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Kanye West has done something that almost no one else in modern music has. He’s gotten people to care about him and his music.

That’s right, in an era where the traditional music industry – think CDs, music videos, multi-platinum success, must-see tours and as much exposure as The Situation’s midsection – has all but vanished (just ask Nelly and 50 Cent, among others), West remains one of the most polarizing figures not only in music, but also in entertainment. Most importantly, especially for West, is that people love to talk about Kanye West.

Rap fans. Music fans. Music critics. Bloggers. Network news anchors. Musicians. The Today show. Shoot, even President Bush -- and especially Kanye West. That’s right. They all love to talk about Kanye West.

They love to discuss his music, his fashion, his attitude, his snobbery, his run-in with Taylor Swift, his egocentricity, the merits of his mini-movie Runaway (below)... It doesn’t really matter. People just love to talk about West, which is one of the main reasons why he – and his music – remain so popular.

Of course, the fact that his music is among the best, especially in rap, in the last decade makes much of the attention warranted. Then there’s his production savvy (beyond his own music, Jay-Z, Ludacris and Alicia Keys are among those who have benefitted from his sonic superiority), his witty wordplay (he’s one of the few modern rappers whose rhymes people actually quote) and his willingness to poke fun at himself (admitting he sent naked pictures of himself to a lady friend on the song “Runaway”), which is increasingly rare in the modern rap world.

There’s his supreme confidence in himself – at least outwardly – to take chances. After all, Runaway was far removed from the direct-to-DVD, hoodtastic cinematic fare typical of Master P and his throng of imitators -- including even West’s mentor Jay-Z. Runaway featured almost no dialog, Selita Ebanks as a mute bird-human hybrid (who happened to be sporting very little clothing) and a story that could have been conveyed in five minutes, not the 34 it lasted. But yet again, Runaway accomplished something very important in our ADD world: it got people talking, talking about Kanye West.

All of which leads to the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, West’s fifth album. Wait, people still make albums in 2010? And release them on CD? Really?

When West launched his Good Friday initiative earlier this year, claiming he would release a new song every Friday until the end of 2010, it gave music fans something to look forward to: free music weekly from one of the music world’s most interesting, talented and well-connected musicians. But of course West squashed Good Friday before people even got to thinking, “Thank God it’s Friday.”

No matter. The awareness surrounding My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (and its “banned” album artwork) remains remarkably high for an album released in 2010 amid the seeming lack of interest in albums these days.

And that’s what makes West so remarkable. When the rest of the music world is falling on its face, West arrives with a rant, an attitude and music powerful and noteworthy enough to get – and keep – everyone talking.

 

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