Wednesday, 1 July 2015

In strong support of Kanye West


So Kanye. Glastonbury. Sure. I admit it. I got annoyed at points of his show (Bohemian Rhapsody? No Kanye. Just no) - or worse, sometimes, I was bored. But in those boring moments I just muted him for a bit and before I knew it, he was back to "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" or of course, his big meal ticket, "Gold Digger". His carefully crafted light cube would pulse and the crowd would jump, and all would be forgiven. As an unashamed Kanye lover, I have to stress that I believe Kanye's music cannot be enjoyed for extended periods of time without a mute button for breaks, in any context. It is...intense. But. To enjoy Kanye is to bask in his world of wordplay, aphorisms and ego. Just for a bit. Oscar Wilde eat your heart out.


Here is a modern day musical Napoleon. Master of his craft, clever in his execution, paranoid, proud, sensitive and yet all conquering. Commanding a huge, somewhat evangelical following. Writing songs like "New Slaves" and "Blood on the Leaves". Taking on the modern American class war (the French Revolution this ain't) and writing a new story for black men through his monologues. Talking, (from his substantial platform) about society, his feelings (!) and God. And not giving a flying fig what you think about it. Sorry British public. Kanye didn't grow up in a world where fair play and politeness gets you ahead. So shoot him...


Thing is, he's not even a loveable rogue. He's power itself - a dictator who dresses his wife and probably designed his own lighting rig at 4am in the morning in Barbados and woke the whole household. And he took over Babington during the festival's duration. Here is control freakery for the masses. I really should hate him. But I don't.


Despite all of the petition controversy, when the time came, he went right up there and was his authentic, narcissistic, no-fucks-given self. That's pretty damn rock-n-roll. He's no people pleasing guitar monkey who gives the fans what they want on stage and then smashes up his hotel room later. Neither will he overdose in a bathroom, trying to medicate against his artistic angst. He's too extroverted for all of that. He's a businessman balancing genuine, wildly energetic self expression with shrewd commercial success. I admire Tracey Emin for the same (difference is I hate her work). 


I find watching his total self indulgence as he lets it all hang out on stage a relief both from the stuffy and politically correct shackles of our society, and from the rest of the music industry and its carefully contrived hair gel models. 


"Yeezy" makes great music, he just does. And if you listen to his lyrics, he's painfully honest and self aware about his super low self esteem and general douchebaggery ("Blame Game", "Runaway"). And no, he can't sing. Does he want to share the glory, royalties or the stage? Absolutely not. So along comes soul-bearing electro-pop concept album "808s and heartbreak" in 2008, and suddenly, auto-tune is a conceptual tool. A Kanye trademark. He OWNS the vocoder. He shows that he doesn't care that he's a rubbish singer, and suddenly, neither do we. For now he is positioned as an intellectual, emotionally literate VISIONARY, and regular singing is for plebs. He produces his own image just as he cuts a record. With a terrifying perfectionism and an instinctive sense of timing.

It is strategy like that which keeps Kanye on top. Would he sell more if people liked him more? Probably. But he's a superstar entirely on his own terms, and whilst I suspect him of being a bit of a massive knob in real life, I admire his raw talent and consider his self aggrandisement both a tool for his rise, and then a treat for himself after working hard all these years. And he has been. "Jesus Walks" (his fourth single) came out ELEVEN years ago. Feel old yet? Kanye is 38 now. The boy is, by most measures, a grown up. He is who he's going to be. 


Why, therefore, shouldn't he marry a glamour model who'll adore him? Why should he not scream "I'm king of the world!" or its equivalent?! He's an intellectual sociopath - he'll never be happy, so he may as well be a hedonist. When he swings above the crowd belting out "All of the lights" in a cherry picker, forcing you to squint up at him, his searchlight all but blinding you as it reflects off the glitter in your eyelashes, he's just getting his kicks and fucking with you at the same time. I get my kicks listening to his music. I don't mind him getting his. Humility is good, but there's also a place for energy, for passion, for yang, for fire and for chaos - it keeps us all on our toes and feeling alive. Without all that, we'd be dead. But we'd be humble, I guess.


Where there is chaos and conflict in music, that's where you'll find Kanye. He'll be the one carefully arranging it into witty poetry, with an African beat and some hi-tech samples. At worst, he artfully skirts between courting controversy and honing his commercial appeal - at best, he fuses the two in a maelstrom of media. He causes a ruckus, sets our news agenda for us, pumps out an anthem and continues to be the world's greatest living rock star. Even if he does say so himself.


"What more can you ask for?

The international asshole

Who complains about what he is owed?

And throws a tantrum like he is 3 years old

You gotta love it though somebody still speaks from his soul"

- Kanye West, Diamonds from Sierra Leone

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