Kanye West Op. Ed
By Sophia Abbey
Kanye West is a misunderstood genius. Sure he has made a fool of himself countless times in public, but his message stays true to what he believes in. Kanye West is the type of man with good intentions but poor execution. His beliefs and struggles are masked by this “jerk” or “asshole” facade because he doesn’t understand how to be anything more on the outside.
Kanye is more than just your average rapper, he’s an artist, and an innovator. Kanye is inspired by a wide range of artists, like Franz Ferdinand, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Grizzly Bear, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin. Although he is in the hip-hop business, he prefers to listen to rock. His music is heavily influenced by the group Wu-Tang Clan who, in his words, “had one of the biggest impacts as far as [the hip-hop] movement.” These feelings are reciprocated; Wu-Tang producer RZA said in an interview that he “got super respect for Kanye.” Kanye’s music comes from a different place than that of most rappers. He takes these classic bands and elements from unconventional artists, amalgamating these aspects to create a unique sound. In the past he sampled from many indie bands and although his use of sampling has decreased, he has now hired his own eleven-piece string orchestra to record with him. This orchestra gives his music a more ethereal, dreamlike, sound. As the famous rapper Jay-Z said in an interview, Kanye was unhappy with the current state of hip-hop music and believed that indie rock, a softer, “folkier” type of alternative rock would ultimately define the evolution of hip-hop. Kanye puts this to the test in his songs.
Kanye may have an abrasive public image, but he also is very open about his vulnerable side. His songs are more like diary entries, blank canvases to be painted on. The tribute “Hey Mama,” off his second album Late Registration, is an apology to his mother. In it he asks forgiveness for not getting the education she had hoped for him, and thanks her for being strong enough to break through the obstacles she faced as a single mother. After she died in 2007, he performed it in concert to honor her, breaking down in tears halfway through. His song “New Day” takes a different yet equally emotional approach to telling the story of his life. The song features Kanye’s self-professed favorite verse: “Don’t want him to be hated, all the time judged / Don’t be like your daddy that would never budge.” When he performs it he takes his time to enjoy the moment. The song is a letter to Kanye’s unborn son, a plea for him not to turn out like his father. Kanye asks his son to learn from his mistakes and become a better man than he is. The verse is an aggregation of all the tough decisions and hardships Kanye had to endure: breaking up with someone he cared for, falling for someone he shouldn’t, and making much of America hate him because of his abrasive personality and public rants. The verse shows a vulnerable side of Kanye that most rappers keep hidden. Kanye is hurt by how the media and consumers have judged him, but he can’t go back in time to fix his mistakes.
Kanye has made some disastrous public relations decisions during his career. One famous incident involved his interrupting Taylor Swift’s Video Music Award acceptance speech to stand up for another artist who, in his opinion, should have won the award. Elsewhere, he has presented the image of a cocky, self-involved jerk. The Atlantic Monthly calls him “a narcissistic monster who tore a massive hole of self-regard in the American cultural quilt.” Even President Obama called him a “jackass.” Nevertheless, Kanye has stuck true to such uncompromising honesty. When MTV ran a biographical special on him, he condemned homophobia, comparing the fight for equal sexuality rights to the civil rights movement. After declaring on national television that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” he maintained his stance when an interviewer asked whether he would apologize for the outburst.
In a more recent turn of events, Jimmy Kimmel satirized Kanye’s recent BBC one interview by replacing Kanye and the interviewer with children. The children just followed the script of the interview, but Kimmel showed extreme aggressiveness towards Kanye, and other talented black artists. Replacing Kanye with a child really devalues him and paints him in an immature light. In Kimmel’s view, Kanye is just saying “look at me, I can art”. Just because Kanye is a black artist does not mean he can’t be proud of his work. Kanye is a self-destructive perfectionist, emotionally traumatized from his past, but these characteristics only add to his art. He’s crazy, but so was Van Gogh. How can one be a true artist without cutting off an ear and presenting it to their old girlfriend? Kanye’s genius lies in his madness. His mind is derailed from the mainstream; his inspiration comes from his childhood dreams. Although Barack Obama said he was a jackass, he did concede that he was a great artist as well. He’s damaged, and maybe that’s what makes him so good.