You may not remember it at this point, but not too long ago Kanye West was America’s sweetheart. In an era when rappers mean-mugged, wore heavy jackets and flashy jewelry, Kanye was a welcoming friendly face. He wore pink polo shirts and sported a backpack and put a nation that was once on edge with the genre of rap music completely at ease. His smooth style, featuring soulful samples and clever punchlines, was a refreshing take on such an intimidating style of music. Rap was no longer for pissed off people in urban communities, it was for everyone.
From that point, Kanye became a trendsetter. He gained the people’s trust and, from then on, led the genre in whatever direction he wanted it to go. At first, he set the bar for the standard of rap music, and eventually ended up consistently setting the bar for music as a whole. Then, something happened. He changed. He turned heel. Somewhere along the way, even at the peak of his popularity, Kanye became a bad guy. Obviously, we’re all accustomed to this new, egotistical, big-headed, “I’m a genius and I’m better than you” guy that we see in all the tabloids today. He still is, however, at the top of the hierarchy.
If you think this is the first time you’ve witnessed it, then you’re wrong. History has a weird way of repeating itself, and we’ve seen this all before. Think about the elements. Pop culture icon. Hero to legions of fans. Someone who brought something misunderstood to the forefront of people’s attention and caused them to love it. Someone who transcended their pigeonhole and blew up beyond anyone’s expectations. Someone riding the highest of tidal waves, only to turn sour.
You see, Hulkamania dominated the second half of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Hulk Hogan could do no wrong. He got kids to drink their milk and take their vitamins. The yellow and red dominated every bad guy that stood in its path. Hogan represented everything that was good and just. His 24-inch pythons brought wrestling to the forefront of America’s consciousness and made it socially acceptable. Wrestling was no longer restricted to the weirdos and geeks, it was for everyone.
Then, the turn happened. With one big leg drop on Randy Savage, Hogan went from Hulk to Hollywood. He dropped the yellow and red for black and white. He started running with a different crowd. His morals changed, yet he remained as successful as ever. The same way Kanye traded in the polos and backpacks for leather and designer masks, Hogan traded in the yellow tights and red kneepads for sunglasses and an awkwardly-dark beard.
I don’t know what happened or what made them turn. I’m not here to speculate, either. Perhaps Scott Hall and Kevin Nash had something to do with both occurrences; who knows? All I know is that their career trajectories, albeit different in execution, unfolded almost in parallel. Hogan, of course, jumped back and forth from heel to face and back later on in his career. He refused to call it quits when he probably should have and, as a result, his legacy has taken a bit of a hit. It’s still yet to be seen how the rest of Kanye’s career will unwind. Will there be a resurgence of the good guy? Or is Kim Kardashian, his ringside valet, a sign that this Kanye is here to stay? It’s impossible to predict, but I, for one, am excited to see how his storyline plays out.