Reasons to Love Kanye West. Or at least respect him.
An essay by Matthew Whibley
Ask the man in the street who Kanye West is and I reckon you’d get one of three responses. He’s a rapper, he’s a celebrity, he’s a prick. All three of these labels do the man a huge disservice from bad to worst.
Why is he so hated? Now, sometimes we can get caught up in what’s being said on message boards and comments sections and it starts to feel like this is the opinion of the world. For example, I work in Manchester and live just outside it. Looking at message boards it makes you feel like 80% of the population wants Brexit. But I am yet to meet a single person in the real world who voted for it other than a thoroughly misguided young pair campaigning for the Leave campaign 2 days before the vote who I ended up having a shouting match with on the walkway outside Piccadilly station. (Not the way to get your point across but when your way of life is being threatened it’s difficult to keep cool.) Now, again I work in a city that didn’t vote for it but all in my family, friends, colleagues, students, neighbours…….. not one person?! But I digress.
I see Kanye hate every day on the web (people still say web?) but the difference between this and Brexit is that it is prevalent in my real life. I do know colleagues who collapse into themselves when I even mention his name. I’ve had rooms full of people look at me like I’ve just shat myself when I pronounce he’s one of my favourite artists. Some comments I see on Facebook are from my dearest friends “I wish someone would put an end to this mumps ridden twat” or even from my own brother “Matt, when are you going to wake up and stop listening to this dick?!” (possibly multiple exclamation marks) I won’t say which friend or even which brother. But, these are both artists themselves. These guys are musicians and designers and composers and generally very open minded people. I can talk about Cameron, May and Trump, public figures whose names always get me worked up when I think of the atrocious things they’ve done, and the reaction is very often a limp “oh I know but what can you do eh?” (in real life, not comments sections). I could mention a Kanye West video in the continuation of the same conversation and almost see the blood boil and the heart rate race before I quickly try and change the subject before they go into a seizure.
So for me to attempt to convince the Kanye detractors of why he is an artist of incredible merit, I must first attempt to explain to his loyal fan base why he is hated so much. So, let’s have a look at his big stupid face shall we?
Let’s have a look at this fucking idiot yeah?
“Hey Kanye, why do you never smile for photos?”
“Kanye, why do you always look so arrogant, ya knob?”.
I present to you exhibit A. May as well just stop the article now eh? We’ve seen the pic, we’re all decided let’s all just go home.
This is the typical Kanye photo. In fact I just Bingged his face (how the hell do you spelled Bingged? Like that? Two g’s looks weird but one g is just… never mind) So I Googled his face and this was one of the first to come up. For anyone who hasn’t grasped how Google works, that means it’s one of the most common pictures used for him. Look at those dead eyes, that protruding jaw, that leopard skin design and gold chains. Do you not just want to smash his face in? Good, good, let the hate flow through you.
Please allow me to show you another picture.
This is Denzel Washington from the 1995 submarine film Crimson Tide. In this scene he is the executive officer of the submarine under Captain Gene Hackman’s command. Captain tries to launch nuclear weapons based on half a message. Denzel tries to stop him and Hackman tells him that he is the captain of the vessel “Now, shut the fuck up!”. Denzel has the authority in this situation and after a shouting match he commands the captain be relieved of his duties and sent to his quarters. At the moment he orders the command, he looks at the captain with heated eyes and slightly pushes his jaw out in one of the greatest moments of acting a teenage me had ever seen. Watch it.
Goose bumps mate, me and my bezzie used to watch the shit out of that film and especially that scene. Now you may think I have forgotten about our subject or you know exactly where I’m going with this. Denzel Washington’s performance gives the impression of “Yeah I fucking did that, cos I could. Plus I don’t care if you think I’m a dick, get the fuck out of my face.” He manages that whole emotion just through one protruding jaw.
You’ve seen this picture before. As I said it’s in so many papers, magazines and on so many websites it’s almost the top picture. Kind of hard to look at this picture without thinking he’s a dick? If you are ever unfortunate enough to pick up a Metro newspaper off the floor of a Stagecoach bus, open the middle page and you will probably see a picture that looks like this. If you look at this miserable, arrogant face every day, and that’s the only exposure to him you get, you’re not going to think highly of this man. Fair enough, I suppose.
Staying with the idea of the centre page of the Metro ,or any other tabloid rag, the middle page is garish with horrible fonts and usually sports a huge title written in lightning or graffiti saying ‘Bedazzled’ or ‘Star-Gayz’ or ‘Celebrijizz’ or anything else that absolutely must have a zed or two. Anyone who doesn’t hate life usually skips past these pages quickly, like walking past an ex in the street. You don’t want to see Kerry Katona spewing up outside The Ivy or that bloke from that reality show with his mates having a night out in a shot that was definitely in no way fabricated. Celebs. Yeah I abbreviated it, just to make the hate come through a little bit more. God, celebs eh? Worse than nothing right? Untalented, uncouth, fame hungry whores. (Your words not mine.) But then you will always see a Kanye pic or two. Looking like the picture above. At a fashion show, award show or just in a club at 4:00 in the morning, looking like he wants to kill himself. What a talentless piece of shit! All he does is make shit tunes and stand around looking miserable in clubs. Oh what’s that? He’s with his wife too? I’ve seen her show (I haven’t), I can’t stand this woman! Put your fat arse away love! Not just a shit celeb himself, but married to one. How dare he exist in the same realm as me! He’s no better than Katie Price Jordan and that bloke that she’s been going out with for a few weeks who’s from that thing.
Am I painting a nice enough picture for your daily 2 – minute hate?
Maybe you don’t care about any of that stuff but you just can’t stand the ridiculous events he’s been caught up in; Proclaiming that George W Bush doesn’t care about black people during a charity drive, making Mike Myers look very uncomfortable. Or the Taylor Swift incident. (No, the other one. No the other Taylor Swift incident. Not that one, the other one. Yeah, that one.) To him saying he’s not going to finish the show until everyone is out of their seats, including the wheelchair users parked in the disabled section, to slagging off a very well received Beck album right in front of him to having a music video of him banging his much- hated wife on a Harley Davidson. Or maybe you just watched his Glastonbury performance and thought it was absolute shite!
In fact yeah, maybe I’m doing this too well. Maybe he is just a twat. Yeah, shall we stop there?
Oh, wait! I’ve just listened to Diamonds are from Sierra Leone and realised he’s a legend.
“What? How can you listen to that shit?”. Ask the detractors how they feel about his music and they generally say it’s auto-tuned mainstream bollocks. Or to be fair to many, “Yeah I liked his first two albums but then lost interest, all kind of sounds the same now. He can’t even rap anymore”. Or for the really narrow-minded view of all rap in general “How hard is it to steal other people’s music and swear all over it?”.
Now, I think I’ve been pretty fair and thorough in dissecting all the reasons I believe people hate this man. I have artists myself that really get on my nerves but over the years I have learnt to disconnect from. With any well known or respected artist or performer you need to consider how they got there. They would have started performing, or playing, or writing for fun and then discovered that people liked their work. A true artist makes art for themselves and then if others appreciate that work then that’s great. So when a budding singer, rapper or musician starts becoming popular, why would they ever think the music they do is not good. You also need to remember that these are not lucky people. These are people who have created everyday day and pushed their foot in many doors to get where they are today. They didn’t just write one tune and get snapped up by a record company. They were determined, passionate and intrusive. So when you look at an artist, any artist, don’t say it’s rubbish or a piece of shit. Consider the effort and passion that goes in, consider if you yourself have ever put that much of yourself into anything, and if you still don’t like it just say that it’s not for you. It’s not your cup of chai.
On the last track of Kanye West’s first album he details quite concisely how he made a name for himself. How he pushed his career by making beats for other artists and trying to do as much work as possible while networking and trying to show to other rappers that he was worthy of their time. No matter how much people told him he wasn’t good enough to be a rapper at the time he persevered.
Oh, sorry I forgot………
…………… you probably just want me to talk about his face.
The reason I believe people need to get over his face is because, this will blow your mind, he didn’t chose it. He literally can’t change it. My friend calling him a “mumps ridden twat” or whatever it was, and the comparison to Denzel Washington’s “prick” face is down to the fact he was in a pretty nasty car accident. Every other aspect of his face I believe he was born with. Pretty sure anyway.
“Hey Kanye, why don’t you ever smile?”
Here are the top Google search terms for his pictures. Around twenty pictures and he’s smiling in two possible three or four if you can count slight upward lip motion as a smile. These are the most popular pictures of him because I believe these are the pictures the press likes to use most to follow this bizarre idea that he always looks miserable. However if you tap down on the screen 3 times you get this.
Does this look like a man who is miserable or doesn’t have a sense of humour? There are still a few pouty pictures in this group I’ll admit but we’re still only a few clicks from the top. When I saw him on Saturday Night Live a couple of years ago, he looked incredibly happy. And absolutely when you watch his earliest performances he looks so enthusiastic and full of life. Surely the fact that he did Saturday Night Live or Chapelle’s Block Party or Anchorman 2 or the fact he used to love putting skits onto his albums shows he has quite a good sense of fun and humour. You can’t expect a man who is persistently beaten down to keep a smile on his face 24/7 anyway. Only a psychopath would do that.
As for the celebrity status he has. I’d say that mostly comes from his child like (some may say childish) nature. He seems amazed by the world like a child is, or someone on LSD is. I find it endearing myself but it’s got him into trouble ie the Mike Myers and Taylor Swift incidents or having huge twitter rants against Wiz Khalifa. I actually found that argument very funny. For those who don’t know, Kanye announced his new album was going to be called Waves. Wiz Khalifa took umbrage with this since it was the name of a Max B album. The argument was long and petty but Kanye just acted like a kid and totally threw his toys out of the pram. My favourite moment though was when West said “I invented your style of music!” which is funny because it’s true. West did change the name of the album however but then included a track of him talking to Max B from inside prison who not only shows that Kanye can call his album whatever he wants “You’re a wavy dude anyway so…”, but they also show a great fondness and respect for each other. Kanye effectively saying “Don’t tell me what to do in this rap game, without me you’d literally be nothing” and Wiz Khalifa knows it to be true.
For years, Michael Jackson got away with being a big kid and people loved him for it. But because people see Kanye as a guy with the wrong attitude, due to his face, they don’t take well to it. I’m yet to see Kanye dangle a baby out of a window, or cover his kids’ faces with blankets all day everyday, change his skin colour to look white (whether he had vitiligo or not) and he’s definitely not been accused twice of child sex abuse. Michael Jackson will remain beloved for time infinitum. And if I just offended you by mentioning his child sex court dates, even if he was innocent, he still had 14 year old boys staying at his place unaccompanied and sleeping in his bed. As a parent I find that very worrying. (But yes I still think Smooth Criminal is a beast of a tune.) And while I’m on this point., he hasn’t done much wrong from a humanitarian point of view. If you don’t like Chris Brown or Dr Dre due to their woman beating then I am right with you. What has Kanye done other than act like a kid sometimes? He’s not racist, or violent, or anything malicious like that. He just makes a bit of a douche out of himself every now and then. John Lennon treated his first wife horrendously. Johnny Cash almost burnt down a whole condor reserve by starting a forest fire which burnt down 508 acres in Los Padres National Forest. Phil Spector straight up killed a woman not to mention a string of other awful acts but I bet you still dance your tits off every time you hear River Deep, Mountain High. To the best of my knowledge, Kanye’s worst offences have been making some controversial art choices. Having a bed filled with naked celebrities in his video, only having mixed race models in one of his shows, that Bound 2 video. Are artists not allowed to be controversial? Is that not what they’re there to do. Okay he did recently meet with Donald Trump but he looked so uncomfortable when he did and I’m waiting for a time in the future he can talk about how horrible that was.
The best art, in my opinion, is one I don’t like immediately, whether it’s Tracy Emin or Damien Hirst or Banksy. Much of their art is to make you disgusted at first and then when you think about the piece it all comes together in your mind and then you have a Eureka moment of “Ah, now I see why this is incredible”. Three of my favourite albums of all time, Kid A by Radiohead, Aenima by Tool and To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar were all very difficult for me at first. I don’t think I made it to the end of any of those, plus many more examples I’m sure, without a sense of confusion and detachment. Why does this album have so much praise? To me it just sounds a bit heavy handed, not nice to listen to at all. But, usually because of the critical praise it receives, I persevere and I could live on an island now with only those three albums for entertainment and know I’d be okay. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, for example, have the opposite effect for me; Love their albums instantly but probably won’t be listening to them after a couple of months (not One Hot Minute, that album is perfect from start to finish, sorry John Frusciante). What I’m saying is once you think about Kanye West’s art, you do start to see where he’s coming from. Because he’s an amazing artist. That Bound 2 video is supposed to be hated. What he did was look at a white trash T-shirt (white trash who he would see as his enemy) and put it into a video.
We’re talking about mountains, eagles, motorbike’s and big titted ladies. He wanted to take all those ugly things (when presented in that way) and turn it into something beautiful. How do you do that? Make the big titted lady your wife, the person you love more than anyone in the world, no matter how the world seems to feel about her.
I’m not going to deconstruct every single piece of his art otherwise this essay, that started as an article, would turn into a book. Go and look for yourselves. There is such a shitty attitude these days to just look at something and declare it as shit without a moment’s hesitation or thought. I’m sorry to say it, but that makes you shit.
But while we’re on the subject of his wife, I’d like to talk to you, about Yeezus. Possibly his greatest work in my mind, at least if you’re looking for a piece of art. His first two albums are incredible for dancing or singing along to and I am going to talk more about these shortly. But Yeezus is something special. It starts with the most disgusting noise which cuts right into you as soon as it begins. I remember I was at the gym and was straight away horrified by it (his album before was his most radio friendly yet). Again, to push the point a little, I did not like this album when I heard it. That first track is the darkest side of Daft Punk. His rapping is disjointed and sounds like it doesn’t fit, half way through it cuts to a snippet of gospel music which feels so out of place and then back to the filth. It took me a while to figure out what the gospel singers are singing. They sing “Oh, he gives us what we need, it may not be what we want!”, now when I hear that it feels like an incredible release, like a beautiful moment in a troubled life, like discovering God when everything around you is turning to shit. On Sight, one of the best songs ever, I hated it at first. This tune sets the precedent for the whole album. A dismantlement of music which sounds raw and disjointed with moments of pure beauty. He tells us on one track that he is a god “I am a god, so hurry up with my damn Minaj, get my Porsche out the damn garage”. This, of course, angered religious types completely forgetting that West is a devout Christian. If Kanye West releases a song called I am a God, don’t take it at face value. He’s saying that because he tells himself everyday that he is amazing, his life will become that. He does whatever he wants, if he wants Nicki Minaj on a plane right now, he can have it. If he wants to marry the hottest woman (in his eyes) he will. He’s not saying that he’s a god so you should bow down to him, he’s saying that he’s a god because he has decided it and if you realise that you’re a god too, you can do anything.
So why did I say Yeezus was all about his wife? Because it totally is. When I broke up with my girlfriend of 5 years, I immediately fell in love with a Swedish girl called Linda. She was hot! My ex was hot in a cool, pretty, cute kind of way. But Linda was filth, dark dyed hair, tattoos, black leather, piercings in places I didn’t realise girls got piercings, and she wanted to do everything. Everything! I was obsessed (the reason it didn’t last) and started writing music. And my lyrics were dirty, because that’s all I could think about. I was having porn star sex with a girl I honestly cared greatly for and I believe she loved me, for a time. I went to Sweden, stayed with her family and never once thought she might cheat on me, and she didn’t. When I gave Yeezus some consideration it resonated with me so heavily. Listen to the tune I’m In It. The lyrics are obscene and disgusting and I totally get it. Here is a man who spent his life shagging around and now he has this porn star (literally) who loves him unconditionally, but still does nasty shit with him. He’s obsessed and Yeezus is his expression of that. It’s a masterpiece, I promise you.
If you only respect Kanye West for one thing, it should be his incredible ability to construct a perfect album. I was 21 when College Dropout came out in 2004 and by that point I was completely over rap. I couldn’t be bothered by gangster rap anymore despite being huge fans of Wu-Tang, Eminem and Cypress Hill in my teenage years. To me it was almost a dead form, on it’s way out. And then my ex (the cool one not the Swedish one) bought this album. All Falls Down was the first Kanye tune I ever heard. And I loved it instantly, the chords, the vocals from the female singer and then Kanye’s lyrics which still get to me even today. About being self conscious and trying to impress everyone else for unknown reasons, spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need to impress people you don’t know (to get a meme quote in there). Spaceship was all about the anguish of working a shitty shop job or night shift. Jesus Walks which was all about being able to cover any subject matter on the radio but not religion. To a tune about his car accident, a tune about family values, a tune about trying to please a woman by thinking about her tastes and preferences and so on and so on. The album was a huge success and quite rightly so. His follow up, which could have been side B of the biggest album of all time, also had amazing subject matter for each of his tunes; The conflict for a black man of wanting diamonds and not thinking of the implications of where they came from, talking about a woman who just wants a man for money, his grandma dying, how much he loves his mother, and many more detailing the social issues going on in America at that time and this.
I could go on analysing his music and art, hell I could write an article about any one of his pieces of work, but if you haven’t taken the time to look at what this man has achieved, maybe it’s time you should. A world without Kanye West is a very boring one. I could talk more about how he revolutionised the music industry by introducing new techniques and styles to the mainstream, paving the way for many current artists, like Wiz Khalif, we just wouldn’t have had otherwise. Or how his music videos are well thought out, beautiful and powerful. I could preach to you about the positive message he pushes out to the kids of Chicago (talk to Chance the Rapper). I could focus on how the greatest artists of the last 30 years or more from Paul McCartney to Bon Iver to Jay-Z to Daft Punk to Rick Rubin, Pharrell, Kid Cudi, Mos Def, Chris Martin, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd……. all continually want to work with him. I could even talk about how he designs a damn good pair of trainers, but maybe you’d just turn around to me and say that he’s just a mumps ridden twat.
So I set you a challenge; Invest a few hours one day looking up his music, work and achievements. If you need to, try and mentally distance yourself from the fact it’s his work. Check out the music he has produced but not rapped on (Common’s album Be springs to mind), have a look at his fashion designs which are incredibly sought after and very cool, his many successful business ventures, his art installations. The man just wants to create and create and he has such a good eye for it. There’s a reason why Complex magazine, along with other publications, declared him the most important artist of the 21st Century. So when a person declares to me that he’s talentless or stupid, it really makes them look ignorant. There are thousands of reasons to love Kanye West, or at least respect him.