Quincy Jones on Kanye West: 'He's just a rapper'
Image Credit: Albert L. Ortega/PR Photos; Chris Hatcher/PR PhotosQuincy Jones does not like being compared to Kanye West. In a recent Us magazine interview, a reporter dared to utter the words, “Kanye West is similar to you in that he’s the producer everybody wants to work with in the last decade…” The famed producer’s retort: “How, man? No way. Did he write for a symphony orchestra? Does he write for a jazz orchestra? Come on, man. He’s just a rapper. There’s no comparison.” Ouch.
“I’m not putting him down or making a judgment or anything, but we come from two different sides of the planet,” Jones continued. “I spent 28 years learning my first skill. I don’t rap. It’s not the same thing. A producer has to have some sort of skills that enable him to be a producer. It’s totally different to know what to do with 16 woodwinds you know from piccolos down to bass clarinet. It’s a whole different mindset. No comparison. None.”
With all due respect, I wonder how closely Jones has been listening if he really thinks Kanye West is “just a rapper.” West first became known for his remarkable talents as a producer. Opinions may vary on the quality of his lyrics, but it’s just not credible to deny that the man is an expert behind the studio boards. He actually does know what to do with 16 woodwinds, believe it or not!
Jones later posted a more conciliatory note on his website (h/t Stereogum). “I’d appreciate it if people didn’t take my comments about Kanye West (@KanyeWest) or anyone else for that matter out of context to contrive a story,” he wrote. “I have nothing but respect for my little brother Kanye and what he has achieved in his young career and I look forward to watching his evolution as an artist. There is a reason why we put him on the new We Are The World 25 for Haiti — he’s a great rapper. But having been in the music business for more than 60 years and having been fortunate to accomplish what I have over that time, it’s not unreasonable to put a comparison of Kanye at this time in his career and myself into the proper perspective. This is not dissing Kanye, this is simply trying to express that I’m not a rapper! I don’t need to take anyone else’s props away from them. Let’s all just try and keep the record straight.”
That makes a lot more sense. I’ll forgive the 77-year-old legend for being a little crotchety about rap music, however wrong he is. And he’s right that West needs to keep doing great work for another decade or two before his discography is truly comparable to Jones’, in terms of sheer longevity if nothing else. Kanye himself might well agree about that.
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