So Kanye’s album has been out for almost a week now, projected to at least over half a mil in sales and he’s wasting no time hopping back on the crazy train, from his nine-minute tirade at his victory-lap concert at the Bowery Ballroom in NY, to rocking the fur vest and shiny gold shirt at the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving [see above].
And none of this matters.
I’m willing to entertain the possibility that I am simply a Kanye apologist. Maybe Kanye’s my Lady Gaga, where no matter how much of the output is essentially bullshit [like Gaga], I’ll still find it compelling as spectacle is nothing else. Because where Mr. West is concerned, I don’t think there’s any bullshit involved.
A lot of talk this week has been spent about Artist Kanye v. Kanye the Man. A friend tweeted earlier this week that he wasn’t feeling the songs on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy because the persona has overshadowed the work, It’s a sentiment a lot of people agree with, but it’s ultimately irrelevant.
Look, some artists you can distinguish between person and work [Gaga] and some people you should [Michael Jackson] but with Kanye I just don’t think it’s even possible. In a genre where authenticity is the currency of choice, Kanye [to jack a De La Soul quote] doesn’t talk shit, he lives it. He’s still a somewhat broken, delusional, arrogant, funny, charismatic and inhumanly talented musical artist. He couldn’t make the music he does if he wasn’t the infuriating motherfucker he is. You have to be arrogant to put Elton John on a barely audible backing track with Drake, John Legend and Alicia Keys. You have to be arrogant to call up your hip-hop idols like the RZA, Pete Rock and Q-Tip, or folk artist Justin Vernon and fly them to Hawaii to work on the album with you. And what does it suggest when all these people say yes?!
There’s no persona involved, it’s who he is, who he’s always been, and that’s why he’s so divisive, because you can’t remove it. Nothing about Gaga’s visual aesthetic has anything to do with her music. If it enhances it for you, it just means the songs aren’t strong enough, cause she don’t need to be wearing that meat dress to write a fluffy pop song. The artistry of Michael Jackson’s best melodies, his most innovative choreography exists independently of what may or may not have happened in his private life. But Kanye could not make the music he makes without being the person he is, possibly more than any other artist working today. Listen to College Dropout now, it’s small by comparison. Graduation still sounds like the triumph a man who had climbed most mountains put in front of him, constructing new ones to ascend, but it seems frozen in time, it’s an artifact of a man who no longer exists. And 808s seems even colder and more stark than it did at its release.
And then there’s MBDTF. The story of a man who seems like he’s come to terms with his outsider status, with the fact that he’ll always be an asshole, a fallible man living the best life he knows how, even if that life is obscenely more affluent that those of the people who ultimately line his pockets.
Funny, I was reading the Complex cover story on the making of the album and realized I already knew everything, I’d heard it before. For a lot of us, the story of the album’s creation is reaching mythical status, it’s intrinsic to what ultimately went on the album: superstar takes a dip (808s), has a very public flameout (the VMAs), withdraws, holes up in Hawaii, flies his idols down to pick their brains and take their guidance, resulting in one of [if not the] best album this year. Through the Fire, indeed. It’s hip-hop’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, its Exile on Main Street
Like him or don’t, that’s your prerogative, but you’ll never separate him from the music. He won’t let you.