Juno-nominated Vancouver producer and MC Matt Brevner has posted a letter on Facebook taking umbrage with producer Bob Ezrin’s characterization of Kanye West as a talent whose “sophomoric” songs are destined to be forgotten 20 years hence.
Brevner is respectful of Ezrin’s own accomplishments, but the producer’s comments made him "sick to his stomach", partly because they came from a Canadian music industry icon.
Rather than quote Brevner's letter in bits and pieces, we'll post the whole Facebook letter below. It’s a good read and it should be noted that a pretty healthy exchange results on the page from readers weighing in for and against Ezrin and Brevner.
An open letter to Mr. Bob Ezrin
On behalf of the next generation of urban artists from Vancouver, BC, I feel the need to apologize on behalf of our city and let it be known that Mr. Bob Ezrin does not represent us or speak for us in any way. After reading your blog post Mr. Ezrin, and knowing that Mr. West had seen it and responded to it, truly made me feel embarrassed for my city for the first time in my life. To infer that Macklemore and MC Hammer have had more of a cultural effect on hip-hop music than Kanye West is near blasphemy. To say that Kanye West isn't an artist is not only ridiculous, it's offensive. What then defines an artist Mr. Ezrin? Long before this new era of where, to use your words Mr. Ezrin, "you can be a star today by just creating a public life that people pay attention to…" where " all you have to do is be interesting or likeable or shocking enough and you can have your 15 minutes of fame", Mr. West changed the cultural landscape of our genre. In a time where gangster rap reigned supreme, a metrosexual fashionista with a "pink polo and a backpack" changed the criteria of what a rapper looks like. Talking on subjects like working a minimum wage job and exposing your deepest insecurities for all of the world to see was something that the hip-hop world would have previously considered a career ender. To be frank, there is no Macklemore, Lupe Fiasco, Kendrick Lamar, (you could even argue that there is no Jay-z as we know him today) without Kanye's influence on the art form. Yes, hip-hop IS an art form and yes, Kanye west IS an artist.
To state that you just don't get it would be a severe understatement. It boggles my mind and truly saddens me that someone as talented and accomplished as yourself could be so ignorant. Artists like myself coming from Western Canada look to you as a member of our industry's vanguard, which is why reading your statement truly made me feel sick to my stomach. It read as the ramblings of an out-of-touch father in the 50's who thought that the Beatles made bad music because they had funny haircuts. Clearly Sir Paul understands, and to quote him directly, he stated that "writing with Kanye West is like working with John Lennon." Sadly, you are completely missing the point. To say that "Kanye's greatest achievements have been in the form of excessive behaviour, egomaniacal tantrums and tasteless grandstanding" must mean that his 21 Grammies don't mean shit. I beg to differ.
I hate to break it to you, but over 75 percent of the attendees of your school are paying your bills so that they can hope to grow up and have one tenth of the cultural impact that Kanye West has had. How do you not understand that? Charging kids’ tens of thousands of dollars for an education that provides no guaranteed job placement or income after is a form of "culture vulturey" that I could never condone nor understand. You are quite literally bankrupting children in the name of "hopes and dreams". In my opinion, a non for profit structure would be a much more genuine way to truly "give back" to your community, but who am I to judge? Get your money, Bob.
I am not writing this to defend the antics or personality of someone whom I have never met, but to make clear that one’s antics / personality / lifestyle does not in any way dictate the quality of their art. Does John Lennon's homophobic and anti-Semitic past make him a bad songwriter? Does Kurt Cobain's struggle with drug abuse make Nirvana less impactful? Does Elton John being gay make him lesser of a pianist? Does Ali's rhetoric make him less of a boxer? Does Tiger woods sexual addiction make him an average golfer? Did Jimi Hendrix's drug problem mean he was a shit guitar player? I could go on but I'm hoping that you get my point by now.
I understand that this may be seen as opportunistic, but I am honestly just reacting to the situation in real time as it develops, as I feel a duty and responsibility to clear the black eye that you have brought upon the creatives of our city. We need to be encouraging to the artists and next generation of talent. We need to lead by example, and give credit where credit is due. If you, Mr. Ezrin, were from anywhere in the world other than Vancouver, I wouldn't have given your words any weight, or taken personal offence to them. This isn't about Kanye West; this is about Vancouver. It concerns me greatly that you are shaping the next generation of artists from our city, and letting them know that if they don't fit into the mold which you have set forth for what an artist should look like, that they are inadequate. That is purely incorrect, and you, sir, with all due respect are out of touch.