Kanye West: The line between genius and ambiguous eccentricity
Kanye West wants to inspire. He wants to make people believe in themselves. He wants people to believe in him. He might even want to be president.
He might also want to consider what he wanted to achieve walking off stage at a show in Sacramento on Saturday. Publicity? He doesn’t need it. Impact? It was negative. Ambiguity? That’s all there really is now.
Two things are unambiguous. The fact he would have voted for Trump is extremely worrying. It’s also incredibly irrational considering in 2020, supposedly, he’ll be competing against Trump for presidency. Maybe it’s a very Kanye West attempt to throw people off the scent, but in the words of Talib Kweli — ‘lifting Trump up kills us’.
The second act of clarity was severely damaging. Fans were let down. Fans who paid money (which may be refunded, but still), who travelled long distances, who took time out of their lives to see him ‘perform’. A man who once said ‘the only luxury is time’, these fans did not get what they expected from theirs, and I’m sure many felt they had it almost entirely wasted.
‘The only luxury is time’ interview was Kanye West exhibiting his soul. I’ve no doubt people will cringe at the point he says ‘awesomeness’ with full sincerity, there is a childishness to it. But that childishness is a vital part of the Kanye West show.
We all have dreams as a child, and somewhere along the line we commit to mediocrity instead of an idea. At least most people do. So when we see someone like Kanye West on Jimmy Kimmel, overly excited, child-like, expressing creativity, we are intrinsically cynical. We laugh. Because it’s easier than admitting that there’s a guy who has more energy for life in a single interview than most people do in their entire existence.
The inner child never left Kanye, so sure, we see the tantrums far too frequently, the unexplainable occasionally, but we also see someone who isn’t afraid to live, and live with meaning.
Despite the madness of Saturday, there was a poignant moment for reflection. Kanye brought out Kid Cudi as a surprise guest and the two shared an embrace on the stage. There had been rumours there had been a rift between the pair, but this seemed to be forgotten when you see the footage of them hugging, with Kanye looking genuinely moved by the moment.
Kanye and Cudi are friends as well as creative partners. With Cudi recently in rehab in his continual battle against depression, it was reassuring to see everything else put aside, and simply see one friend console another who had been in a dark place.
In the rant below he continues to support Cudi consistently, but this arguably gets lost in the bizarre and frequently changing topic of what he says. Still, he’s looking out for a friend — the Kanye West way.
The rant is hard to follow. Let’s be honest. Kanye has previously expressed his concern over the fact that radios don't play Frank Ocean on Twitter, but after this point he seems to get increasingly wound up as he speaks. The inner child appears once again, but given free reign the message is confusing. Apart from ‘radio fuck you’, obviously.
If you were there on Saturday, there’s no denying how disappointing it will have been to suddenly see Kanye leave. Many will have felt let down, stunned that he had the audacity to simply walk off stage. His fans did not deserve that.
But in 5 years if you tell someone you went to see him that night, you’ll actually have more to say than someone who saw a regular (whatever that is) show. That’s the Kanye West effect — love it or hate it.
At the end of the speech/rant, he tells the press to ‘get ready, because the show’s over.’ If this was a publicity stunt, it has worked. Every major news outlet covered the story, and in turn Kanye took to his Instagram to post a series of pictures of clothes. He knows exactly how to self-promote, and he does it with ease.
When The College Dropout won best rap album at the 2005 Grammys, there’s a moment when Kanye gets up on stage and raises his hand, silencing the crowd. People literally stopped cheering instantly upon his request.
He then delivered an iconic speech — ‘everyone wanted to know what I’d do if I didn’t win, I guess we’ll never know.’ This is a guy people want(ed) to see win. No one more so than Kanye himself.
I don’t believe Kanye West is crazy. I think we’re all crazy. Politics is crazy. If he’s serious about 2020, he has a chance. Donald Trump is the president-elect. There is a new era of politics in America, and in the world. It is scary, but it is real.
‘A lot of people here tonight feel like they lost’, said Kanye on Saturday. 2016 has made people feel like they’ve lost. There is an energy to be harnessed, people are angry at the world, at their lives, and most importantly the seemingly minimal control they have over it. That I can understand.
There are parallels between Trump and Kanye. One is their extreme fame.
Kanye West can learn from Trump, after all – he won. Much of this was down to Trump’s Twitter presence, Kanye already has nearly 11 million more followers than the president-elect. He has a platform. It is now about how he uses it, and the clarity of the message he holds. That message needs to be, and surely will be, different to Donald Trump’s.
Unfortunately, the message on Saturday was one of confusion. There was plenty of ideas, but they were sporadic. He has jumped over the line of genius and ambiguous eccentricity throughout his entire career, but he spent Saturday in the latter category.
Despite this, politics has become a popularity contest and Kanye West is still very popular. But that can very easily change.
A time to reflect?
In his honorary doctorate speech he summed up his own career and responsibilities as an artist well.
‘I am a pop artist, so my medium is public opinion and the world is my canvas’.
There is now a need for his ‘vision’ to be explained rationally and calmly. When he talks people listen, but there is a risk his eccentric rants are losing their impact. He can speak brilliantly. He can make people believe in themselves. He can possibly even change the world — his canvas is still being painted.
Every artist needs to take a moment to pause and reflect, perhaps that moment is now for Kanye West. ‘The show is over’, the next chapter is yet to be created, and it can still be a good one.