I am tired of hearing the same old stories about Kanye West. A recent TMZ headline reads “Kanye West Goes Nuts Again On Paparazzi.” Again? It’s common, it’s expected, it’s laughable. But more than that, these headlines are narrow-minded and ridiculous.
Once the clichéd notions of him being an egotistical maniac start to disperse like a camera’s flash, Kanye’s merits as an artist and as a popular figure starts to become as clear as the reflection from that same flash bouncing off his grills.
In light of his recent much-publicized feud with talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, it may seem unreasonable to try to defend Kanye’s relevance to pop culture. On Sept. 24th, Kimmel demeaned Kanye through airing a parody of an interview that West did with Zane Lowe by having milkshake-sipping kids reenact parts of the interview. Kanye responded via Twitter, attempting to humiliate Kimmel and express his intense disapproval of the sketch. Admittedly, Kanye’s Twitter explosion was indeed riddled with unnecessary vulgarity and irrational accusations that at times justified conceptions about his brash nature. He has definitely acted in ways that lead many to question his maturity and dismiss him as aggressive and self-centered. The common examples are all exhausted at this point: something about Taylor Swift, George Bush and the paparazzi.
I understand. I get where people are coming from. If you’re getting your information from tabloid headlines, out of context sound bytes and unflattering video clips, then yes, Kanye is a jerk. However, that is, again, remaining on the surface without daring to tread any deeper. The reality is, Kanye West is a visionary artist and a role model.
Parents should encourage their children to embody some Kanye traits instead of sheltering them from him. Whenever I’m bummed out or struggling with something, my brother usually gives me a succinct piece of advice: “Just be like Kanye.” Not literally, as in the sense of going out to record platinum albums and tour the world, but more in the way of embodying valuable character qualities that Kanye exemplifies. Mainly, be undeniably confident in yourself. Kanye thinks that everything he does and says is gold and that if people don’t realize that, then they simply don’t “get it” and can show themselves the door. He knows what he has to offer and people should be thankful for what he has to provide. He puts incredible value in himself, leading to the fulfillment of his entire potential. He captured this in a quote from the Zane Lowe interview — the same one that Kimmel mocked: “I always feel like I can do anything. That’s the main thing people are controlled by: thoughts and perceptions of yourself … If you’re taught you can’t do anything, you won’t do anything.”
Another way to “be like Kanye” is to adopt his passion. Undeniably, he is one of — if not the most — passionate people on this planet when it comes to the things that matter to him. He truly, genuinely cares about what he is doing and the impact that he can make. Whether it be music, fashion, or consumer goods, he puts everything he has into making it the best: “Taste, culture, art, just the quality of life, this is what I’m here to do,” he said during his appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” a few nights ago while explaining that he wants to make as much of an impact on the world as Steve Jobs or Leonardo da Vinci. The cliché of “following your dreams” is epitomized by Kanye; he does whatever he wants with no regard of what other’s reactions will be: “You can’t ever tell me what dream to have and what not to have, or the level of importance.”
It speaks volumes about our society when people scoff at Kanye’s unapologetic claims to brilliance and roll their eyes as they dismiss his aspirations. Why does his confidence make people feel as if they need to mock him? Do adolescent self-deprecation and insecurities somehow make people more comfortable? If someone had faith in their abilities and pursued to make a difference with those abilities, would society cast a sidewards glance at them? Perhaps teenage girls looking in the mirror with disgust or teenage boys humbly burying their talents away from the spotlight makes everyone else feel more secure in themselves amid an overly critical world. Perhaps since he is a black rapper, people expect him to dress like he’s fresh off the streets and babble about drugs instead of being an insightful fashion icon. The sight of him getting justifiably pent up about a certain issue make people automatically jump to the conclusion that it is a nonsensical rant. Somehow, it follows along with the accepted norm. However, once one actually pays attention, like they would if he was a respected white guy, they realize that what he is saying is incredibly legitimate.
Last semester, on the first day of classes, a girl introduced herself and confided in my class that she had always dreamed of being a fashion designer — designing was her true love — but her parents forbade her to go down that path. As a result, she seemed incredibly unsatisfied with her current position as a pre-med student at Berkeley cracking the chemistry books, rather than Vogue or GQ. This girl very well could have gone on to become a world famous fashion designer if she pursued her passion with her entire being. Unspoken chains and unspoken fences constantly seem to tame people’s passions into an obedient, desk-ridden puzzle piece that fits into the accustomed world. If Kanye allowed for the same pressures to control him, he would not be one of the most polarizing and successful people in the modern age. He breaks these chains. And look at what he’s done.
Perhaps the main objection against Kanye, albeit a subconscious feeling, is that he does not conform to the accepted status of a celebrity. Celebrities are idolized as perfect specimens who have every facet about them incredibly well-calculated — what they say, what they do, what they wear — but Kanye’s revolt against this methodized approach to stardom seemingly makes some people uneasy. Most prefer the pinch-her-cheeks-adorable Zooey Deschanel or the cheery, relatable Joseph Gordon Levitt to the blatantly honest and unfiltered West. Rather than being in fear of stirring the pot, Kanye speaks for all celebrities against the position that they are put in — yet people think he’s selfish. He told Kimmel that he can’t understand why “people feel (it is) okay to treat celebrities like zoo animals or act like what they’re saying is not serious or their life is not serious or their dreams are not serious.” Instead of staying in his designated place according to his social status as the object of adoration and perfection, he is the leading force towards destroying this “zoo animal” celebrity culture. He speaks his mind and stands up for himself and doesn’t cower under the fear of scarring his image.
When the facade of his “rants,” his antics, and his missteps dissipate, his message is blatantly uncovered to even the most resilient eyes. Simply because he is confident and passionate does not mean he is an out of touch egotistical hothead. Nor should we write him off as a bad example for the kids. Quite the opposite, actually.
Everyone should want to be like Kanye.
Image courtesy of Kennyysun.