms: Kanye doesn't front. -- Sam Chennault
Catch Kanye West, Ying Yang Twins, Petey Pablo, T.O.K., Jadakiss, 8Ball & MJG, and Pit Bull at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 27, at the University of Miami Convocation Center, 1245 Walsh Ave., Coral Gables. Tickets cost $15. Call 305-284-8686.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.