The summer after my sophomore year in college it took me forever to find a summer job. I was rejected all over the bustling metropolis of Pulaski... from fast food to retail, NO one wanted me to be gainfully employed. During this time of unemployment I did some serious work watching Dawson's Creek but ALSO got to spend a lot of time with my parents' CRAZY Labrador Retriever as a puppy. For anyone that hasn't had the joy of experiencing this, imagine beating yourself in the head with a tack hammer while cleaning up shit and this kind of comes close to replicating this situation. Every day though, no matter how fucked up the dog got he would inevitably pull some incredibly cute/endearing act that would make me feel like a jerk for being ready to sacrifice him to Odin.... and deep down, I knew he was a sweet dog.
This relationship is similar to my feelings toward Kanye West in 2008... When I first started to hear the tracks leaking off of 808s and Heartbreak I was frustrated. This artist, to whom I had developed quite an attachment over the years was storming around my musical house, chewing up shoes and just making a general mess of things. The funny thing though was that I found myself defending these singles and later the album (which I've come to really appreciate and kind of like) because I knew who he really was. Kanye had become that bad dog who disappointed me one minute while simultaneously reminding me why I have loved him from the get-go. His ego and inventiveness that I loved so much on his previous efforts was what led him astray on 808s just like the inherently cute puppyness of that psycho lab was what led him to drive me to the brink of insanity.
I didn't have to go far to confirm this thanks to the #3 song of the year "American Boy." This is Kanye at his illest. On this track, he shows us that his flow remains one of the best in the game (which does make it all the more frustrating to hear him singing it through an effing vocoder on 808s). He also miraculously makes the tried and not really true formula of rapped verse + R&B chorus sound remarkably fresh and inventive, utilizing the strength of Estelle's smokey English croon to sexually charge the already provocative lyrics. To add to this, this song is also home to my favorite rap-a-long bar of the year, "look at this pea coat tell me he's broke."* Ultimately, if "American Boy" did nothing else this year, it served as a fantastic reminder that no matter how often Kanye pulls the moody and difficult act he can still bring it and spit with the best of them.
*Seriously, how cool is it that he references pea coats?