Setup Introduction by Joe Johnson:
The following opinion piece was written by Nikki Denet. Beatle Brunch listeners / readers may know Nikki for her excellent behind the scenes coverage of two significant Macca events: Paul’s secret performance for Ringo’s 70th birthday, and Paul guest starring and playing on The Colbert Report. Nikki’s a young Beatle fan, so her take on Paul working with Kanye will more than likely differ from anyone’s opinion who’s over 50. I’ve heard the Kanye song “All Day”. It doesn’t do anything for me, (I can’t even count the amount of “N” words in it) BUT, the fact that The Beatles made it very clear that they were inspired by rhythm and blues, or music by black artists of the 50’s and early 60’s when they started out (they covered The Isley Brothers, Larry Williams, The Shirelles, The Donays, Smokey Robinson, Little Richard and dozens more and even told Larry Kane in 1964 that they would boycott their September 11, 1964 concert at The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville if there was going to be any segregation), gives us pause to consider the current musical synergy between Sir Paul and Sir-Interupptus. We’ve loaded the song on our website if you dare listen. It’s on The Vox amp on the upper left corner of our home page http://www.brunchradio.com. Now Nikki, “I’mma let you finish”.
Now: Nikki Denet’s special article to Beatle Brunch:
“All Day,” Kanye West’s latest and greatest new track from his upcoming seventh album “So Help Me God,” features Paul, Allan Kingdom and Theophilus London, and samples a 45-year-old demo Paul made that was an experiment in trying to write a song using only two fingers on the guitar, which eventually became “When The Wind Is Blowing,” from the Rupert The Bear soundtrack. Unlike his other Kanye-collaborations “Only One,” and “FourFiveSeconds,” (the latter including Rihanna, landing the trio in the top-5), “All Day,” is much more lyric-heavy, high-powered and beat-driven than its predecessors, making it almost reminiscent of 2013’s “Yeezus,” and is a clear sign that, unlike the first two tracks, Paul hasn’t gotten Kanye to mellow on us completely.
The general reception of this collaboration – certainly among longtime McCartney/Beatles fans – has been mixed, with confusion and for some, even outrage. Of course, it can’t be denied that it’s an unusual pairing, and it’s human nature to judge what we don’t know (“we mock what we don’t understand”, to borrow a phrase). Hip-hop is one of the few musical genres that Paul has previously never attempted to conquer, but let’s be honest, it was inevitable that he would. Paul McCartney didn’t get to where he is by placing musical limits on himself, and even at 72 years old, he continues to strive towards exercising and challenging himself creatively. Quite simply, it would be un-Paul-like of him to continue to make contemporary music without venturing into what has become such a powerful force in the music industry.
It would certainly make sense that Paul would begin to work with – and pass on his creative savoir-faire to – younger artists at this point in his career. Hip-hop has become synonymous with contemporary music, even if contemporary music is highly criticized, since it is music that is not made with the conventional forms of “skill” and “talent” that some associate with music that is considered to be worthy of being labeled “good.” Nevertheless, contemporary music is based, as it was in years past, on utilizing and taking advantage of what modern technology has afforded us. The Beatles themselves were notorious – and celebrated – for using new methods of recording techniques and developing methods to assist them in deviating from the traditional ways in which music was recorded. Similarly, Hip-hop is a genre that challenges the conventional creative mold completely, which likely led to the delay in it being accepted as a legitimate musical category (The Grammys did not even recognize rap/hip-hop music until they introduced the “Best Rap Performance” in 1989,) and in decades since, has advanced, cultivated and transcended from a popular genre into a universally celebrated lifestyle. Kanye West is undeniably at the forefront of this influence, and continues to indulge himself in every single aspect of the creative process of making a hip-hop record, so if Paul were likely to collaborate with anyone on his foray into the genre, few people would’ve likely been more qualified.
Critics may believe this is Paul’s embarrassing attempt at “staying relevant,” but then, what artist doesn’t work at staying relevant? On the other hand, for someone who has achieved as much as Paul has at this point, no matter what kind of music he creates, should there even be a question as to whether or not he’s attained relevance? It’s actually pretty amazing that Paul chooses not to spend this point of his career upholding some unachievable standard that deems him “too good,” to work with contemporary artists. Considering his age and his legendary status in popular music, the fact that he is still modest in his willingness to continue to contribute to a genre that he’s played such an significant role in revolutionizing is rather incredible. The man is no snob, especially when it comes to his music.
Love it or hate it, one thing that it indisputable is that this collaboration shouldn’t be surprising. Both Kanye and Paul have been both directly and indirectly associating themselves with the other for years now. Paul has been vocal about the fact that he’s been a fan of Kanye’s, even name-dropping Kanye and Jay-Z’s 2011/2012 “Watch The Throne,” tour as one of his favorite concerts that he attended (and one could assume Paul might’ve gotten the idea to incorporate a mini rising stage during his concert from attending this tour, which featured an identical set up.) Likewise, Kanye has been incorporating Paul into his music as far back as 2003, when he was still working as the in-house producer for Roc-A-Fella records. “Encore,” one of two tracks he produced for Jay Z’s critically-acclaimed “Black Album,” features a sample of John Holt’s cover of Paul’s “I Will,” (officially credited to Lennon-McCartney). Additionally, in 2006, Kanye recorded his live album, “Late Orchestration,” at Abbey Road Studio’s, with the album cover depicting Kanye’s mascot and trademark, the Dropout Bear, emulating the album cover of The Beatles’ “Abbey Road.”
Kanye achieved much of his early success (first as a producer, and then as a rapper) in hip-hop by sampling artists that you wouldn’t hear on a typical hip-hop record; fusing them into his music to create a unique sound that appeals to hip-hop as well as mainstream popular music. Over the course of his career, he has sampled and incorporated an eclectic mix of songs into his music such as Elton John’s ”Someone Saved My Life Tonight” (“Good Morning”), Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne” (“Champion”), Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothings” (“Bound 2”), Nina Simone’s cover of “Strange Fruit” (“Blood On The Leaves”), Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up” (“Touch The Sky”), and Bon Iver’s “Woods” (“Lost In The World”) among countless others. Additionally, every one of Kanye’s albums details a distinct musical progression that most contemporary artists fail at attaining. This is predominantly why Kanye is consistently credited with changing the face of hip-hop, because he aims to defy the convention of what tradition deems as “good” music and like Paul, he is constantly searching for new outlets to showcase his creativity.
Since it’s clearly Kanye’s M.O. to sample songs from highly respected artists, it’s expected that a product of his and Paul’s collaboration would be a track that samples one of Paul’s original songs. “All Day,” does what “Only One,” and “FourFiveSeconds,” didn’t do: refuses to play it safe. From a creative perspective, “Only One,” and “FourFiveSeconds,” are both songs that are not lyric-heavy, and they do not attempt to deviate that far from Paul’s comfort zone as much as it does Kanye’s. Paul is kept safely in the background on tracks, and Paul’s fans who are not familiar with hip-hop or Kanye’s music can listen to it without much cause for complaint. In contrast, “All Day,” changes this formula completely, and rightfully so. It transcends the invisible boundary that musical genres dictate, it challenges and adds yet another facet to Paul’s musical breadth (something that is quite difficult to achieve in a 50 plus year career). It familiarizes Paul’s fans with a contemporary genre that they may have been previously ill-versed in, and it also transforms and pushes his lesser-known 45-year-old tune onto the mainstream stage and into the ears of a brand new audience. Check out the views and recent comments on any YouTube video of Paul’s 1999 Parkinson Show appearance (where he demonstrated the “Where The Wind Is Blowing” passage). The song is doing its job already.