The best way to judge Kanye West is to evaluate his effect in a field that is far from his main craft, which is rapping and producing. He’s a designer who had a hand in turning and influencing the current trends in fashion, sneakers, and how the entire world of the western media looks like. He’s a thought provocateur that’s devoid of any shame, has full belief in his thoughts, and is willing to present unpopular ideas for everyone’s consideration. His words are fuel for what we call “culture” nowadays.
Put his albums back on the equation, and you have Mr. Pop Culture himself. No one in the wide world of entertainment has as much clout as Kanye. His words move the industry. More than that, we can actually take him seriously now as Michael Jackson’s heir. Not since the King of Pop can anyone have this much effect on a wider scale, and unlike MJ, Kanye has his hands all over the spectrum.
A Musical Magnate
Ever since releasing his first album, The College Dropout, Kanye has never looked back. He moved forward, made a detour, and leapt so far in front of everyone that his music baffled a lot of people. One thing can’t be denied about his music, though, and that’s they are all good. Not in context of what’s released during the same period when he released his albums, but good in terms of his albums encapsulating his vision exactly. They have all been different too, and as a rapper, that is an achievement unique only to him. Rappers thrive on the same winning formula; Kanye has had eight different formulae and they all succeeded.
More than any record he has or has broken, there’s one thing about him that make him an icon of music in general: he paved his own way. He emerged during a period in rap when you were either a gangster or you’re nobody. He grew up differently than all the famous rappers at the time, and he didn’t want to rap about the same things. He wanted to do it his way, and during all those times, he was bringing rap forward with him, even if it neither sounded nor looked like him. He was the only rapper during the time who rapped about his frustration at not fitting in hip hop. So, he rapped about what he goes through. He rapped about how designer labels confuse him (a complete 180, I know), how his accident pushed him to run after his dream, and about his experience with ladies. He did all these things while being sarcastic, funny, and the own producer of his own album. Just to keep the context, this is his first album.
After The College Dropout, he kept the theme of not fitting in hip hop for two more records. Being as experimental as he was, he tested styles and made sure they fit message. The 20 Grammy nominations should tell you that they all worked, and catapulted Kanye to the top of hip hop without having to fit in. That’s an artist.
I don’t want to dare to explain his subsequent albums because they’re that varied. They are a complete departure from old Kanye, and created new Kanye. This updated version was an artistically, socially, and musically conscious man without limits, both in his vision and his morals.
We Have to Talk About Yeezy
Who taught you that sneakers are the new signifier of wealth? Yeezy taught you. Who taught you to be yourself and never hide who you are? Yeezy taught you.
Yeezy is a lifestyle, that much is obvious to many sneakerheads. But Yeezy is actually a pair of shoe, a pair of wildly expensive shoes that owe its value to the hype around it. Japan may be the birthplace of streetwear and sneaker culture, but Kanye West drives it forward. His creativity is rivalled only by Jerry Lorenzo and Ronnie Fieg, the three figureheads of streetwear. To say Kanye has been influential is to sell him short. Sneakers today take after the Yeezys in one way or another. Adidas has made a revival in America because of Yeezys. The whole sneaker culture is on steroids because of the Yeezys.
You want to see how his shoes move the sneaker and streetwear market? Watch out of the next release of Yeezys.
Like Pop Culture, Kanye is Spectacularly Flawed
Remember this year when Kanye briefly endorsed Donald Trump? Yeah, whatever it is he said to support it, I fucking loathed him for even considering that. And I’m a supporter of doing away with political correctness, which Kanye hasn’t been for a long time already. I love Kanye, but he can fuck off sometimes with what he does or say.
But something happened to him this 2018 that encapsulated his actions these last few years. He said that he got liposuction because he didn’t want to disappoint his fans. This was probably during the phase when the media was hounding him for his weight gain. I thought then if everything that he’s doing are just actions of a man who’s been so pressured by his fame, society and his fans to be a certain type of person? He does what he wants to do, but at that moment, I realized that maybe a lot of his actions were for someone else’s benefit and not him. At times, this behavior betrayed him to the point that he’s bring ostracized for acting so poorly.
Still, he’s here, fresh off the victory lap after producing seven albums, and is all about positive spirit. I don’t think his fame defeated him, but I don’t think he’ll go back to being old Kanye either. That being said, I liked old Kanye better. This new one, I’m iffy. But he’s never been anyone else. Through the wire and ire, he’s always been Kanye.
What I really hope is for Kanye to read this, and send me a pair of his mauve Yeezys. If he doesn’t, nothing will change. The paparazzi will still follow him, he’ll still make outrageous statements, and he would still maintain that positive energy. If I don’t get the shoes, these are good enough for me.