Kanye West wen't on another epic twitter rant on Saturday, claiming everything from being 50+ million in debt to the fact that he got Taylor Swift to sign off on lyrics that could be perceived offensive. Nothing new. When I was 21, I started paying attention to how I and the people around me dressed. The concept of aesthetic and style became real and tangible to me. I've always believed that fashion was bred from a certain amount of insecurity because, let's face it, if you don't give a fuck, you're wearing sweatpants, sandals and a baggy shirt every day. Growing up in a suburb between the beach cities of southern California and the urban cities of Long Beach and L.A., I was very attracted to Hip Hop and Rock equally. I distinctly remember seeing specificities attached to music growing up from a visual stand point. The video for Pearl Jam's Jeremy traumatized. The Hype Williams era, Mase and Diddy music videos in a tunnel, excited. And I distinctly remember watching an MTV special with a then relatively unknown rapper, Kanye West. He came out in a pair of fitted Paper Denim jeans and Air Max 95's. Nowadays this seems like a played out if not dated look, but rappers didn't dress like that then. They wore Fubu, Rocawear, Tommy Hillfigger, Karl Kani, Polo... and whatever 50 Cent's line was called. It was a skull capped, Timberland boot wearing uniform. A uniform ironically the way the Yeezy Boosts are now to street fashion. Allen Iverson defined an era of hip hop style, but like any platform, it loses its bite the more people follow... It's market saturation 101. Yes, College Dropout is a great album, but his music wasn't nearly as revolutionary, as subtle as it was, as the way Kanye came on the scene presenting himself.
Kanye West has been socially "peaking" as of late. This describing a guy that has consistently made a public ass out of himself since his soapbox speech in '05 declaring that "George Bush doesn't care about black people" on a telethon to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.Was he wrong? I doubt it's as simplified as that statement. If he would have switched out "black" for "poor" I think the statement would have held more water. The laundry list goes on. This is the same guy that drunkenly stole the mic from Taylor Swift at the VMA's, the same guy that married Kim Kardashian and crowned her the modern day Marilyn Monroe, the same guy that declared he was running for president in 2020. As crazy of a claim that last one sounded, after seeing the headway Trump has made in the primaries and probably ending up as the Republican party's representative in the presidential race―anything is possible. This is the same guy that takes himself so seriously he started a fight with Jimmy Kimmel who poked fun over an interview Kanye had done a week prior, only in Kimmel's version he used child actors with the exact same script from the interview―and it was GENIUS! But 'Ye wasn't having it. Maybe it was the taste, the taste of poorly articulated outbursts aimed at social issues, or the way he would verbally assault contemporaries, fearlessly, ignorantly. He definitely can't take a joke directed his way for fear of being perceived in an unfavorable light, but hey, Steve McQueen famously turned down both Apocalypse Now and Close Encounters of the Third Kind because he refused to cry on screen. Is there a method to the madness? Is he some sort of hip hop messiah who defies social rhetoric and the status quo, bucking the system at every turn? You could easily argue he just wants attention and, yes, at this point the IT has been driven home and all the way through that there isn't bad press. There have also been moments I've heard a semi-reasonable Kanye talk and understood where he was coming from. I say that with a wink, but I'm not totally sure the wink is genuine. Last week, Kanye's latest beef came to a head in a response to a misunderstood tweet from Wiz Khalifa. It got ugly for a few tweets, verbally assaulting children and girlfriends. He apologized though, admitted he was wrong, which he was. Not allowing his name as a chat room title to go dormant, he shot down (or burned down) an alleged million dollar deal between his sister-in-law Kylie Jenner and Puma, refusing to let anyone in his family work for anyone but Adidas. Which I'm sure a year from now, Kanye will be verbally assaulting Adidas after he's decided he doesn't like someone at that company along with Nike and whatever other fallen soldiers are lying on the side of the road. It's important to note that his collaboration with Adidas, up to this point, has been really fucking good! It's forward, it's relevant, it's accessible. Although I'm tired of seeing it on every single blog and fashion write up, not because of its execution but because of the repetition. It's exhausting! Point out another brand that has shot to the top of relevance this fast due to its association with a designer or celebrity. We live in an age where the conglomerate that is the Swoosh or the Jumpman dominates street style and even then, I don't think any of these brands have reached the echelon of fashion credibility with clothing (I'm not arguing footwear) as Adidas has with its first two Yeezy collections.
Here's the thing that bums me out about the Yeezy narrative. At some point he will come out with a mediocre to bad album, and it's inevitable. Every creative hits a commercial bump, in facts it's incredible that he's been this consistent thus far. And the people who are already waiting for him to fail, biding their time, sharpening their knives in the shadows, ignorantly denying his talent and effect on pop culture―these people will bury him. Contrary to his body of work, the hype of his failure will be larger than the hype of his success. It will be a fucking bloodbath! Sure, he's put himself in the crosshairs by waving his torch in everyone's face. But damn! It's a beautiful flame.Lucky for Kanye, and rap as an art form, The Life Of Pablo is not that album. I haven't heard the album in detail, just the early drops and the livestream that accompanied his 3rd Yeezy line for Adidas at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. He premiered his album along with his new collection simultaneously. At first listen, TLOP has evolved from Kanye's arguably best album, 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It's forward, it's throwback, it's lyrical, it's cool as fuck. And it seems to live up to whatever hype is generated for a typical Kanye West album. We live in an age of the quick consumable, instant access, instant gratification. Everything is fast; there is no more vacuum; record execs can't control the music we listen to anymore. It's no longer dictated by the playlists selected by your local radio station. In the past we were force fed as a culture. The 80s had Michael Jackson and Madonna, the 90s, Kirk Cobain and the grunge movement. Early 2000s, boy bands and gangster rappers. The point is we were forced to listen and watch these trends, MTV and KROQ weren't competing with MP3 players, YouTube, SmartPhones, Spotify, or even Napster. It makes it that much more impressive that something like the Kanye West brand exists and it seems to keep growing. So I'm okay with the fact that the wide eyed kid from Chicago, rapping in Paper Denim and Air Max 95's, 12 years later is still doing his thing. I don't want to be around to see him fail and you shouldn't either because there's no one interesting standing behind him.
Credits Words by Michael Cherrito Image sources: spotify.com, rollingstone.com and youtube.com