Kanye West: A Celebrity Without The Mask

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So, I’m sure you’ve heard and, at some point today, will have watched Kanye’s interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live from last night. It’s attached below if you have time/want to. It’s a fascinating watch in the study of celebrity, in the study of ego and the study of Kanye West.

I am a very big Kanye West fan. With that comes a lot of responsibility and headaches. To quote a friend of mine, being a fan of Kanye West is like being in an abusive relationship; Kanye makes it very hard to be a fan of Kanye West. The way Kanye West presents himself is intolerable. Let me repeat that: the way Kanye West presents himself is intolerable. His points are always valid (Beyonce’s video was and is better than Taylor Swift’s), it is just the way he goes about presenting his points. He’s rarely wrong, but he’s dismissed because he is so ridiculous. If he didn’t use caps lock when he tweeted his rants, they’d be tolerable. The problem with Kanye West is that while he may claim he is self-aware, but he is far from it and is so far beyond the point of wanting to change that and, for me, that’s okay. He may know you think he is a jerk, but that only feeds his ego (thanks, Beyonce). At the beginning of his interview with Jimmy he claims he doesn’t do publicity stunts in the normal way celebrities do. True. Kanye West (rarely) stages photo-ops with the paperazzi the way, say, the Kardashians or a list of professional actors, actresses & musicians do. No, Kanye West is not a publicity whore. But, the way he has gone about doing things (interrupting Taylor, the George Bush incidient, etc…) they themselves are all stunts, he doesn’t recognize them as being that because he thinks that going about proving his point in whatever absurd manner he may do so is okay. So right there, a few minutes in, this interview isn’t going to be very self reflective because, well, Kanye isn’t.

If you take away all of this though, Kanye isn’t wrong. When Kanye West says he’s a genius, is he wrong? No. He has had an incredible impact on music, culture and society – good or bad. He’s just being honest, or, rather, he is being a celebrity without the mask. Because they all think they are geniuses. All of them. Even the ones you think don’t, the most humble of them, they all think they are. How could you not? When your record is #1, your worldwide tour is sold-out and you’re the most famous person in the world, you’re so far removed from reality that how else can you think? “It comes with your first plane ticket to L.A” Kanye says to Kimmel. I love this line so much. They are all like this, they just don’t say it and they put on their false humility. What is the difference between Kanye West and Reese Witherspoon? In reality, not a lot. Except when Reese is doing the rounds, putting her face out there, she is America’s Sweetheart. When she’s being drunk & disorderly and disrespecting authority, her true self shines. Remember? She is not different than Kanye West. She just presents it differently.

So if we know this about Kanye by now, why are so many people so surprised and so offended by this? Why is he still treated like a clown? Because he didn’t like being made fun? None of them do. Because he – inappropriately – says how he feels? Turn on your radio right now. Chris Brown is probably getting more radio pay than Kanye West. Does that make any sense? No. Is it because he gave his child a ridiculous name? Ashlee Simpson named her kid Bronx (!!!!!), but no one was upset about that.

Again: I’m not blind to the reality of Kanye West. He is at times intolerable. He is self-indulgent. He is egotistical. He is everything that society doesn’t respect and doesn’t agree with. But when did we go in expecting our celebrity figures to have  humility? I’ve always said, I love Kanye West but I never want to meet/sit next to and/or have lunch with Kanye West. Kanye West is a ridiculous person, but I’m not holding that against him. At this very moment, there are two celebrities who have very much in common: Kanye West and Miley Cyrus. Miley recently stated that it feels great to be the most famous person in the world right now. I mean, that is page 1, line 1 from the Book of Kanye West. How is that any different from recording a song called “I Am A God” or referring to yourself as “Yeezus”? Not that Miley is being treated any differently that Kanye right now, as she is just as polarizing, if not more, but I’d rather that than false humility. This is why I have no time for Taylor Swift and her surprise face.

I just wish he would laugh at himself. I wish he wouldn’t take himself so seriously. I wish he would understand that we get it. People, especially fans of Kanye West, understand what he’s been repeating for several years now. This is where Kanye is most human; where Yeezus is at his most relatable; he is not done proving himself and never will be. This may come from whatever personal issues he has faced, but it’s admirable. It’s annoying, but admirable because we are all Kanye West in that sense. We are always and will never stop trying to prove ourselves. We will never stop trying to get people to take us seriously. But at some point, we just have to know when we’ve done enough.

 

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