He makes it easy for you to hate him. He loads the revolver for you, places it gently in your hand, puts your index finger on the trigger, than angles the barrel toward his chest. Then he taunts you by going batshit on Sway; taunts you by telling the world George Bush doesn’t care about black people; taunts you by rocketing up the stairs of Grammy stages to inform magnificently talented artists that Beyoncé deserves their award.
Provoked, we squeeze the trigger of vitriol, taking to Twitter to lick shots at Kanye West, using each chapter in his never-ending storybook of WTF to cast opinion, fire insults, and toss our grenades of hate.
With each incident, Kanye turns the world into Palestine and Israel — on opposite ends of the spectrum, some of us are thrilled by his antics, others are disgusted by them. Few artists of the 21st century, through artistry and public persona, have inspired the visceral divisiveness that Kanye has.
I’ve found myself firing the occasional social media shot, wondering why he won’t just shut the hell up, relax into his own genius, and make bomb ass music. Must you rant Kanye?! Must you constantly look like a jackass in the public eye, objecting, clarifying, then apologizing, only to then spew hot ridiculousness as soon as the media dust settles from the last outburst?
Apparently you must. And I’ll deal with it. Why? Because there’s something that you contribute that wholly outweighs the occasional clusterfuck you spark in the media.
Despite Kanye’s perceived madness, he has been one of the most unique and adventurous artists of the last quarter century. And certainly the most unique and adventurous among hip hop artists, by light years.
The depth of his sonic variation eclipses that of any other MC you can name. Consider the evolution of his music, from the sample-dripping tales of comeuppance on College Dropout to the synthesizer-driven thematic interplay of dark melancholy and dazzling success on Graduation, from the auto-tuned neo R&B of 808’s to the jagged and sparse mecha-hip hop of Yeezus.
He’s kept us on a deliciously diverse sonic roller coaster, and even if you’ve refused to strap yourself into the metallic cart and experience the musical ride first hand, once you stand back and view it from a distance, you must admire its complexity, its daring, its loops and twists and turns.
And what this translates to, what I’m most grateful to witness despite the hate heaped upon him, is that he’s shown an entire generation of music creators that there is glory in having the balls to do something different; there is victory in one being willing to make the music that rings truthful to one’s heart; there is success in constantly evolving as an artist and a creator, in slamming a Louis Vuitton wrapped wrecking ball through the concrete boxes that the music industry and its consumers often demand you confine yourself to.
From his music, to his all encompassing view of artistry, whether it be graphic design, high art, thought provoking films, visual media, or bold fashion, Kanye West has packaged his willingness to evolve beyond his own boundaries and sold it to the world, and it’s a goddamn wonderful product.
What a wonderful lesson for young aspiring musicians to witness. With each album, with each product release, with each tour, the underlying message bubbles to the surface: Do you! Push yourself. Expect more. Constantly become.
I’m happy to see the light of his creative mind project in all directions and wave across the world, showing a generation of songwriters, producers, musicians, artists, and bands that they can become something greater than the accessible mediocrity before them. They can do something different, stretch their own boundaries, hell, they can rock leather sweatpants and drop fully sung albums, without being a singer.
How many artists can you name who have been willing to creatively cannon ball butt-naked off the side of a steep cliff into the murky unknown beneath, especially among hip hop artists, where even the most successful can make slight variations of the same LP for an entire career?
How many artists have been continuously willing to overcome their own sonic fears and face the potential backlash from their beloved fans and consumers, the very fans that feed their families and their egos? Not many, and typically only the artists that eventually become legends.
When you find yourself disgusted by his antics, offended by his sudden, gunpowder-like temper, or you’re uninspired by his latest sonic about-face, regardless of how you feel, remember that our animosity only makes him “Stronger”, and he will have an undeniable positive creative influence on the artists who will be responsible for crafting the sound of the future.