Hearing "Love Lockdown," the new Kanye West single, at Busboys & Poets yesterday during the Hunt For Progressive America reminded me to say something about the daring turn Kanye’s taken over the last year. It’s not at all original to note that Kanye has heralded a return to eclecticism and vulnerability in hip-hop while proving that such bends in the river can lead to massive commercial success. "Love Lockdown" really, really proves it. An ode to the end of an affair, it sounds as if Stevie Wonder guested on Kid A. It’s fantastic. (He previewed it, in a capella form, at the Democratic National Convention show I was lucky enough to attend.)
Also, I gather he produced the new Jay-Z single, "Swagger Like Us," which brilliantly samples M.I.A.’s "Paper Planes" and throws its out-of-place-immigrant-striver-anxiety/self-conscious-hustle-as-a-front message into the context of… Jay-Z, Kanye, T.I. and Lil Wayne reminding you how rich and cool they are. Now that’s balls: recognizing that you’re both part of the problem and in on the joke. He did it before on "Diamonds From Sierra Leone," but this is the next step upward. Kanye’s next record is going to be his Talking Book or his Beggars Banquet or his London Calling, I’m convinced — something people will listen to for inspiration in 30, 40, 50 years.