“On September 13th 2009, a 15-second sequence of events altered the trajectory of contemporary popular music forever.”
So begins the second series of Dissect, a music podcast with its laser-like focus currently trained on Kanye West. The events in question? West’s interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, when he stormed the stage and declared that: “Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time!”
The podcast’s host, Cole Cuchna, a musician from California who makes his living as a marketing director for a coffee company, goes on to explain how the near-universal public condemnation of West in the wake of the incident caused the rapper to withdraw from public life. This self-imposed exile eventually lead to the creation of the 2010 album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – a chart-topping critical triumph that, according to Cuchna, broke new ground with a “musical maximalism as yet unheard in the world of hip hop”.
After a 20-episode first series spent analysing Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly, Cuchna has now turned his attention to the fall and rise of West. He describes Dissect as “long-form musical analysis broken into short digestible episodes” and says that each half-hour instalment takes him upwards of 20 hours to produce. Alongside his lucid critical narration, he weaves together clips from West’s songs, extracts from interviews and segments from the rapper’s diverse range of musical influences to create a lush soundscape.
With all Kanye’s ego – he once commented that “humbly, I would say I’m the most influential person in footwear right now” – and the celebrity palaver of his marriage to Kim Kardashian, it’s easy to forget about the exuberant brilliance of his work. Cuchna’s artfully constructed episodes, teeming with critical insight, shine a light back on the music. His approach is magpie-like, using Paganini to explain a point here, afrofuturism to illustrate something there, and always revealing.
It’s hard to believe that it’s all created by one person, working in his spare time, in a garage in Sacramento.