Last night, Kanye West performed his first of two sold-out shows in Toronto. At the top of his mid-set rant aka “visionary stream of consciousness” (his words, not mine) he requested the audience to raise their hands if they’ve ever had a tough time defending him to his haters. Needless to say, my hand shot straight up.
It’s not easy being a Kanye fan.
There was a time a time when Yeezy could snugly fit in my proverbial back pocket. A decade later, Kanye is one of the most oversaturated commodities in
hip hop culture and it often feels corny to admit being a fan. Talking about Kanye ad nauseum is what Noisey’s Ernest Baker likens to “presenting yourself as a serious film buff and only wanting to talk about Fast and Furious movies.”
Presenting yourself as a fan can suggest that you’re somehow less cultured, that Ye’s brand of art is strictly for the masses – that the 21-time Grammy winner is a lesser, unrefined artist creating crude derivatives of more sophisticated works. Fuck outta here. If that ain’t some of the most ignorant and underhanded classist bullshit I ever heard.
The problem that most critics/haters have with Kanye is one of immersion. They want to enjoy his music, in the same way that people want to enjoy a Tom Cruise film, but they can’t look past the tabloid fodder of rants, fights, interviews, scandals and antics. They get hung up on Yeezus the insecure egomaniac with the messiah-complex.
And I’ll admit that somewhere between the Bound 2 video, the Sway interview, the Charlamagne interview and the Police Chief letter, my faith began to waiver. But after last night’s sermon, I snapped back to the reality that Kanye has absolutely no obligation to be a role model. He’s simply an artist.
Yeezy punctuated his 10-minute vociferation with this:
“I am not a role model. I am an artist…I say some inspiring things, take that. I say some stupid things, don’t take that. Delete it. You just be you, I’ll be me. If you don’t like it, don’t wear it. I’m just going to get crazier, I’m just going to get scarier.” – Kanye West
Here we have an artist whose words and actions get people talking the way that world leaders (chastised by West as the “least dignified and the most corrupt”) ought to get people talking – an artist under no obligation to lead us anywhere. Yet, there he was last night literally splitting mountains, performing his heart out and unifying hipsters, thugs and rap nerds alike from all walks of life in submission to his self-indulgent story of achieving greatness. Michael Jackson said that “The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.” Last night was a lesson in passion, expression, creativity, excellence and determination.
We all choose to pay attention to Kanye. I choose to align myself with his narrative of failure & success and let his music be part of my life’s soundtrack. Haters choose to be bothered by him. But what they fail to see is that they’re truly bothered by themselves. They played an instrumental part in catalyzing the reciprocal process of art-influencing-culture (and in turn culture-influencing-art) which bore the conditions necessary for Kanye West to succeed. And then they get upset that Kanye made it. If the haters can do it better than Ye, then they should step forward. If not, that’s okay – Yeezus loves and forgives them. Last night, he assured 10,000+ people that the only difference between dreamers and haters, is that “haters forgot about their dreams.”
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” – George Bernard Shaw
And that, Sway, is the answer.