When Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music launched with the releases of Be and Get Lifted, many of us knew we finally had an imprint that, although nestled in the organic, textured warmth of Soul music, had enough commericial viability to push its sound and signed artists to the masses without dumbing itself down. Recent releases by Common, John Legend and Kanye himself have divided fans, and with Consequence's recent move to Motown (he's still G.O.O.D.), we have to ask if he's the remaining original act from the roster to stay the course.
Common: A great deal has already been said about Universal Mind Control with plenty of blame to go around. One of the most interesting opinions bandied about is that, even though Kanye West wasn't involved production-wise, the culture of "New Kanye" weighs the album down with a sonic landscape that is upbeat, "hip" and Pop-leaning. In order to give it a pass, we have to make room for the idea that the album was released a season or two too late, and that this was intended as a party joint. At any rate, many of us have rocked out to "The Corner", a song with an extremely low BPM but enough bump to keep the party going. In moving forward, perhaps we can look forward an album that cleverly balances the intentions without polarizing the fans.
Kanye West: People that believe change is a good thing are wrong. People that believe change is a bad thing are also wrong. Change is change, but the best sort is evolution. Evolution is when an artist pushes themselves creatively while, at the core, maintaining that thing we always loved about them. Much has been made about Kanye's coinage of "Pop Art" as a genre of music along with his insistence that he is bored with Hip Hop. Add that to an increasingly out of control public persona and an album that experiments with an otherwise ubiquitous vocal trend, and you have an artist that is able to goad us into fierce debates on the merits of his output. Many of us have given up trying to reconcile Kanye the Artist with Kanye the Person and have focused our interests on artists that have been taking the avant garde approach for years without as much pretense, fanfare or self-aggrandization.
John Legend: The irony of Evolver is that John Legend's evolution is old hat (or current hat) to many R&B and Soul artists. Luckily for him, he has the sort of voice and delivery that dignifies even the most trite material. Ultimately, we have to wonder if capitulating to a broader audience can even be viewed as creative upward mobility, especially when the artist in question has enough solid work and respect under his belt to not warrant such change. Who knows in what lane we'll next meet John Legend, but stepping from behind the piano and employing a host of popular collaborators is called a "good business decision" above anything else.
Consequence... should have a lot going for him at this point in the game. Being Q-Tip's cousin and appearing on two ATCQ albums has to count for something in the grand scheme of Hip Hop, not to mention a notable turns on Kanye's first two releases and a guestspot on Beyoncé's "Suga Mama" remix. But none of these associations translated into enough recognition for Don't Quit Your Day Job, an album featuring a few occurances of classic Kanye production as well as a solid choice for a single. Perhaps the two things holding the album back creatively are Consequence's flow, which remains virtually unchanged throughout the course of the album, and the fact that he's just kind of been "hanging around" for about fifteen years. He has bounced around from label to label, finally landing on Motown where his next release will be executive produced by G.O.O.D. founder West and a rejuvenated Q-Tip. This sounds like the perfect combination of talents and should hopefully gain Consequence his rightful place among his peers. That is, until G.O.O.D. releases the Farnsworth Bentley album