Despite the fun I’ve had poking fun at him, I don’t hate Kanye West. Seriously. I think he is easily one of the best hip-hop producers of the new millennium with above average mic skills. But everyone needs to know their lane and Mr. West just swerved out of his like that night six years ago when he busted his jaw. This is not hate: Kanye West SHOULD NOT sing.

After breaking his boycott of the VMA’s (wait, is it a boycott if you’ve been to all of them?) in exchange for bringing an end to one of the worst broadcasts in MTV history, Yeezy took the stage drenched in a single spotlight with a blinking heart pinned to his chest. Somewhere Liberace is applauding. But with a finger on the auto-tune button he ran into his new single, “Love Lockdown” to the screams of the lemmings in the audience.

For someone with such a strong sense of melody he was horribly off-key until the computer kicked in. And if you could get past the vocal performance to listen to the words the song makes no damn sense:

I’m not lovin you, the way I wanted to

What I had to do, had to run from you

I’m in love with you, but the vibe is wrong

And that haunted me, all the way home

So ya never know, never never know

Never know enough, til its over love

Til we lose control, system overload

Da fuck? Syntax error indeed. This will be a hit at the karaoke bar because when you sound awkward in front of your drunk friends, you’ll sound JUST LIKE THE ORIGINAL.

However, none of this is Kanye’s fault, as evidenced by the applause and screams. This is all of our faults for letting vocal mediocrity in music slide for so long. It is just enough to get by, to be “aight” on the mic cuz our ears have been desensitized since Barry White and Luther died. The people who make careers singing are barely singing these days so the rappers figure “why not me?”

Remember that debacle called Best of Both Worlds? Jay-Z took it upon himself to sing on “Honey”-badly. At first I took it as a joke, a-la Erick Sermon vamping Luther Vandross on “Sowhachasayin?” But Jay-Z, (who is LL’s only real contender for the G.O.AT) kept doing it throughout the song. He was FEELIN himself and nobody pulled him to the side and said “umm, you got R. Kelly standing right there. Maybe you should step back in the booth and do that rain man thing you’re so good at and leave that to the pee-pee bandit.”

That was 2002. Six years later T-Pain (who I give props for simply pimpin’ the system) has anyone with a mic thinking they can sing. And when I say sing I don’t mean holding a note for a couple bars on a hook (Mos, Pharoahe, love you like cooked food but don’t get carried away). These fools really think we want to hear whole songs/albums of them shrieking into a microphone. I think what bothers me is that Kanye stood there taking him self SO SERIOUSLY. I can hang with Pharrel’s bad Curtis Mayfield impersonations because at the end of the day he’s just having fun. But nothing is just for fun to Kanye. He is an artiste and we should be grateful to hear anything he graces this world with. Untitled Please.

It’s gotten so bad that you got Ne-Yo telling Lil Wayne to sit down over his own beat. (He sounds ridiculous rapping, too, but I think that was his point.)

I am pleading with any rappers contemplating a career change to ask themselves these questions first: If you hadn’t gotten respect as a rapper first and this was the first impression of your talent to the world, would you still sing? Would Quincy Jones, whose taste runs the gamut from Michael Jackson to Al. B Sure, be impressed by your singing ability? And lastly, if your recording contract depended purely on your ability to sing, not produce or rap, would you still have a deal?

If you can’t answer yes to those three questions, shut up and rap.

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