Kanye West. Arguably the most divisive person in the entertainment industry.
To some he’s a musical genius who’s insistence on transcending genre has paved the way for a generation of new artists. To others, he’s a cock. A ranting, stage-invading, Kardashian-loving narcissist with a messiah complex.
Yeezy himself is well aware of his ability to divide opinion. Life of Pablo song I love Kanye spawned the line ‘I miss the old Kanye’ and is all about the common perception that Kanye used to be something of a musical genius (in his early production and College Dropout days) but these days has ideas way above his station.
Of all the dislikes people have towards Kanye West, it’s his frequent stage-rants that seem to generate the most hate. Now there’s a lot I could choose from here. However, the video below is perhaps the greatest example of a bizarre, Kanye rant that actually occurred just three-songs into his set in Sacramento during the Life of Pablo tour. After just 1:07 second of playing his hit song Famous Kanye instructs his DJ to ‘stop the beat’ – it was rant time.
Right. It’s difficult to find anything to like about the ad-libbed speech where he criticised Beyoncé, Hillary Clinton, radio stations and Mark Zuckerberg.
Aside from the gibberish, Kanye not only interrupted one his most-loved tunes, but he left the stage immediately after. Just imagine if you’d dropped $100 on a Kanye ticket and Yeezy disappears after just three-tunes. That’s certainly not the way to win over fans.
In stark contrast is fellow rap juggernaut, Drake. Love him or hate him, if you’ve ever seen a Drake show you’ll know that it’s nothing but energy and positivity. Drizzy gets the crowd going before every song, energetically runs across the stage constantly and relentlessly tells the crowd how happy he is to be in that city.
Drake/Kanye comparison aside the biggest issue here is surely this: what has Kanye got to be so angry about? He shouts ‘f*ck the radio’ yet he’s one of the most played and commercially successful artist of the last 20-years.
In total Kanye has shifted a monster 21-million copies of his records, and a further 66-million (legal) downloads worldwide. He’s headlined the prestigious Glastonbury festival and was in the middle of a huge, mostly sold-out, world tour before scrapping it for health reasons shortly after the Sacramento rant.
And that’s just his night-job. What about Kanye’s lucrative collaboration with sports-powerhouse, Adidas. Each time a new Yeezy has dropped the entire batch, usually around 40,000, has sold out in minutes. Extrapolate that over seven styles and that means 280,000 Yeezys exist in the world.
Those not fortunate enough to pick up his shoes during the initial release are known to flock to eBay and other second-seller sites to drop obscene amounts of cash for a pair of sneakers. An article in Footwear News claimed one fan paid a whopping $75,000 for his Yeezy’s.
The Ruptly video below perfectly demonstrates the pandemonium each time a new Yeezy drops.
From the outside, you can’t really conclude any other way than Kanye has complete creative freedom across whatever he does – surely the dream for any creative.
That’s certainly the case with his very own fashion label, Yeezy Supply, which features luxurious items including a $10,780 jewelry collection. It helps that he has the social-media powerhouses that are the Kardashian’s to model his clothes to their many hundreds of millions of followers; and yet that’s still not enough to keep Kanye smiling.
Kanye demonstrated his dark-side once again at New York Fashion Week 2017, when he organised a show without consulting those in charge of the event – causing scheduling chaos and some very unhappy designers.
“Once again, CFDA (Council Of Fashion Designers Of America) was not approached or consulted about the possibility of Kanye West showing on the official New York Fashion Week schedule,” President and CEO Steven Kolb said in a statement to Women’s Wear Daily.
“Not going through the proper channels is disruptive to the whole week and unfair to designers who have secured spots through the formal procedure,” he continued.
2017 wasn’t the only year Kanye caused Fashion Week chaos. In 2016, his show was plagued with errors and setbacks including a delay of more than two-hours, which led to one of his models fainting after being told to stand perfectly still, without water, in the New York sunshine. It was a similar story in 2015. Kanye failed to announce his show until two-hours before it was due to begin, once again causing scheduling chaos for the events organisers.
The aforementioned rants, disruptions, no-shows and Kardashian-love have certainly split the room when it comes to Kanye. But lets put all that aside for a moment. For it’s one of the most classic Kanye moments that really put the cat amongst the pigeons. Yep, when Taylor Swift got Kanyed back in 2013. Let’s relive the cringeworthy moment below. Jump to 42 seconds for Yeezy’s bizarre interruption.
Taylor Swift was understandably shaken following Kanye’s untimely arrival on her stage. “I was standing onstage, and I was really excited because I’d just won the award, and then I was really excited because Kanye West was onstage,” she told People magazine. “And then I wasn’t excited anymore after that.”
Like the majority of Kanye’s exploits, this wasn’t the first time he’d acted in such a way. He stormed out of the 2004 American Music Awards after losing out on ‘Best New Artist’ to country singer Gretchen Wilson. He was at it again two years later. This time crashing the stage during the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards after losing out on ‘Best Hip Hop Video’ to Justice and Simian. West ranted “My video cost a million dollars. Pamela Anderson was in it. I jumped across canyons.”
Then there was his infamous Bonaroo Festival appearance. Known for its free-love philosophy, a performer has to do a fair bit to piss off the mostly hippy attendees. Kanye did just that. Eventually taking to the stage over two-hours late, at a ridiculous 4:30 am, Kanye was booed by large sections of the crowed and condemned by festival organisers. He responded in typical Kanye fashion.
“I’m typing so f___ing hard I might break my f___ing Mac book Air!!!!!!!!,” Yeezy wrote on his blog. “Call me any name you want … BUT NEVER SAY I DIDN’T GIVE MY ALL. WE WERE OBVIOUSLY DEALING WITH F___ING IDIOTS WHO DIDN’T REALLY HAVE THE CAPACITY TO REALLY PUT ON THIS SHOW PROPERLY. THEY TRIED 2 GIVE ME A TIME SLOT WHERE IT WAS STILL LIGHT OUTSIDE … I HAVE A F___ING LIGHT SHOW DUMB A__, IT’S NOT CALLED GLOW IN THE DARK FOR NO REASON SQUID BRAINS!”
And finally, one of Kanye’s most controversial moments came as he performed at the 2005 Live 8 Concert. An event designed to raise awareness of global poverty and AIDS – and drew a huge audience of three billion people.
During his Philadelphia performance, Kanye decided to steal the headlines once again. This time spousing the hugely controversial and debunked claim that AIDS was a “man-made disease” that was “placed in Africa just like crack was placed in the black community to break up the Black Panthers.”
West was seemingly unwilling to back down on his view when he rapped “And I know the government administered AIDS/ So I guess we just pray like the minister say,” in his 2005 hit single, Heard ’em Say. He’s certainly not one to back down from his beliefs, ey.
One criticism you can’t direct at Kanye is that his music has been inspirational for many artists. Artists as diverse as as The XX, Drake, Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, The 1975 and Chance The Rapper have all quoted Kanye as fundamental to their music trajectory. Particularly citing his synth-heavy 2008 album 808 and Heartbreak, which saw West depart from his hit-laden previous albums and was heavily influenced by the sudden and unexpected passing of his beloved mother.
Even his hugely divisive 2013 album, Yeezus, is now seen as being fundamental to the off-beat style and totally re-working of popular samples that is characteristic of modern hip hop.
Staying with music, it’s West’s ear for an incredible artist that led him to found G.O.O.D M.U.S.I.C in 2004. A label that’s brought numerous gems into the mainstream including Big Sean, Pusha T and Desiigner.
If that’s not enough, he also produced almost every memorable track on the god-like rap collaboration with Jay-Z, Watch The Throne, that dropped in 2011. Including Ni**as in Paris. Who could forget the epic performance of one of the best rap tunes of all time played in Paris itself. Check it out below.
So there you have it. Now it’s up to you decide whether the man is a musical legend, a pioneer, a fashion aficionado, a loving father and husband; or an ego-maniac, stage-invading ranter who thinks too much of himself.
For the record, I’m a huge Kanye fan – well, of his music anyway. I’ve seen him live five times and loved each show. But my opinion might be very different if I was Taylor Swift, or an attendee in Sacramento, or an organiser of NYFW. Whatever your stance, it’s undeniable that Kanye is one of the most interesting people on the planet. When he recovers from the medical issues that caused him to cancel his last tour, I’m sure there will be plenty more to add to this (already long!) list of Kanye being Kanye.