A (very interesting) short film by director Spike Jonze, starring Mr. West.
I don't hide the fact that I am very much a Kanye West apologist. On many occasions, I've had to "defend" one of my favorite entertainers with the ever-classic, "No...you just don't get it", or some variety of that sentiment. In my mind, that sentence is a sure sign that whoever you're talking about is either a complete lunatic, or truly "advanced" as Chuck Klosterman defines it:
"When a genius does something that appears idiotic, it does not necessarily mean he suddenly sucks. What it might mean is that he's doing something you cannot understand, because he has Advanced beyond you."[After the jump, I go on a ramble that might not be too easy to follow, but it was mildy cathartic.]
Maybe my eternal defense of Kanye West is because of something simple. As people, we always tend to gravitate towards things/people that show us somewhat of a reflective image of ourselves. We listen to certain music because it reminds us of our own lives. We hang around people from the same neighborhood because of shared life experiences. We watch TV because "dude, those guys are just like me and my boys". That's the experience I get with Kanye West. Not to get too auto-biographical, but themes ranging from "Black people aren't supposed to listen to/wear/talk like/say/care about/act like that", to dealing with a strange sense of self-esteem so high that it can appear low to unfamiliar eyes or uncomfortably brash to familiar ones, to doing/saying things that come so far out of left field that are just honest and forthright to me, but rude and quizzical to others, are all "problems" I have had to deal with almost constantly. There's a odd sort a deja vu (in relative scale) when I read or hear people's reactions to something Kanye has done . . .maybe it's not even Kanye that I'm defending half the time.
The last year and a half (or so) of Kanye's career has been fascinating to me. From the point last summer when he was dealing with the back-to-back of the end of his engagement and the death of his mother, it seems like all bets are off. Anything is possible. He was well on his way to being the biggest thing Hip-Hop has seen since Jay-Z, and a true game-changing (so sorry for using that phrase) creative force in the genre . . .then he (quite-suddenly) released 808's & Heartbreak, an album that sounded like Teddy Riley had a time machine and recorded in London in the late 80's, and no one knew how to accept it. Of course, I spent months defending it to everyone who just "didn't get it". Then there was the string of oddly emotional interviews, bleeding heart iconography, and a visible dent in the Kanye ego armor. The last few months have seen him snatch a mic from a country starlet, cry on national TV after being chastised like an 8yr old, and cancel what was probably going to be the biggest pop tour of the year.
Yes . . .I am a Kanye apologist. But I'm also obsessed with marketing, branding and image cultivation. I don't know what's next for Kanye West. I get the strange feeling (especially after that short film) that he has something up his sleeve. That this is all a calculated formula for the launch of the new Kanye brand (Kanye 4.0 by my count). Either that . . .or everything from the VMA onward has been something of an elaborate, desperate, Twitter post sort of thing. "I'm Kanye. I'm feeling something, but rather than deal with it, I have to make it incredibly public so everyone can watch and see how deep and sensitive I am". It is 2009, after all . . .isn't that what it's all about now? Life is just an ongoing contest to see who can be the most "human" in a public display.
2009 is a place where Facebook supposedly comes with legitimate social obligations and being a trending topic on Twitter is proper validation/justification for almost anything. In that context, how do we tell the truly "advanced" from the crazy or the attention whores? Am I defending Kanye because I think he's a genuinely creative, misunderstood figure . . .or am I just looking to rationalize some of my own bullshit in a round-about way?