Kanye West is viewed by many as an egotistical musician. Based on comments, such as the one above, it is easy to see why people think that. But is Yeezy telling the truth by saying this? He consistently is able to take art of different forms and make it his own. His ability to sample songs of all genres and decades is genius and second to none.
Kanye thrives on the idea of interactive art, sometimes known as Read/Write media. Read/Write media is made to be modified or used depending on an artist’s interpretation of that piece. In his book Remix, Lawrence Lessig encourages this Read/Write media; he argues that samples or references to another person’s work is meant to be interpreted in a different way to create a new piece of work.
Their meaning comes not from the content of what they say; it comes from the reference, which is expressible only if it is the original that gets used. Images or sounds collected from real-world examples become “paint on a palette.”
By sampling songs, Yeezy doesn’t just create new art; he exposes his listeners to the sampled piece. Whether the sampled song is one you know or one that you’ve never heard, that song is brought into the limelight because of Kanye. I personally have found new artists or new songs based on something that Kanye sampled. For example, you may not recognize the sampled song in “Otis” by Kanye West and JAY-Z.
If this song appeals to you, you have been exposed to a new song, artist and genre as heard below: all thanks to Kanye West.
So how does this make Kanye West the King of Sampling? For starters, he samples A LOT. He also uses multiple genres to create his music. From Ray Charles to Bon Iver, his knack for sampling songs and constructing a completely different song is incredible. While some of his samples are more obvious than others, he still uses all of these samples in a new and creative way. He can see beauty in an original piece of art, then use it to create something new, unique, and still beautiful. Does this ability to sample songs make Kanye West a genius and one of the greatest musicians of all time? I think so.