Kanye West is the right musician and the right artist for right now because in part he overshares, is unfiltered, has always been a walking contradiction, someone working out his inner conflicts about fame, money, celebrity, fashion vs branding, corporate media, race and class in very public view; he is a social media-age celebrity.
But he’s also a throwback. He’s not someone who browses, stumbles onto, or skims ideas, who flips through the world like a photobook, engaging with a moment and moving on, the way so much interaction with culture is done online. He’s not a public relations tool. He’s not someone who performs on cue. The few times he is given a platform to speak he takes advantage of it. He is the only prominent person I can name who does this, who either seizes— on live TV, he’s done this at least three times (four if you count him freestyling on SNL)— or is granted room to speak and ignores convention and what’s best for his personal brand and tries to have a dialogue with people about class, race, creativity, celebrity, hypocrisy. He tries to cram as many of his thoughts and ideas into a short window of TV space, because that’s all we give people to speak, and we usually expect them to just use that time to self-promote rather than to engage or say something analytical. So he comes across as a windbag because he has more ideas than time to express them and turns every media event of his into a moment and an opportunity rather than a promotional vehicle.
It’s a shame that Kanye isn’t focused in these moments because then perhaps the substance of what he is talking around would get more notice than the way he expresses himself. That would necessitate more focus on Kanye’s part but it also would need a media foil who is willing to have a dialogue instead of cracking jokes. Substantively, even with fashion, which many people dismiss on contact, when you dig through Kanye’s thoughts he is talking pro-fashion — i.e. pro-emotion, pro-creativity — but anti-brand; he’s praising fast fashion outlets and the democratization of the industry and making a once-elitist world slowly more accessible; and he’s frustrated that industry insiders look at who he is, at the color of his skin, at his day job, and at the way he expresses himself and prevent his ideas from going into production. Kanye’s frustration about leather jogging pants is his frustration about radio not playing his new album; they’re both about him putting himself in an unfamiliar space and being creative and having corporate or old-world gatekepeers prevent new ideas from reaching a wider audience.
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