Published on July 15th, 2013 | by Paige Simon2
Axl vs. Kanye: Get in the Ring!
Kanye West is this generation’s Axl Rose.
Think about it; on a surface level, W. Axl Rose was usually angry and outspoken, sporting delusions of grandeur, but he was an undeniably talented rock icon. West is similarly aggressive and blunt, and both men have been the source of ‘incidents’ in public, with a special fetish for award show idiocy. Both are known for having explosive tempers, and allegedly being domestic abusers. And both have been addicted to ego as a more powerful drug than crack. Oh, and I suppose both have been fashion icons as well, if you count a kilt as fashionable (only my Scottish uncle Mort seems to).
Musically, they’ve both crafted gritty songs and they’ve both mined the fields of overproduction, with Rose topping out at his infamous Chinese Democracy and the overblown Use Your Illusions albums that ramped up the pomp and circumstance at a time when rock music was stripping down. My Dark Twisted Fantasy is a lot like these Guns albums, it’s sometimes amazingly brilliant, and sometimes so silly and overblown that you have to laugh. Both soar from beautiful heights like Slash’s guitar melodies in ‘Estranged’, to West using Bon Iver’s dulcet vocals — to understanding that there’s also value in things that grate on you. Both Guns n’ Roses and Kanye take advantage of industrial noise and screeching vocals to reach a dissonant effect, playing the whole spectrum.
Like Rose, West has moments of lyrical insight, but also moments of bottomless stupidity, not to mention an penchant for misogyny. “Have you ever had sex with a Pharaoh? Put the pussy in a sarcophagus.” He’s going to beat the shit out of that pussy, until you have to put it in a tomb. Rose also wanted to put his pussy in the ground in the song, “Used to Love Her (But I Had to Kill Her). To paraphrase Tom Arnold in True Lies, I’d love to meet the bitch that fucked these dudes up. And I still can’t decide if Kanye’s line from Yeezus’ ‘New Slaves’ is amazing or fucking stupid. “You see there’s leaders and there’s followers, but I’d rather be a dick than a swallower.” Maybe it’s a bit of both.
However, Rose and West could each open up those fuming, chased personas with surprising openness and honesty that helped to elevate them above their Top 40 contemporaries. Most popular songs are content to revel in the happy endings of love (or at least, the straight-up ‘Every Rose Has its Thorn’ broken-hearted regret), but Rose and West mine their own complicated emotions and fuck ups for greater song craft. As a listener, you may not identify with having to call a bunch of lawyers to sort out your romantic shit, but you definitely understand that level of hulk rage or despondent sadness. It takes balls and honesty to reach such a level of truth.
I’m not trying to say either Rose or West are great, or terrible, but they’ve both been capable of each. And they both have made popular music more interesting for it, not only from the vapid Entertainment Tonight news POV, but also in the music itself. They’re both dicks (not swallowers) but they’ve both been world-class entertainers. Wait…has Kanye ever had cornrows? Because that would blow this thing wide open.
“Man, I’m the Number One living and breathing rock star. I am Axl Rose; I am Jim Morrison; I am Jimi Hendrix.” – Kanye West