Potentially proving that he's finding recovery through creativity, TMZ is reporting that Kanye West is working on new music from his Bel-Air mansion. TMZ's source claims that Kanye has built a temporary studio in his home so that he can work on music as and when he wants to, and with the privacy he needs to get healthy again. As we all know by now, at the end of November, following the cancellation of the remainder of his Saint Pablo tour and a weeks worth of erratic behavior, Kanye was hospitalized due to exhaustion. The news that he could potentially be working on new music might seem a little surprising for a man recovering from such a medical issue, but it's actually exactly what we should expect from such an artist.
In fact, Kanye has regularly used music as a way of working through times of great turmoil and adversity. The TMZ report, if true, is also a great reminder that he's a musician first and foremost, and an incredibly talented one at that. Though his sometimes controversial exploits as a celebrity and one-half of the world's most publicized couple have often overshadowed his actual music in recent years, now feels like the best time for him to get back to his roots. It might currently be an incredibly difficult time for Kanye, but, as his music has time and again proved, he's more than capable of transforming a time of grief or recovery into powerful tracks.
In fact, it's worth remembering that Kanye began his career with a song born from an incredibly difficult time. In 2002, he was in a near fatal car accident that required him to have his jaw wired to his face during reconstructive surgery. Two weeks later, with his jaw still wired shut, Kanye recorded the song "Through The Wire," which would become the lead single from his groundbreaking debut album, The College Dropout.
In an interview with Yahoo! Music in 2004, Kanye described how the accident, and the song that came from it, impacted his life and career. And also how his music had the power to turn a truly terrible time into a fortuitous one:
To nearly lose your life, to nearly lose your mouth, your voice, your whole face, as a rapper...and I had to be on TV! My face looks crazy to me now... But I have to just thank God for the situation that I am in... "Through The Wire" is the worst thing that could've possibly happen to me, and now it's obviously the best thing. Look how it exploded!
Kanye instilled more of his personal struggles and anguish into his music in 2008, when he released the album 808's & Heartbreak, inspired by the turbulent events that his personal life endured in 2007. As well as splitting from fiancée Alexis Phifer, it was also the year that his much beloved mother, Donda, died due to complications from cosmetic surgery.
Astonishingly candid, the album also presented a different sound from Kanye. 808's & Heartbreak diverged from the straightforward hip hop style of his previous work and instead featured a more minimalist, electronic style, which included auto-tuned vocals. Though 2007 was clearly a distressing year for Kanye, his ability to pour those experiences and feelings into music produced a genuinely unique and raw album, full of authenticity and daring.
Which is exactly why it's so terrific to hear that he may be working on some material. As well as providing some form of catharsis for the artist (he once told MTV that 808's & Heartbreak was "therapeutic," further stating that "it's lonely at the top"), adversity and distress are clearly personal parameters that push his creative capabilities to rare and startling places.
That's not to say that Kanye has fallen into the category of the tortured artist or that he requires adversity and pain in order to ignite his genius. Far from it. It's more that difficult times appear to inspire him out of comfort zones, and that the resulting music we get from it is gratifying in a different way than when his work is inspired by more carefree and content moments in his life.
After all, without that near-fatal car crash which saw his jaw being wired shut, the world might only know Kanye as a music producer. The personal struggles he encountered during that time moved him from his comfort zone and pushed him to become the ferociously influential artist he is today. An,d in the case of 808's & Heartbreak, that album inspired a new generation of R&B and hip hop that was unafraid to be emotional, guttural or real. The Weeknd once even called 808's & Heartbreak "one of the most important bodies of work of my generation" for that very reason.
So, if Kanye is working on new music, and I sincerely hope he is, then it has the potential to not just be influential and inspiring for a whole new generation of artists, but also to people experiencing personal setbacks and struggles in their own lives, too. His music has always had that power, and, tapping into it right now, at a time when his life, career and health are continually rumored to be so fraught, isn't just the best thing for him as an artist, but also for us as his fans.