By Sean McKenna
February 14th, Valentine’s Day to most. I personally don’t buy into that shit. Instead, I thought I’d focus on the fact we just hit the 2 years since the release of The Life of Pablo, so I figured it would be as good a time as any to blurt out a few thoughts about the enigma that is Kanye West. Love him or hate him, Kanye is unquestionably one of the most talked about artists of our lifetime, unfortunately however, it’s more often for his antics instead of his music. For the record, I’m a huge Kanye fan, I always have been, and I always will be so you’ll have to excuse anything you perceive to be bias in this article.
Kanye is on many levels, one of the most complex individuals ever to rise to prominence in the music industry, that much is unquestionable, and I have a number of theories behind this reason. His music isn’t always what you might define as radio friendly, which automatically limits his ability to explain himself to everyone in the best way he sees fit, through his lyrics. Yes, we might still hear ‘Touch The Sky’ every now and again on the radio, but the intricacies in Kanyes life are often more explicit and brash than society is willing to deem acceptable to play for the masses. Kanye himself addresses his perceived arrogance in his first album The College Dropout in ‘Last Call’:
“Some say he arrogant. Can y’all blame him?
It was straight embarrassing how y’all played him
Last year shoppin my demo, I was tryin’ to shine
Every motherfucker told me that I couldn’t rhyme
Now I could let these dream killers kill my self-esteem
Or use my arrogance as the steam to power my dreams.”
‘Last Call’ refers to the initial problems he had in getting himself a record deal. He tells us of his continuous struggle to find someone that shared his own faith in his rapping ability. Throw in the fact he was facing eviction also and had to up and move himself and his mother to Newark, New Jersey. Capitol Records pulled a deal last minute leaving Kanye, who had already planned out everything he was gonna do, again stuck in limbo. He tells us about how he had picked out clothes, already started booking studio sessions, started arranging his album, thinking of marketing schemes, only to have it taken away last minute. It would appear his arrogance has always been an integral part of his character, one that he closely associates with his own success, and who can blame him? Now I know some of you reading will be subconsciously thinking back to the Taylor Swift incident. Who could forget? A momentary lapse in judgement on his part. He has shown from his tweets on several occasions to be sporadic in his thinking and decision making.
On ‘Feedback’ he says “name one genius that ain’t crazy”. Part of his craziness I feel comes from the fact he is very underappreciated for the reasons mentioned above. He has an incredible ability to tell tales of his life through his music. It is undeniable that he does not receive the appreciation in this regard that he deserves. A misunderstood genius. I listened to the first 5 songs of Taylor Swifts latest album before writing this just out of interest. I’m not a Taylor Swift man, I take no issue with anyone that is, but how many fucking songs about men and her love life does the world really need? It could be a case that she’s simply trying to appeal to a specific audience. Breakup songs and love songs sell well, that much undoubtable, and who can blame her for capitalising I suppose. But if you’re Kanye West and you’re pouring everything in to producing some of the best examples of storytelling in the music industry along with a banger of a backbeat to go along with, and you aren’t getting the same appreciation as someone producing a cheesy breakup song time and time again, of course you’re going to be frustrated. Cheese sells and the charts prove it. Imagine being Vincent Van Gogh and seeing your art being overlooked for someone selling dot to dot pictures or someone colouring between the lines. I’d imagine that’s how Kanye feels. Kanye fans know and appreciate the genius. They listen beyond the chart toppers. If you don’t have the time to listen to all his work, at the very least listen to ‘Saint Pablo’ if you haven’t already. When I heard it first I got a completely different insight into this mans psyche. I had it on repeat non-stop for maybe 3 days after. He shows perhaps what could be construed as a vulnerability to his character. One side that is very rarely seen. Real friends offers another great insight into the struggles associated with fame and wealth and how it changed his relationship with friends and family. He makes specific reference to his own cousin that stole his laptop containing a porn video that Kanye himself partook in, blackmailing him for $250,000 for its safe return. Kanye himself avoided having the simple luxury of a phone before starting to date Kim Kardashian. French Montana attributes this to that fact that if you are at a certain level like Kanye, most people who are calling your phone, are people who are going to ask you for something. A difficult cross to burden, for anyone.
I get the impression that people love to hate Kanye West. He does make it easy for them in some regards. But, he does his best to possibly explain his complexities through his music. Imagine facing constant criticism from the media and the keyboard warrior army on different social media platforms, it would take a toll on anyone. One must not forget he is human after all. I wonder how many of those that jump to criticise have actually sat down and listened to his work.
Love him or hate him, the industry misses him when he isn’t active. Subconsciously you love hearing ‘Touch The Sky’ or ‘Gold Digger’ come on in a nightclub, you know you do. If I make it to 80 years of age, I’ll be popping wheelies in my wheelchair anytime I hear either. I for one cannot wait to see what he drops this year. The unpredictability will no doubt have many on their toes.