There’s a lot of often petty discussion on whether or not Kanye is a douche, dick, asshole, or whatever word you’re in the mood for. Usually when I ask people why they think this about a man that they’ve never met, they usually cite the same popular stories we’ve all heard a dozen times. They leave it at that and then wrinkle their nose as though that proves their point when really it doesn’t do anything but show that they can read a heavily slanted pop news item or two. What these opinions lack is any type of context. It’s easy to put celebrities into a box and slap a label on it, but that’s silly because Taylor Swift, whose music I don’t particularly enjoy (except that “Trouble” song), gets dragged a lot in tabloids and online for singing about her love life. They call her a sad white girl or whatever and it’s so ridiculous because I’m pretty sure most songs in the country/rock genre are about the same damn thing. So, while it can be easy or fun to paint Kanye as some kind of fame lunatic, it’s ultimately inaccurate. Here are a few common arguments against him and their rebuttals.
(1) People readily mention Kanye’s cockiness as though it’s unforgivable. During an interview, King Krule — who was a relative unknown until 2014 — was asked how he felt about his song “Easy, Easy” being featured on Beyonce’s blog. He said, “It doesn’t surprise me. I think my music’s good.” Is it so obscene for an artist to appreciate their work? Kanye’s claims (“if I ever wasn’t the greatest then, nigga, I musta missed it”) are admittedly grander than Krule thinking his own music is “good,” but Kanye is in a genre of braggadocio. It would actually be bizarre if he didn’t say he was the greatest. What irks people about Kanye saying things like this, I think, is that he has the cultural clout to do so. It’s actually a considerable claim. Yet somehow that confident acknowledgement is too much. He came from poverty, is now worth $130m, and he’s had a $10m wedding in Versailles to a woman that, love or hate, we all can’t seem to shut up about. His music is eagerly anticipated whether you’re a fan or a hater. His albums shift the genre.
(2) However, Kanye doesn’t just want to to do music. He wants to do it all. What’s more is that he wants to bring black culture into the upper echelons of what’s considered “high fashion” or visual art. His dream is to splash graffiti into the Louvre and have it be respected as a valid piece of human expression. In light of that, it’s reasonable that Kanye frequently expresses frustration with the fashion world. It’s a eurocentric industry so flat out “urban” pieces might not be very well received. Regardless of whether or not I like his fashion work (I don’t), I respect that effort and that struggle.
(3) The George Bush comment is seen as an emotional outburst by a lot of people, but many others see it as a fair, though emotionally driven, response to the lack of response in Katrina. There’s a lot to be said about racism in America and the value of black lives here and that conversation is being had coast to coast. His words, delivered in a shaky and overwhelmed voice, is not a crazy assessment.
(4) Everyone with an ounce of compassion has to understand and appreciate how relentless the paparazzi can be. That shouldn’t even be a conversation. The harassment suits are extensive and for good reason. If I left my house everyday and there was some asshole taking photos of me, I might very well curse him out. That shit sounds annoying.
(5) I can’t quite figure out why people are really upset/surprised that Kanye punched someone for calling him a nigger. Really? “Violence isn’t the answer,” is such a foolish and white apologist way to dismiss his rightful anger. But people still discuss it as though it’s not a no brainer. People argue over it. Break up over it. It’s ridiculous.
(6) The Kanye you don’t hear about is, of course, the Kanye you don’t see. It’s him in the studio doing what he does best. One notable interview with Q-Tip about working with Kanye was telling and in line with many other tidbits people have dropped about working with Kanye. He said it was “music by committee.” He was eager for input and criticism. Q-Tip went on to say, “We’re all invited to dissect, strip, or add on to what he’s already started.” That doesn’t sound like the egotistical Kanye that the media portrays. Seth Rogen recently said that he ran into Kanye in New York and was invited to his limo where Kanye played his as-of-yet unannounced new album. Said Seth, “There’s no lyrics, only beats. So, he raps the whole album and after each song, he stops it, like, ‘So, what did you think?’” That’s Kanye. An eager artist. Someone who’s entirely about the process and simply enjoys the fruits of patient and actually very humble labor.
(7) This idea that Mr. West is an idiotic egotist or whatever is just media bullshit because it’s easier to sell him as a crazy black man than as a conscientious artist. He’s not stupid — his lyrics have always been insightful. Please see: “We Don’t Care,” “All Falls Down,” “Touch the Sky,” “Crack Music,” “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” (the remix or the original), “I Wonder,” “Gorgeous,” “Murder to Excellence,” “Black Skinhead,” and “Blood on the Leaves.” It’s hard to listen to “Crack Music,” which is a catchy rumination on the appropriation of modern black music, and call him an idiot.
The next time you see ‘Ye wild’n out in the media, take a second and think about it before piping up on social media, like, “There he goes again.”
And the Taylor Swift thing? Sure. Fine. I’ll give that to you. Super unnecessary. Classic ‘Ye. But do you have a clean “drunk in public” record? If you do, you need to live a little. That shit was funny.