Ever since Kanye West invented Pop Art, the world has been a more confusing place. Hip-hop’s most self-regarding geek has now regarded himself as a pioneer of a supposed 'new musical genre'. Rap has always had a little allegorical thing for the idea of the 'beat lab', but the way Kanye carps about innovation, it's easy enough to imagine him stood over a bunsen burner in his stupid slatted glasses, melting down Flava Flav's clocks into a sticky essence of cool, sucking Cristal up through pipettes, doing drive-bys on crash test dummies. Rather than just sampling Daft Punk and very famous soul songs. Pop Art is his latest invention. BTW, ever seen this?
Unfortunately for anyone expecting the sound of Kanye tapping out a rhythm on Liechtenstein's canvases while rapping about Campbell's Soup were disappointed by his new record. Apparently, it’s “not to be confused with the visual art movement.” Shame really, but he's still got tricks, oh he's got tricks. See, he’s making pop music “in an artistic way.” Jesus. An artistic way? That's never been tried before. Sure, Arthur Lee had a crack in 1967 but Forever Changes is universally regarded as a horrible failure, isn't it?
Turns out his 'new genre' = autotune + not rapping. Everyone from Cher to Lil Wayne has been autotuning themselves to the distinctive pitch of a tranny Smurf since time immemoriam (approximately 1993). Neither is deciding not to rap especially novel. In fact Kanye, for many years songs were recorded almost exclusively without rapping. Gosh.
Still, he's by no means the first recent figure to land themselves in the sauce over their originality sins. After all, John McCain invented the Blackberry. Asked about John McCain's infamous techno-illiteracy, aide Douglas Holtz-Eakin held up a Blackberry. “He did this,” he stated, “Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years - comes right through the Commerce Committee [which McCain chaired] - so you're looking at the miracle John McCain helped create and that's what he did.” Using that logic, I am an inventor. Even as I type this, I've just invented a robotic lung, self-lubricating hot dogs and the cure for cancer. Seeing that something is required is not the same as making it happen.
Diagrammatically, it can be represented thus:
PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION: People dying from cancer → Dying = bad
IDEA: Eliminate cancer → Death from cancer ends.
SOLUTION: Create a thing which stops cancer.
QED. Now go home and wait for the royalties to stack up.
Partly though, this was as a reprisal for the 2000 Election. That time round, it was Al Gore who was accused of claiming he 'invented the internet'. What he actually said, to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, was that he 'took the initiative in creating the Internet' – i.e. he pushed it forward in Congress.
Occasionally, though, people do get to invent really dumb, obvious things. Mainly, this is because they were canny enough to live in the past, when a) loads of stuff didn't exist and b) there was no way of Googling to find out if it did.
In 1900, a sea captain called Hanson Gregory claimed in an interview with the Boston Post that he invented the world's first holed doughnut by using a pepper-pot to hack the centre out of a standard doughnut. Baking history has honoured him ever since. Galileo claimed to have invented the telescope, which would've pissed off a lot of Ancient Greeks. But then he also claimed to have invented gravity, so the man was clearly pathological.
Sometimes, an idea just finds its historical moment. Both Elisha Gray and Antonio Meucci had good evidence to show they invented the telephone first. But Alexander Graham Bell was the only one who already had the patents office on speed dial.
Most puzzling of all: did the Earl Of Sandwich really invent the idea of sticking things between bread? That must be bollocks.