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Our Generation

March 18, 2009

MUSIC: 88-Keys tries following Kanye's path

By RYAN PEARSON

AP Entertainment Writer



LOS ANGELES (AP) — Producer lends beats to seminal hip-hop album, then tries the solo route.

Kanye West faced long odds when he did it five years ago, turning from Jay-Z's "The Blueprint" to his own "The College Dropout." Now longtime friend 88-Keys is trying to walk in West's shoes — with a little boost from West himself.

The New York-based musician, whose real name is Charles Njapa, was in Los Angeles recently to meet with West. At the video shoot for their humorous single, "Stay Up (Viagra)," both men donned prosthetics makeup to make them appear in their 80s, then drove around the city in a limo with video vixens.

They looked ridiculous, but that's the point. Keys says he's trying to bring a sense of lighthearted fun to a genre that can get bogged down in negativity. And West seemed ready for something silly after the serious themes of his last album, "808s & Heartbreak."

"What's so dope about jokes in raps is like you can tell super-duper unfunny jokes, but if you put a rhyme with it, it's like cool," West noted as makeup artists began the aging process. "But it's not a joke that works in really real life."

West executive produced 88-Keys' album, "The Death of Adam," released late last year on independent label Decon Records. It blends various genres to tell the story of a womanizing man who meets his demise.

Keys kept his voice mostly off the original version of the album, which also features Bilal, Redman and others. But West pushed his friend to place himself in the spotlight.

"I liked his raps, what he was busting was mad original," West said of 88-Keys. "I was like wow, this is like really dope and is musical and has concepts and all that, so I wanted to be down with it."

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