The polarizing figure that is Kanye West, has become either a thorn in your thoughts or a solidified inspiration to how you pursue your dreams in this society. This really depends on how you take his so called “rants” or his misguided responses to what some would say are injustices to the artistic. West is a world renowned artist, rapper and creative that dives into his crafts with a reckless abandon. His sheer passion is one to admire but his seeming lack of understanding of his platform and his brash personality make it hard for some people to like him. He can be a bit of an ass at times but his genius is remarkable. In his career spanning over 10+ years as a performer and music producer he is literally responsible for countless careers. His approach on music single handedly changed the course of Hip Hop, helping to turn it into the mega genre it is today.
Kanye, despite having controversial slip ups with his words, has done pretty well at staying away from the typical rapper drama while creating a path to super-stardom that has never been seen before. His new album Life of Pablo, in which he parallels his life with the great Pablo Picasso seems to be another achievement he can be proud of as he enters a turning point in his music career. Comparing yourself to arguably the greatest artist of all time takes some large cojones, but his past work and future ambitions just might be enough to validate his claims.
10. Kanye Says What He Means
Over the years, West has been able to carry this unwavering bravado for his craft to astounding heights. He has been able to back up his words with incredible action and success. From the beginning he has been an outspoken artist whose point of view will be heard no matter what or who has to say about it. He has never been one to retain his tongue. The right of an artist to be unapologetic in their art is the reason many of us speak the way we do. Kanye exemplifies those qualities on the grandest scale, garnering interest in everything that he displays to the culture.
9. We Love to Hate Him
“Yeezy” is one of those guys you appreciate for his talent but has a personality that can get under your skin if you let it. It seems his polarizing reputation causes more of an uproar than his music sometimes. He has continued to deliver high quality music and genre transcending work throughout his career but has been in countless altercations with paparazzi, fans and giant companies like Nike. He is famous for his “Kanye rants” where he normally goes in on a self-proclaimed stream of consciousness over what is going on in his life. To some this may be a bit discerning but to his fans to be able to learn what is going on in this genius’ head.
8. Kanye’s Success in Fashion
As an artist, Kanye exemplifies the label as good as anyone. His impact on culture is evident in everything he displays. Kanye has been one of the many rappers to embrace the fashion world as another avenue to establish their brands. West has been able to take that fascination of apparel to a new level by adding his name to some of the more famous brands in the clothing industry. Kanye can’t just endorse a shoe, he has to take the next step and design his own shoe. That is the artist in him, he has credits in designing Louis Vuitton casual shoes, Nike casual and now his latest design are the Yeezy Boost by Adidas which are more of an athletic shoe than his previous two designs.
7. He Stands Up For the Underdog
Kanye West has championed his attitude on bullying and classism more than any pop culture artist to date. He has consistently stood up against those who look to profit off of others who will sit in silence if otherwise not provoked. Early in his career, West and his intricate fashion love garnered much attention towards his sexuality which he debunked on many occasions but out of that a brave insight on the homophobic nature of hip hop and music in general was brought to light. The fashion world has allowed West to meet and encounter a number of gay powerhouses who have taught him a thing or two about inclusion.
6. Kanye Changed How Music Was Produced
There was a time in hip hop where the conscious artist stayed over in their corner and the street artist stood on stage bellowing out obscenities to a large misinformed crowd. While there has always been an audience for the conscious artist, to grow a larger platform was needed to get the message across. Here comes West, already famous for his production credits with the great Rocafella records leader Jay Z, he began colliding the world of conscious with the streets. This single handedly changed how hip hop coexisted. No longer did we look to street artist to validate our reality, we had an open variety and a name that could handle the pressure of both worlds in Kanye. He was able to take old samples and create new fresh music without losing the integrity of the song. With the help of producers like Just Blaze, 9th Wonder, J Dilla and Alchemist he helped to change the course of music production for the next decade.
5. He’s Not Afraid to Be Controversial
“YEEZUS”, a popular moniker West uses has never been shy to be outspoken about injustices. Kanye’s greatest example of this came against then President George W. Bush as he belted out “George Bush doesn’t care about Black People” to a vulnerable audience during the Hurricane Katrina telethon. This isn’t the only time Kanye used his platform to discuss moments of oppression. One of his biggest songs ever “Diamonds” from his sophomore album Late Registration, he sings about the American obsession over blood diamonds derived from the labor of the oppressed people in Sierra Leone. Hate him or love him, his approach to the powers that be is admirable.
4. He Survived a Date With Death
You want to talk about “Badass” … we were introduced to Kanye just months after he experienced a near death car accident. He raps about it in his debut single “Through the Wire” in which he actually raps with his jaw wired from the surgery. He has lived a tale of survival from the beginning and that is why his story resonates with so many people of this generation. He raps in one of his early hits “Touch the Sky,” “I should’ve died in that accident, cause this must be heaven,” where he reflects on facing death and now being on stage with people he once admired. Things happen for a reason and to say music over the last decade would be the same if he never survived that accident would be extremely naïve.
3. He Flipped the Sound of Music… Again
It’s 2008 and we are on the tail end of the T-Pain auto-tune era. The Lil Wayne run is in full effect but there is something missing from the music scene. Some type of soul and originality that early hip hop exuded. Here comes Kanye West to the rescue once again. He dropped 808 and Heartbreaks, his fourth studio album in which he introduces the newest sound of hip hop once again. As he sings ballads in a manner only a rapper could. The rhythms and rhyme schemes were perfectly written to 808 drum beats accompanied by Kanye and auto-tune of course. This eclectic album immediately saw covers of his single “Heartless” by big name bands like The Fray and even an appearance on American Idol. Kanye continued to break ground by creating a hip hop album that felt like so much more. You can still hear the influence of that album on the radio now.
2. A Man With Aspirations is an Inspiration
One thing about our society is that we love a dreamer. We seem to be attracted to the people who seek out what most of us may deem as impossible or unreachable. This is why he is who he is. Kanye has done everything he has spoken about in his music, reaffirming his dreams with tangible results that fans like me can be proud of. He has been able to take his seemingly simple dream of rhyming with the greats to a state of fruition. From making beats for his idol (Jay Z), to making a joint album Watch the Throne with him. What is even more impressive is that throughout his tenure of success personally and financially Kanye continues to dream bigger and aspire for more. His ambition in the fashion industry has allowed him to ink a $10 million deal with Adidas in 2013. In an industry that has been historically unkind to people of color, he maneuvers seamlessly in that environment. If you have never seen a Kanye West tour you are missing out on one of the unique musical experiences in your life. The Yeezus Tour was a live production. Something only a genius would think of.
1. He Made “Jesus Walks” – He’s Never Going to Hell
To finish off this list it is only right to talk about the single most important reason why he is famous in the first place. “Jesus Walks” the drum heavy jam of 2004 put this budding star on the map. A song where he reminds those who are struggling through life that Jesus Christ walks with them. A song that broke ground by bringing religion into the clubs. (I literally remember these moments).
Although stifled by a label who didn’t want to pay to shoot the video for the song, he took it into his own hands to put the money up himself to create the compelling visual that came along with it. This is why he is the Picasso of our generation. His ability to step into other creative mediums and still exceed expectations is beautiful. This is also evident in his many attempts at video directing, short films and the artwork he presents with his music.
Kanye knows how to slide in his religious beliefs into the pot in a compelling manner that most mainstream artist just can’t. He embodies the total package of the artist and even in his moments of uncertainty he can stand on his music. Life of Pablo is another opportunity for you to check out his genius. Don’t judge a man by his words but by his actions so we will see if Kanye’s actions over the next decade resemble all of the things he has been saying. Do you think Kanye is our Picasso or just another artist in the bunch?