The first definition of “good” in Webster’s Dictionary is “of favorable character or tendency.” When someone uses the word “good,” they generally mean satisfactory, perhaps a little better. However, since GOOD Music was founded in 2004 by Kanye West, “good” has assumed another identity, this time meaning “the dopest shit you’ve ever heard.” Recently fueled by Kanye’s latest “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” (which, unlike the label’s name, doesn’t make a cool acronym, so don’t bother trying), GOOD Music is becoming the label of choice for anyone who can get there. Like the black credit card from American Express, the benefits from being signed to Kanye West’s label are endless, you pretty much run the world. hit the jump...
The label kicked off with Common’s “Be,” and John Legend’s “Get Lifted,” which went Gold and Platinum respectively, and were both executive produced by Mr. Dark Twisted West himself. Kanye also handled the production on almost every single track on “Be,” except for a few memorable Dilla beats. Since then rap legends Pusha T and Mos Def have signed to the label, adding credibility to a lineup of once-unknowns like Kid Cudi, Mr. Hudson, and Big Sean.
The label is among the pioneers currently crafting modern commercial hip hop’s sound. GOOD provides an interesting mix of content. Throw on a Big Sean track and you’ll hear “I’m Quagmire, I fuck hoes, my cashflow I giggity get it,” (I Do It). However, Common (recently sparked a controversy when no one from Fox News thought a rapper should be allowed in the White House) will always remind you that rap and spoken word poetry have a shared ancestry. “The Chosen One from the land of the frozen Sun, where drunk nights get remembered more than sober ones. Walk like warriors, we were never told to run… Never looking back or too far in front of me. The present is a gift and I just want to be,” (Be). Then there are artists who cover both ends of the spectrum like Kid Cudi and Kanye himself. They can steal a laugh from you on tracks like “Make Her Say,” where Cudi informs us not only that “girl got a fat ol’ ass,” but that she is also “down for the stickin’.” Kanye on the same track contemplates “Hold up… Born in ’88, how old is that? Old enough.” This duo can bring the lights down too on tracks like “Gorgeous,” where Kanye spits “And what’s a black Beatle anyway? A fucking roach? I guess that’s why they got me sitting in fucking coach. My God said I need a different approach cuz people is looking at me like I’m sniffing coke.”
An underrated aspect of the GOOD family is their ability to recognize their lifestyle as often times shallow, but apply deep thought and reflection to it. This is a skill shared by nearly the entire lineup. Not a problem at all for Common, Mos Def, and John Legend, who are known for their depth and impressive way with words, but Kanye, Cudi, Pusha T, and Big Sean were all previously known for their commercially-accepted, easy-to-interpret content. Cudi was known for his straightforward emo rap-sing style, but continues to push the amount of depth and dark content in his tunes. Big Sean, who ends his verse on “Good Friday,” with “Hold up, that’s the girl you gave a wedding ring? Me and my ni**as nutted on her everything!” has since expanded his content, now exploring his quick road to fame and reflecting on how he got there. Pusha T was formerly the king of coke rap with his duo Clipse, but since joining GOOD has proved his knowledge in various other areas of life.
Perhaps the best example of the GOOD content would be Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” This album contains guest spots from anyone who has ever been associated with the GOOD fam, and from anyone who was ever considered “good” in hip hop. The entire album reflects this ability to embrace the shallow and flashy public lifestyle while being conscious of and accepting its negative effects and repercussions. On “Runaway,” Pusha T raps “Every bag, every blouse, every bracelet, comes with a price tag baby face it. You should leave if you can’t accept the basics. Plenty hoes in a baller ni**a Matrix. Invisibly set, the Rolex is faceless, I’m just young, rich, and tasteless.” Kanye on the same track raps “See I can have me a good girl, and still be addicted to them hood rats. And I just blame everything on you, at least you know that’s what I’m good at.”
Being deep and shallow, comedic and serious, rapping and singing, growing cocky and conceited and becoming humbled, these are all aspects that reflect the duality of the artists on GOOD Music. You might think that the label has a unifying sound, as many of the newer releases have an epic and grandiose feel to the overall sound and content, but GOOD Music is all over the place in the best way possible. Rather than make an audio collage of everything popular, important, and relevant, the artists on GOOD allow themselves to go through phases. Along the way they grab pieces of adulthood and childhood, good and evil, right and wrong, light and dark, but never care which side dominates their perspective. The cover both ends of hip hop when they do tracks with underground legends Talib Kweli, Q Tip, and Raekwon, and other tracks with commercial rap gods like Rick Ross, Jim Jones, and Jay Z. They are so powerful that they dictate what is right and wrong in commercial music, but are so insecure that they accidentally made emotion the most relevant topic in hip hop. Whatever Kanye and the GOOD fam move onto next, it will be honest, comedic, tragic, wildly popular, and probably pretty good.
by Ken Glauber