Kanye West the (Un)Average Joe

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Tweeting “BILL COSBY INNOCENT”, lyrics about making certain people famous, or spontaneously changing the tracklist of his album after debuting it. The ways Kanye West behaves is despicable, but endearing in its unabashed way. The way he makes music is groundbreaking, but his other artistic ventures can feel forced. All of these things and many more polarize us and make West one of the most illustrious, yet despised, figures in recent pop culture history. 

I decided to ask several friends I know for their opinions of West recently and the results were unsurprisingly split. One friend said, “I think he's an asshole, but the way he is so genuine is awesome.” Another remarked that he needs to “just breathe.” The last I asked was a little more critical, “He is pretty erratic. I don't know about him man. He is going off the rails.” 

In a way, West and his ability to excel in a culture that is constantly demanding more innovation is admirable. He has dedicated himself to his craft, and expresses himself with zero care for what you or I think. A post I read on an internet forum gives, in my opinion, the best take on West, I don't remember it exactly, but it went something like this: “Kanye is in a way a reflection of just a normal person. He has all these warts like anyone, but instead of suppressing them he just lets them go wild.” See, West is just an average joe like you and I, minus everything that makes you and me average.

                                                                              Cover Art for The Life of Pablo

                                                                              Cover Art for The Life of Pablo

Kanye West’s latest album, The Life of Pablo (TLOP), perhaps represents the divisiveness surrounding him as a musician and icon more so than any other of his works have before. It attempts to combine beautiful production and direct, biting lyrics that leads to a challenging listen. This is most evident in the transition from “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” into “Pt. 2.” The first half features soul samples and a soaring chorus to transitioning into a frenetic part two that renounces the charm of the previous half. It’s the borderline bipolar nature of the album that creates this unique parallel from West’s life and the way people view him. Like West the album is rough and erratic, but at times truly a joy to watch and listen to.

The album release was turbulent, at times West would share tweets updating the tracklist and the next day change everything again. Other times the messages would be completely unrelated to the album, like the aforementioned Bill Cosby tweet, but it would add up to an increase in the excitement around West and his new album. And when the messages weren’t aiming to promote the album or spouting audacious remarks, they were messages telling us how to think of West. If you were a fan of West it all added up to building an unmatchable excitement and hype around the album and his life. If you despised West it added up to “here he goes again.”

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Recently, West appeared on Saturday Night Live to promote his new album, delivering a spirited performance and a humorous skit. Much more noteworthy was that, in the days following, reports came out that he had a meltdown when they tore apart his performance stage. You can find it online, but it is mostly West spouting profanities and claiming to be “50 percent more influential” than a variety of cultural icons (namely Pablo Picasso and Paul the Apostle.) 

Outrageous claims like this have always warranted a collective chuckle or a head shake, never taken serious. Whether or not he is more influential than those figures probably can’t be assessed right now, what is more interesting is how West undoubtedly believes the things he says. He truly believes he is living a groundbreaking life and that he deserves recognition from it. In a culture where braggadocio is looked down upon, West just shrugs his shoulders and moves forward. To him that’s the only direction to go. 

West is impulsive, he is erratic and he can be exceedingly brash. We too can be impulsive and brash. Its what makes him one of the most beloved and reviled figures in pop culture today. When you or I look at West we see a reflection of someone being truly human, and thats what everything around him hinges on. His art and his antics are purely human and that sometimes is too hard to look at. 

-David Clarey

Scott MeyerMusicComment