I tried so hard to come up with an excuse not to write about Kanye this week. Don’t do it, I told myself. It’s what the two people who read this column regularly (not including my mom [haha j/k my mom doesn’t read this garbage]) are expecting, a little voice echoed inside of my head. Deciding whether or not to address #TLOP in these margins, like everything else in my life that relates to Kanye West, has been a source of intense self-inflicted turmoil.
But write about it I must, for I am a hopelessly devoted Kanye Stan, and regardless of whether or not my thoughts and feelings on the subject are of any consequence (they’re not), I need an outlet after riding the emotional roller coaster that is Kanye’s timeline these past few weeks.
The Amber Rose/Wiz Khalifa tweets were a nightmare. The Bill Cosby tweet was that nightmare relived, come back to claim fair weather fans who dress themselves as ride or die, and convert them away from Kanye Standom. Because to defend Kanye after that was to be caught holding a bag that normally belongs to Men’s Rights Activists, Young Republicans, and anybody else who actively chooses to sit at the internet’s unpopular table.
“Soon as they like you make ’em unlike you.”
Until recently, I thought it was my job as someone who listens to, enjoys, writes about, and genuinely loves hip-hop to defend Kanye to his detractors. On a given day, I encounter swarms of them. They are my co-workers, my roommates, my family members, even my girlfriend doesn’t really fuck with Ye. And I engage with these people like I would anyone who doesn’t share my opinion on a particular issue, but who I agree with on enough other things for them to be a part of my life—which is to say, until they give me the “I just don’t think his music’s for me” line.
Up until we reach that impasse, I’ll try and posit the influence of 808s, the sheer perfection of MBDTF and the work that went into it, or the visceral frustration of Yeezus. But you can’t flaunt Kanye’s musical achievements without addressing his behavior as a public figure. So for this part of the argument, I constructed a theory that Kanye’s public persona is a byproduct of the energy of whatever album he’s been working on or promoting. That any time it looks like Yeezy has lost control, it’s part of a bigger strategy. And to an extent it’s true; because Kanye West is the type of artist who puts a very real version of himself into his art. But even though he’s smarter than most of his detractors give him credit for, the sheer number of Kanye tweets you can only view from screengrabs, cached copies, and other archival sources betrays his impulsiveness. And that fact always ends up undermining my old theory indiscriminately.
“I create like a three year old.”
The most recent round of Kanye acting out in public made me take a step away from him. I didn’t believe I’d be able to bring myself to get caught up in the release of The Life of Pablo, or listen to it until well after it’d been released. And then yesterday happened. I tuned in for the live stream. The album almost burned the FRANK151 offices down. Every track was out of control flames. And of course they were. I never expected anything less, but I did bring myself to the point of hoping TLOP would be bad, because it’s easier to view Kanye West from the dichotomous perspective I’d crafted for myself.
My mental retreat from Kanye fandom made me understand that, regardless of him being the guy who gave us College Dropout and Late Registration, which are typically his most agreed-upon releases, he’s sort of a pain in the ass. And that’s fine. That’s Kanye, or any other human being, really. We all want to believe the people who create the art we adore are people that we would get along with in real life—this is especially true of rap journalists—and separating art from its creator is a formula that works when that isn’t the case, but it only goes so far. Especially if you’re a contemporary of the artist in question.
“Money matrimony, yeah they’re trying to break the marriage up.”
Separating art from its creator doesn’t erase the creator, or reduce the consequences of that person’s actions. People are mad offended about that Taylor Swift line. It’s an illustrious example of the conundrum Ye leaves people who want to separate his music from his personality in. But just like Kanye making Good Music doesn’t mean you should defend is dumbass tweets, his petty misogyny doesn’t deflate the value of his art. That street runs (at least) two ways. The good news is this: We don’t have to be for or against Kanye. We can like his music and not like things that he believes. Because at the end of the day, I think we can all agree it’s all been worth it to hear Frank Ocean crooning at the end of the CDQ version of “Wolves.”