The Person and The Artist
In my humble opinion, Kanye West is the greatest artist alive.
I start by confessing that I'm not blessed with a strong musical comprehension like some of my friends or adversaries, a lot of my sonic taste developed from my parents, publications, social media and generally surveying the web. However, I like to think I have a good appreciation for quality, aesthetic and production, obsessive from a young age, I fell in love with film, architecture and design. Music will always be a subjective concept, what your cup of tea is may not be for the person standing beside you. However, like i have suggested before, I certainly appreciate quality no matter the genre, and nobody embodies quality quite like Kanye West. Everyone has an opinion on Mr. West, to some he’s an egotistical maniac that's past his prime, to others he is a tortured soul that is blessed with such musical genius and taste, his legacy still remains tangible. Some others don’t really have a side they stand on, they just feel he provides enough chaos and entertainment that they just have to tune in. Kanye West can rub you off the wrong way, that wasnt always easy for me to say because I used to be known as a ‘blind’ fan. I was self aware that I had a huge bias but I wore that huge bias with pride. His music is just that good in my opinion and demands such irrationality. Sometimes I’m scouring Apple Music playlists and I always conclude that world needs more Kanye. I am a firm believer that Kanye west raises everybody’s game. He is a visionary that has paved the way for many and many more to come.
I once dated an ‘interesting’ lady that had a real ear for music, she was a musician herself and she always tried to lecture me on 'real music’. She was referring to proper instrumentalisation and placed a serious emphases on the importance of live perfomances( a real jazz-head), she absolutely hated digital manipulated sounds that’s currently found in most of popular music today. LOL, I once made the mistake of playing a Bryson Tiller song while we were in the car, it certainly didn’t go down well. Btw i like 'Young Tiller'. To be honest she may be right, I concede that there is a higher respect for those that can play an instrument live and do not necessarily rely on studio enhancers to gain a career (but who respect don epp?). She showed me a new side to music and although we don’t really speak today, every time i go through my playlist and I listen to a track she introduced me to, I’m very appreciative of the musical lecture. I respect her opinion but it had no effect on my view on Mr. West.
One evening in her college dormitory, i tried to convince her that Kanye West is the ‘fucking genius’ of our time, and I was determined to succeed. I played her ‘Life of Pablo’ and she didn’t get it, in-fact I think she hated him even more. I remember she was really ticked off about some of his musical arrangements and long pauses, screaming, “ who does he fucking think he is?”. I was even offering Genius like commentary suggesting I was actually present during the live recording of the album. I failed woefully in my noble quest. That night, we weren’t alone, we had a supporter on either side and we argued to the point where it got borderline hostile, so we decided to quit the debate after a few hours and got some food, food always helps, trust me!
However, I realised something that night, its very difficult to convert an unbeliever by letting them explore the chaotic and scattered masterpiece that is 'Life of Pablo', you have to start from the beginning and then maybe get to Pablo. Starting with Pablo was like a crash course on everything about Kanye West, both positive and negative. It was too brash for a real introduction, too impulsive for her elitist ears, I think she needed to hear something from the college themed era,( maybe something light lol). Another thing that stuck with me was her disgust at Kanye’s ‘arrogance’. Im sure we are all aware of the saying, ’Pride goeth before the fall…”, and many think Kanye West is the perfect case study for this cliche. Ego at certain levels is dangerous and ego is synonymous with Kanye West, he has embraced this side of himself, packaged it and sold it to the world. it causes him to act out, make terrible decisions and prove his haters right. He is far from perfect, but in my eyes he is not far from redemption because he is most importantly self aware, almost to a fault. Personally I fuck with self aware people no matter how ‘bad’ they are, “tell yourself the truth and you shall be free” type of people. I thinks self awareness is the first step to reformation, so I have hope for Mr. West as a person, but as a musician he is freaking perfect.
Ive been asked why I love Kanye West’s music so much and I've never really attempted to give a proper answer until now. If memory serves me well, my first encounter with Kanye West came in my early years at Corona Secondary School and he immediately got my attention. During the holidays I was always at my cousin's house and that place usually doubled as an altar to 50 Cent, G-Unit and that whole gangsta stuff. In retrospect, I cant blame them, the whole world was in awe of Curtis Jackson, he was a megastar from the streets, he was also shot 9 times, built like Kratos and wore a Teflon like no other. Everyone bought what he was selling but me, I was looking towards someone else, to ‘the nigga with the pink polo and fucking backpack’. The dude that put choirs and soul samples into his beats, the guy that was completely opposite to the gangsta rhetoric everyone was consuming. I was shocked that my mates didn't understand this genius, i honestly thought they were completely wrong, I started to feel like i had a higher understanding of music compared to my peers. Later in life, i got to understand that my self confidence in my exclusive taste was grossly misguided, I was only making such judgements based on my surroundings. Outside my tiny bubble, the world had definitely taken notice but I wasn't aware of this then.
This was all before that famous album sales showdown between Mr. West and Mr Jackson, when Kanye won I didn't let anyone rest. I was so gassed, the victory felt personal. 'My guy' was now on top of the world and I felt like i was there with him, even though this sounds ridiculous now as i put words to paper. From then on, Kanye dominated the industry for years to come, I compared everything to Kanye, I focused on his clothing, his cars and even his choice of women. I decided to learn about his thinking process and how he sees the world and how his message has always been consistent despite what naysayers suggest. I am actually grateful to Kanye West, he was instrumental in helping me find my voice, helping me identify my strengths and develop my taste. I truly believe when he says 'the world can be saved by design'.
Kanye West is a deeply flawed human being, and in recent times he has challenged my loyalty and admiration with some of his unexplainable actions and declarations but like an old best friend who found fame and money, its important to look back to the beginning of your journey together to find memories that pierce through the clouded image and reveal a person you actually connected with. I have never met Mr. West and I may never meet him in this lifetime, in fact I don't even think a meet up is necessary. But if I could ever get the opportunity to speak to him , I would simply say...
'Thank You Mr. West'.