(You think I’m joking but I’m not. If I could ask any question to Kanye West it would be “what do you order at Taco Bell?”)
This is not the first time I have written about the influential rapper. If you can believe it I wrote a ten page paper on him for my “The Bible as Literature” class during college — which to be honest could have sparked just as much debate as this blog. I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing.
Where do you start with the man who outright compares himself to God (when he himself believes in God)? I guess you start there.
Kanye West is one of the most iconic pop culture references of our time – a singer, an artist, a man who might as well walk around with his middle finger to the world declaring himself a vessel of Christ. A man who wants that world to love him though. A man who announces his run for presidency at an award ceremony he does not even believe in.
To start with, there is a plethora of articles on the internet about West, many more cropping up within the past couple of days. That’s what happens when you give a rambling thirteen minute acceptance speech on LIVE television at MTV’s annual Music Video Awards. That’s what happens when you have a following one step away from being called a cult. And that’s what happens when the world listens to you—even if that be because they want to know what ridiculous statement will come out of your mouth next and not because they actually like you at all.
But it doesn’t matter if you love him or like him or think that he is cool, mad dope, or any other lingo that signifies relevant. It doesn’t matter if you find extreme fault with everything from his choice of clothing (yes, he considers himself a fashion designer) or his choice of wife (yes, he considers her “the best thing that’s ever happened to him.”) It doesn’t matter one bit.
Kanye is not the icon of our time, but he is an icon of our time. And it’s imperative we remember and recognize that, even if every extra word written after this sentence blows up his head till it’s so big it actually physically won’t fit inside the Oval Office.
Let’s begin with my own personal feelings on Mr. West. In my top fifty songs of all time (yes, I have ranked them) two of them are collaborations by him and Jay Z (“Otis” with Jay Z ft. Otis Redding and “No Church in the Wild” also with Jay Z featuring Frank Ocean and The-Dream). And I’ll be honest, “Power” would probably be up there but I have a strong stance on “no songs that are in fifty movie trailers in one year” rule. I’m a fan of his music, what can I say. He is good. He is better than good. He is damn great, just music alone. Let’s look at his 352 nominations and his 21 Grammy awards. Let’s look at his numerous amount of best songs ever in countless Rolling Stone lists which usually give more appreciation to “Stronger”, “Hey Mama”, and “Gold Digger”. Let’s look at his dedication to make some of those songs after getting into a car crash that wired his jaw shut when he officially recorded the album The College Dropout. Sure, you can overlook all this by saying the court of public opinion states that claiming a person is good (even in the musically talented sense) hardly means they are good. But ladies and Gentleman the talent is there.
Too often though, I ask you, how many times do we hear “he has great music but I hate him?” A good amount, this quote itself verbatim has even been said by me.
It doesn’t matter your opinion on because he is more than good (or bad) music, he is a symbol of the revival of the dying artist. He is not what artists should strive to be but a part of what artists should try to emulate. He calls himself a Millennial, and he is one in every aspect (without even, at the age of 38, being logistically the definition of a Millennial).
Yes he is controlling, obnoxious, rude, and unnecessarily over the top. He is clickbait in living breathing form. But it’s perfect, and we need it, because not only do we need to learn from it, we also need to realize that he is…always him.
Let’s focus on his likeability factor. If the speech given to him when he accepted his Vanguard Award is all encompassing of who he is in that respect, as many have claimed, than let us steer our attention to that for a moment.
When he accepted the award from Taylor Swift, the award renamed for Michael Jackson given to an artist who has truly changed the face of music, he stood on the stage for 1:40 seconds holding the little Moonman without saying anything. Nothing. Try counting that right now, 1:40 seconds. It’s so long its almost painful. Some, and you had a lot of time to think about this like me while the applause was going on, took this as him soaking in love, accepting praise, gathering his thoughts. Some took it as him waiting for the inevitable “Yeezus” chant. Some just wondered if he was trolling us all. He was probably doing all these things.
Either way, how pretentious of him. Right? Just say thank you, thank your wife and your daughter and your producers and yourself and get off the stage Kanye. There are people left to perform.
But there he is standing embracing the crowd and the truest test of bravery and credibility comes from one of his first statements: “Bro. Listen to the kids bro.” What was to follow was a disgruntled but poignant mess of words and thoughts with snippets of “We’re not gonna control our kids with brands” to “I’m confident I believe in myself. We the Millennials bro.”
Why do we hate Kanye? Is it because he is pretentious? Is it because he says comments like this? Maybe. But in reality the reason why we truly hate him is because he dares to say that he might not only be good at something but great at something. Artists of the world listen to this. Crippling self-doubt is the disease of us all. When we find that time, skill, and practice makes perfect gets us somewhere we feel as if we can never readily admit it.
There’s a case for being humble, of course. And being humble is a valuable quality because it makes us well aware of other people’s difficult times – those that might not have made it. It also reminds us that it was not just us in the journey to get where we got, and of course it makes us more likable people.
Kanye West unapologetically says that he is good at what he does though. He says that he is confident. And honestly, good for him. Is he giving too much credit where credit is due? I mean is the Pope Catholic? Yes. But in a world that demands we not recognize our worth, by him recognizing his he allows other artists to do the same. Because God forbid that someone own their talent. If a singer, if an actor, if a (ahem) writer, says that they are not only proud of what they wrote but think it might be very influential our immediate reaction is to roll our eyes and bring this person back down to earth. How dare someone say they are good at something? How dare they take credit for their work with pride and nothing else?
But Kanye does, and he encourages others do the same. He also does, much to people’s surprise, admit that he has more to learn and even admits that other mentors and family members got him to where he is through unfaltering support (please look no further than the whole song “Hey Mama”.) As an artist he consistently grows in other aspects. He collaborates, he works on his clothing line, and never stops pursuing the art. That’s not to say he is simply an iconic person because he works on himself as many artists or “regular” people do for that matter. He is an iconic person because he gives himself fully to that cause and stands behind anything that perpetuates that cause.
He identifies himself with the Millennials, because he holds the “Millennial spirit.” Too often the Millennials, as every generation is, are berated for their lack of getting anything done except perhaps tweeting and coming up with ridiculous grandiose ideas about how to make it big. Millennials are criticized because we create jobs rather than taking ones that already exist. So why does Kanye consider himself a Millennial? Because he does truly believe in “the ideas.” He believes in the future of kids and their ideas. He encourages thoughts, but just not the conventional ones we are used to, which is important because he does not go along with the script of the generic “believe in your dreams.”
He does not say “go forth with your ideas children and prosper.” He does not claim that if you do what he does (I guess wear baggie pants and ride your motorcycle and wife at the same time?) you too can achieve your aspirations and walk off the stage to the claps and relief of MTV producers in the control room. No. He encourages ideas that defy conventionality, and says that the cookie cutter version of your happily ever after is not right. And he does it by giving you the best damn example…calling out MTV on their own show.
In his speech which has become so popular the entire transcript is now on a t-shirt that I assume is on backorder, he states “You know how many times MTV ran that footage again? Because it got more ratings? Do you know how many times they announced Taylor was gonna give me this award? Because it got more ratings?”
Again, he is right. His ideas are indeed to challenge the ideas of others – not just the ones of yourself and in particular of what is ruling the world. In this case, the brand MTV.
And if you don’t think he is right just look at MTV running the show on repeat the next day. Nothing was edited out of the two and a half hour recording except Miley Cyrus’ unfortunate nip slip and West calling their network out. Yes, the program that he himself wants to speak to choose to ignore the fact that he is not fitting into the script by silencing him the only way they can – through editing. Sure “they” knew he would probably do whatever he wanted to before the show, “they” knew it could be a potential PR disaster, but they bring him up on the stage anyway because, you guessed it, ratings.
But he’s human too Kanye West; he’s flawed. He doesn’t hit the nail on the head all the time. And this also comes out in his speech he gave on Sunday to a room full of artists and Jaden Smith’s fist. He grapples with his likeability, as would we all.
He apologizes to Taylor Swift over their whole VMA debacle six years ago (if you don’t know what I am talking about then you probably have already stopped reading this article) but he then takes it back. He asks himself if he would interrupt her back then if he had a daughter at that point. He doesn’t know. He tip toes. But the real Kanye wins. The one that does not apologize, the one that does not say what he does not mean, the one that is real to himself. You’re going to want him to apologize but he won’t give you that full satisfaction because that is not being real.
In a reference, this seems like a good of time as any, to one of my favorite comedians, pop culture aficionados, and friends, this reminds me of an article written by Demi Adejuyigbe, importantly enough someone who helped write jokes for the VMAs this year (shutout to you Demi, you are pretty fucking real.) Adejuyigbe states in his article (released in February of this year on TheHairPin.com) appropriately titled “Kanye West is Fucking Real”: “Kanye West is the kind of person who would only compliment you if he means it. In a world (not an industry, a WORLD) lacking in assuredness, his confidence and honestly is paramount.”
Amen to that. West, Yeezy, whatever, will only give you a compliment if you deserve it. Line up people who say they don’t care if they ever got a compliment from him, but that’s not the point. He does not care about you, about someone random, even someone like me writing something like this. He only cares about himself and people who matter to him. We’ve been taught to say that this is a bad thing, in this case I challenge people to look at it differently.
He gives the middle finger to Hollywood by marrying what is essentially the running joke of Hollywood. Because he does not care and because he wants to. He calls out George W Bush on television after Hurricane Katrina saying Bush doesn’t care about black people. And he does not care what that will do to his image. To him that is his truth. To him he is throwing up a fight against the injustice of white society and their media privilege. It’s his perceived duty as a black man to do so. Call to mind that he also said this tidbit before that infamous statement: “I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family it says they’re looting. You see a white family it says they are looking for food…”
Look, I do not condone words written or said in an attempt for shock value. But they aren’t shock value in this case for him, we just take them as such because we are never supposed to say or do the things he does. Need I remind you of the script he is not following again people?
Remember he is being 100 percent true to himself. For those saying that dictators are true to themselves but that doesn’t exactly make them all peaches and cream let me finish here.
Because this isn’t an entire article on the love I have for Kanye. I have real problem with his general personality (I would never say this is a considerate human being to every other human being) and of course his takes on trivial matters that of course seem like personal attacks. “Sometimes people write books and they be so wordy and so self-absorbed. I am a proud nonreader of books.” It’s times like that when you want to say really Kanye? Really? (Especially now when I think about what he would do with The Presidents Book.)
But I accept it again because he is speaking his truth. This truth, most but not all of the time, does not tear down others.
And he also, unrelated to this but very much necessary to say, will continue to be the needed shock value in our life. A source of entertainment that challenges the status quo. Because for every line of jumbled up garbage we get from him “I hate it when I’m on a flight and I wake up with a water bottle next to me like oh great now I gotta be responsible for this water bottle.” We also get “I still don’t understand award shows. I don’t understand how they get five people who work their entire life one sell records, sell concert tickets to come stand on a carpet and for the first time in they life be judged on a chopping block and have the opportunity to be considered a loser.”
It’s so profound you have to wonder if it is the same person. It is. It’s Kanye West accepting the world and trying to change it. The only way he knows how. By being so ridiculous he sometimes himself doesn’t know if he’s real.
And is he ridiculous? Undeniably so. Anyone who admits to smoking up something before his acceptance speech “to take the edge of” during his acceptance speech is. Shit, anyone who announces their run for presidency at, I am sorry to say it, the trashier but more authentic version of the Grammys is.
So let’s talk about that now that we are here. The presidency announcement heard around the world.
I was sitting in my apartment texting a few people watching this all unfold. Kanye looks like he is going to end his speech by (what?) not accepting his award, by claiming his new album is finally dropping, by I don’t know – even retiring from music all together? No, he blindsides us all and announces his bid for the position of President of the United States in 2020.
REALLY? Are you fucking kidding me? I had so many jokes on hand, including ones I read, following this. Can you imagine him during a debate? He would probably only be able to say one word before the buzzer went off. Kanye as President? Ok. Kim Kardashian as First Lady? This is the Apocalypse. I mean there were plenty other quips but let’s not take up more time.
After this all though I had to really wonder, is there even a one percent chance that this is real? Probably not. It’s all publicity. It’s Kanye getting so into what he is saying, being so passionate about his platform, that the only thing he can do to elevate himself even higher is by declaring to everyone that he wants to be the leader of the free world.
We all think it’s funny, but there is a real Kanye2020.com website right now for those who just think it’s funny. Our reactions are so much bigger than what he said. Our reactions, or rather reactions of people out there who are supporting his political career that amusingly enough he started after saying “I’m not a politician bro,” are what to focus on.
We can say that people who would ever vote for him if he did indeed run are idiots. That these people are grasping onto only his fame and money. But we could say the same thing for supporters of Trump. And really America we really really should be saying that to “The Donald” campaign.
Moving on. Sometimes it does not matter if we like what is important or captivates the public. But it is always important to decipher why something captivates the public. Why do we give a shit about this musician who would never make a good president? Is it the pure entertainment factor? That the world is not truly spinning if Kanye does not give us something to roll our eyes about? Is it the idea that someone who puts good music out also puts out way too much of his unnecessary opinion? Or is it that for every dumb thing he says he says something with so much value? Damn it, you really don’t know if you like him.
Sure, I think the guy is annoying and self-involved. Ironically attains too much attention. Is an asshole. But he is starting a dialogue, and we must always always be grateful for any dialogue and we must all question said dialogue.
When my friend the other day and I were joking about the 2020 race he said something that made the nonexistent milk squirt out of my nose: “What would Kanye’s ridiculous presidential slang name be? Poteezy? Potteezus?”
Oh Lord, maybe only time will tell.