Yeah, I like "Pyramids" a lot. But I think her point was the same as the one made in that pitchfork article, or at least a very similar one: that calling something a classic after a week and tossing a 9.5 on an album that. quite frankly, is very far from perfect, is a damaging practice. It's easy to see how an artist's growth could get stunted in pursuit of what they have been told is masterful.
I feel like "classic" can replace the word "amazing" in this Louis CK sketch:
I think what makes an album a classic is something that takes elements from different genres to form one sound, speaks to people on a personal level (i.e.Pinkerton, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Silent Alarm, Is This It and in my opinion, Blink's Self-Titled), and the production of an album. I mean, I think any person can kind of tell what's a pretty standard produced song compared to one that's been worked over and over again, has many tracks to it, etc. I will say though that there hasn't a classic album that has hit the mainstream harder since Nevermind.
Now that I'm home and have time to do so, I'll give my answer to the main question of the thread. What makes an album a classic comes down to the influence it has on music in the years that follow it.
To go back to my statement about Kanye's first 2 albums vs. MBDTF: College Dropout was a complete breakthrough. Before that album, mainstream hip hop was all about the "gangsta" subgenre. Despite having the best connections in the industry, Kanye had an incredibly hard time actually getting a record deal as a rapper. Finally, Roc-a-fella hesitantly signed him. When he was finally able to release his album, it just blew up. It was everywhere. With that album, he proved to a doubtful hip hop industry that you could sell millions of records without excessive gangster bravado. Case in point: the big 9/11/2007 sales showdown with 50 Cent. When Kanye and 50 both released their albums on the same day, the industry was very unsure of what the outcome would be. Many people expected 50's Curtis to greatly outsell Kanye. I mean, 50 was just the image of hip hop at the time. However, Kanye made much more accessible, relatable, and not to mention critically-acclaimed music. When Kanye handily outsold 50, it changed the focus of hip hop from a hardcore gangster image to a more suburban, pop-based approach. (It's important to note that Kanye's sales were strong off the success and positive reception of the first two, making them more important to our discussion than Graduation.)
By that point, he had also changed the nature of hip hop production. His unique style of beats featuring soul samples became huge in the genre. Everyone wanted Kanye West beats, and if they couldn't get them, they got an imitation. College Dropout and Late Registration were both albums full of K. West beats, and for that reason, they were hugely influential, and eventually considered classics.
That's my case for College Dropout and Late Registration: they had a huge influence on hip hop (and pop) music as a whole. I have yet to see significant reverberations from MBDTF on music. (I know some people will argue that it has indeed had a similar effect, and I'll be happy to entertain the thought.) Also, venturing into my personal opinion here, but I don't think the rapping is as strong on MBDTF as on the first 3 albums. And unlike those first 3, there are actually a few songs on it that I could take or leave.
To get more back to the point here, I think personal opinion of the strength of an album isn't quite enough to make it a classic. Jay-Z has 3 classic albums: his debut, Reasonable Doubt; 2001's Kanye/Just Blaze helmed The Blueprint; and his faux-retirement album, The Black Album. Now in my opinion, 2007's American Gangster does stand some ground with The Blueprint and The Black Album. But that's just my opinion, and it's not overwhelmingly popular. It doesn't have the popular acclaim or the influence it takes to hold the same iconic place in music history. AG is not and never will be hailed as a classic, just a pretty solid Jay-Z album.
I think, with Kanye West, him playing the role of producer all those years before he got the chance to be himself and be an artist in his own right has helped him become who is today. There are so many hip hop artists/ rappers who wouldn't be where they are today either without his influence. Plus, he kind of brought the sample back too. There's a difference between a sample like what the Beastie Boys were doing compared to what Puff Daddy was doing where he was stealing songs basically and making a song of his own after of it you know. I know Puff Daddy was probably a bad example haha.
I agree with the other people who have said that what makes an album classic is what represents not only a snapshot of someone's life, but can continuously be applied down the road to situations that emulate the same sorts of feelings and not lose relevance. For me, I can connect with Siamese Dream right now the same way I did when I first listened to it at 13 or 14. The same for Discovering the Waterfront from 17 to now, and as of lately I believe I'll feel the same way about Clash Battle Guilt Pride and Shed years later.
I'm also kind of swayed by the element of other people liking it and giving it acclaim as well. Obviously that's easier to prove for my Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, and Zeppelin favorites, but with bands that will never reach that status like Silverstein, Balance and Composure, and Moving Mountains (who have albums I see becoming classics for me), it's harder to justify, but I guess that's not really the point.
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