Three weeks after the Grammy’s “Beck-gate,” Kanye West arrived at Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio-1 noticeably different. In less than a months’ time, West debuted at New York Fashion Week his Yeezy Supply collection for Adidas, received the BET visionary award (with a speech that for once felt extremely personal, detailing racism as it pertains to his wife and daughter), and publicly forged a friendship with Taylor Swift.
It feels like all mended fences for now. Or at least that’s what Kanye will have you believe today. It’s an emotional roller-coaster ride that we all sign up for once we enter Kanye West’s carnival.
Eighteen months ago, West spoke with Lowe — his emotions were high, frustrated from being a little brothered by the fashion world, something he’d been trying to penetrate ever since he went by the moniker “Louis Vuitton Don.” A month later, 'Ye showed up on Sway in the Morning and birthed the now legendary question of “How Sway?” based around that same argument. Now, though, he had some grasp on the situation when speaking with Lowe for the second time. “I was using the wrong words,” West told Lowe this time around. “My rap was wrong. I was getting the drink thrown in my face instead of leaving with the girl at the end of the night.” He had clarity, placing the blame upon himself and his frustrations, rather than the external roadblocks that had him feeling like he was sitting at the holiday kids’ table.
But “little brother” is a title in which Kanye West is all too accustomed. He wrote a whole song about it called “Big Brother,” highlighting the enormous shadow of Jay Z’s he was living under. Before Jay it was No I.D., before No I.D. it was Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie. Now it's guys like Francois Pinault. There was always someone doing something first –– not necessarily “better” (in his mind), but “earlier.”
We’ve come to expect rants from Kanye West. It’s what he does; yet they never felt personal. “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” never felt like it translated to “George Bush doesn’t care about me,” and for a man who always seemed to draw the attention back to himself, his rants always felt like he was above the struggle he was speaking of. The message was also diluted by his audacity, where “Can you believe Kanye West said that?” almost always replaced “He’s right, though!” And sure, we can attribute those tantrums to trauma. The passing of his mother, professor Donda West, in 2007 caused a highly emotional pitfall, having lost the most important person to him, but also his voice of reason.
Then came his “genius” era, where that self-imposed title brought avant garde expression and leather skirts with a price point that soared eons past his ego. Listening to Yeezus (the album and the artist) at times felt like staring at that Internet dress, where one moment you saw the white and gold beauty of the art, but other times heard a black and blue hodgepodge of sounds. The two shall never meet, yet varied by the day.
He openly regrets his use of the word “genius” while speaking to Lowe, but doesn’t necessarily regret its definition, saying things like, “Your egg, my semen, we change the world” (speaking about his creativity, not his wife and child), and calling his music “a joyful noise unto the Lord.” And while he felt like he previously wasn’t speaking his piece effectively, he still thinks everything he said made sense: “Someone calls you crazy so many times you start to believe it,” he says. “I was the only person that wasn’t crazy.”
He cries when speaking about his late fashion mentor, Louise Wilson. He calls “exclusivity” the new “N-word.” He says his greatest joy is bringing Yeezy Boosts to kids at Foot Locker and lowering price points to a level that can be embraced on a wider scale. (Though he admits this first run of apparel will still be too expensive for laymen.) After the Zane Lowe interview, he went on Twitter and apologized to Grammy winner Beck. Where he’s going with all of this, we don’t really know.
Taking a look at Kanye West’s 15-year-long career, you’ll find no continuity. There is no thread that weaves his story together effectively enough to determine what the catalyst is for his actions. All we have are moments — where one moment can be fundamentally different from the next, despite those moments happening in tandem.
“At any moment I can hit that 'Ye button and we can go right back to Day One,” he tells Zane Lowe, suggesting there isn’t an evolution, rather a shelving of emotions until they need to be dusted off and used. So just because he’s composed today doesn’t mean he will be tomorrow. We can’t trust the stability of his actions; we can only enjoy them. After all, it was West's mentor who once said, “We don't believe you, you need more people.” That doesn’t make Kanye West any less interesting, and it feels like that’s been his plan all along: to keep us interested.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)