Kanye West Is Culture (a re-post, for perspective, from August 2010)
While thoroughly shocking, what Kanye West has accomplished in a string of tweets praising United States President Donald Trump actually pales by comparison to what he did to pop culture when he first signed up for Twitter in 2010. Most impressively, what he accomplished in his first three weeks on Twitter eight years ago, he’s done in roughly half of the time during his previously mentioned 2018 reactivation. Thus, I have unearthed what then was a “must read” blog post I wrote in 2010 about Kanye for sake of perspective. It reads eerily accurate in retrospect. Enjoy.
Like all great black men, Kanye West has a God complex. As the most innovative man in hip-hop since Afrika Bambaataa, Kanye West as a producer transcended the genre. As an artist, his persistence in resolving the multitude of issues with his own life and with understanding the nature of how unfairly the universe operates in sound and rhyme transcended music. And in boldly declaring that Taylor Swift didn’t deserve to win a 2009 MTV Video Music Award, he transcended justice. Now, in the prelude to his forthcoming release Dark Twisted Fantasy, Mr. West is on a mission to not just transcend hip-hop, all of the music industry, and the nature of justice, but he is instead on a very culturally vital mission to become culture itself. You may find ignorance and audacity in such a claim, but it is entirely accurate.
Nearly three weeks ago, Kanye West joined Twitter. The 140 character immediate update of instantaneous snatches of the universe is the first time that news, culture, and opinion have been blended and mashed in such a unique format. Everyday life and life-altering events coexist on the same timeline, birth meeting death, joy meeting pain, love meeting hate, all with corresponding opinions. To make Twitter stop internationally and focus on a singular event happens for even the most culturally significant people once a month or so.
Let’s compare this to Yeezy. Yeezy joined Twitter and in less than 30 days has nearly 694,000 followers. By comparison, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder has almost 1.6 million followers, and he’s been on for almost five years. Kanye has single-handedly made Clydesdale horses, re-visiting the idea of Kobe Bryant as a rapper, gold goblets, partying in Sweden and a passion for fashion not hot in the streets, pushing ahead the groupthink of universal culture. On Sunday, he singlehandedly and successfully built bridges to new audiences for artists struggling to find them. Hipster degenerate punk-hop disciples Ninjasonik, ebullient pop masterpieces Matt and Kim, the oft assailed M.I.A. and the popped by bottles Justin Bieber, who now has become the world’s most important 16-year old as the only person followed by the force of culture itself, the Louis Vuitton Don.
Kanye West has set the new cultural shift. Live fast. Die young. This notion is different than the hipster idea of doing blow and dying quickly or the recessionary ode of live cheaply and die sad. Kanye West is happy to be alive and wants us to echo his sentiment. If I were him, I’d be too and want the same. A noted and proud mama’s boy, his mom died. He then released a Depeche Mode album that people forcibly tried to like. Many more people succeeded in loving him as a pop star after its release. From there he decides it to be a great idea to make Taylor Swift a cultural icon by merely showing his ass on international television in an epically comic manner. He does this while dating a bodacious supermodel rebound chick who left him for a football star. If this were your life, and you survived? You’d be Tweeting your ass off about getting to watch Batman on a thirteen-foot wall projection TV as well.
For his first single from his new release, “Power,” he filmed a video with him under a halo surrounded by cherubs, angels, and seraphim while bathed in a golden hue. The video is directed by Marco Brambilla, a director and graphic artist in the moving portrait realm. The video is also almost singularly obsessed by imagery straight out of the Hieronymus Bosch genre contrasting and discussing the nature of the necessary contrast between good and evil. Ultimately, “Power” accomplishes much more than asking “what can a man do with all this power,” over a stadium rap track that sounds like it’s meant to be played at the Parthenon and not your car speakers.
Kanye West drives culture because he can. Deny him his goal of being a cultural identifier or culture-as-religion, and you’re likely to hear about it. On a track, in a blog post, or now, on Twitter. He’s sucking the marrow out of the most dramatically creative forces in the world. From emotional synthesized sounds to Takeshi Murakami to live musical backgrounds for Unplugged performances, and so many more examples, Kanye West lives only for the extremes of this universe, and in doing so is one of the most polarizing figures of this or any generation. He perpetually lives and dies for the public, his emotional well-being decided as a public referendum.
As we head into a new age informed by the instantaneous shifts of culture being reflected by technology, life has reached a point where a man can be culture and culture can be a man. Let’s not be angry about this proclamation, but accept it as a statement of the degenerative nature of the global society that has led us to this point. 9/11 ruined our generation’s faith in good people. A pointless war destroyed our confidence in good government. Our faith in good religion has been shaken by a plethora of horrific acts of nature that have proven many things right, including Kanye stating that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
We live in a culture in which there is nothing left to believe. The underground hipster development was more about dancing to Nero fiddling while Rome burned than any forward thinking cultural development. It was the lack of rules and lack of adherence to any standards of decency, sincerity, or much of anything else. We’re at a point now where in the mainstream, on the underground, in the streets, and in our minds, all that we know as hope, all that we know as fantasy, all that we know as reality, is gone. Everything in its place is frightening, unusual, terrifying, altogether too frank, honest, open and new. Nobody truly knows what to do in a socially and culturally lawless environment.
“What does a man do with all that power?” The question of the moment. Kanye West, as culture itself, has more power than all of us combined and is about to find out.