Kanye West: the Antihero

Kanye West is an antihero.  People love to hate him and conversely, hate to love him.  Kanye’s music and personality are polarizing in that way.  Often times I think people get Kanye Fatigue, a common occurrence where people get sick and tired of hearing about Kanye in the news for some unruly shit he said or did while he concurrently complains about paparazzi infiltrating his life and not leaving him alone.  Some people kinda just wish he’d go away and that the media would stop talking about him.  But let’s be real here, America loves seeing a loud and unruly Black man be just that.  It reminds them of the good ol’ days.

Ye grew up in the burbs and did well in school.  That’s not a typical rapper archetype, especially in the trap era, where all rappers claim to be importing and flipping hard white.  Yeezy started off as a skinny bucktoothed producer and rapper back in the mid-to-late 90’s around the age of 18 under the tutelage of producer No I.D.

Later in his career Kanye linked up with Jay Z who was shopping beats and eventually gained more followers to the cult of Ye for having a big mouth and blurting out that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” during the Hurricane Katrina fundraiser, which no one really doubted after the clusterfuck of the relief effort.  At present, no one can really doubt that it wasn’t only George Bush, but the rest of America who didn’t give a fuck about black people since we only see video and images of their oppression on twitter and the internet by cops that seem to treat them like game during hunting season as seen in Baltimore, Oakland, NY and all over the country.

A short time after calling out curious George Bush he was seen throwing back a bottle of Henny on the red carpet and in the audience at the MTV VMAs with his then-girlfriend Amber Rose.  He proceeded to get up on stage and interrupt Taylor Swift which reignited racist fears of black men doing anything untoward to any white women.  The president then called him a ‘jackass’ and everyone hated him for it.  I’m sure there were white supremacists at a walmart somewhere just agonizing over the varieties of rope to use.  He almost did this again to Beck at the Grammy’s which was laughable because even though the recent Beck album sucked, he’s pretty fucking talented all-around.

Ye is polarizing to many because he goes increasingly against the grain of what is considered ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable.’  He openly demonizes the media that seek to get rich off him, but he needs them to do so in the same breadth.  He doesn’t fit into any particular rapper mold, with an exception to both ego-driven and rich.  But let’s be honest, nowadays most rappers are struggling in an increasingly music-buying averse world; making touring and merchandising some of the only ways to make money in the game.  So then, let’s delve into why rap purists and the mainstream alike both love and hate the rapper known as Yeezy.

Yeezus… that name pretty much goes to show you what people do not like about Kanye West.  To compare one’s self to the protagonist of the bible is blasphemous enough, right?  Why would he go and do that?  To give an appropriate answer one must to look back through time at why a man would call himself God.  Remember slavery?  That sucked right?  Well way after that in the early 1960’s were a group of people that branched off of the Nation of Islam known as the Five-Percent Nation who taught young black men in Harlem that they weren’t just a discarded and forgotten vestige of slavery, that they were in fact, Gods.  This was inflammatory, subversive talk for people of color back when the civil rights movement was still in it’s infancy.  Hell, even now if you told a religious person in the south that God was black, he’d probably take up Scientology so long as Xenu was still sallow, gray and pale because at least that’s close enough to white.

A few years after founding  the Five-Percent Nation, it’s creator was murdered.  But his legacy remained and took root among those Black men, who no longer felt as if they were less than any other men since they were now Gods.  Hip hop was created around the same time the Five-Percenters began to thrive in NY.  Hip hop became a wellspring for rap music.  There has been a long legacy of rappers fashioning themselves as Gods since then.  Most revered among those rappers is Rakim.  Later we had a former Jehovah’s witness turned rapper a.k.a. Kanye’s ‘big brother’ and Solange Knowle’s punching bag Jay Z go by the moniker J-Hova (a latinized version of the Hebrew Yahweh, the Judeo-Christian name for God).  Many rappers refer to themselves as Gods, Sean Price of Boot Camp Clik or Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks for example, various members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Lakim Shabazz of the Flavor Unit and so on.  Yeezus was just adding his name to the pantheon of Gods that came before him.  Perhaps that’s why the media enjoys his crucifixion for their benefit.  It could also be because he’s a macho man who will occasionally wear a leather skirt.  Of course he also wore a confederate flag and put it on his Yeezus tour merch.


Kanye later was quoted saying:

The Confederate flag represented slavery in a way. That’s my abstract take on what I know about it, right? So I wrote the song ‘New Slaves.’ So I took the Confederate flag and made it my flag. It’s my flag now. Now what are you going to do?”

This is the same logic many African-Americans use when the N-word without the hard ‘R’ is used as a form of kinship and fraternity toward one another.  It has been taken back away from whites and others, now it’s theirs, you had your time using it and oppressing them, now it’s time to flip the script on that racial epithet.  Q-Tip tweeted that he, like most of America, doesn’t like to even see that flag.

Ye Tudda, as some like to call him, is the kinda guy who gets universally laughed at by the hip hop community because he wore a leather skirt, then inspires others like Trinidad James–whose name will never get mentioned here again unless it’s to be clowned on–and actor Omar Epps–who I’ll never clown on because Juice.   As a t-shirt, jeans and hoodie kinda guy myself, who has eschewed the tommy gear du-rags and XXL clothing of my youth, I don’t really get this fashion rap shit nowadays.  Fashion Rap really started with rappers like Dana Dane, LL Cool J, Rakim, BDK, Run DMC, Biggie Smalls and the like.    If I had millions upon millions, maybe even billions of dollars, maybe I’d be rockin’ expensive shit, the cost of which would make a poor person cringe, but hopefully I’d keep it real.

The collaboration between Nike and Ye known as the Air Yeezy’s have been indisputably more popular than most Air Jordan’s and sell out faster than red-tops on the street, in The Wire or in the lyrics of studio gangster or trap rappers.  The popularity of the Air Yeezy’s have piqued Adidas’ interest such that they gave Kanye a multi-million dollar signing fee + royalties for future shoe creations.  Is it just that this rap shit has come so far that now we have rappers like Kanye, more interested in vertical integration than say, knowledge of self?  People hate him because he’s rich but maybe also because they feel like the “oppressed” has become the “oppressor,” and they don’t like that.  It makes them feel uncomfortable.  But let’s remember, this is not Jenny from the block, this is Kanye from the burbs.

I like Kanye West’s music a lot at times, I also hate it at times.  This is the why he is an antihero.  808s and Heartbreaks is everything I hate about pop music.  It was tone deaf and auto-tuned to death and really proved that anyone would buy vomit in digital form if it came from someone popular.  I also didn’t particularly like the Yeezus album other than New Slaves, Bound 2 (until the video ruined it for me) and Blood on the Leaves.   Yeezus was mostly terrible, it was jarring, there was random screaming, sometimes I didn’t know wtf was going on.  Kendrick Lamar took a similar–non-radio-play–approach with his new album To Pimp a Butterfly.  Yet, it is precisely because Kanye goes against the grain that I appreciate his music on occasion.  I understand that Kanye is trying to transcend music and become an artist.  Sometimes he succeeds, at other times he fails, but it is his willingness to keep it moving for the sake of any craft, be it designing shoes, shaping a stage for his show or creating rhyme schemes that keeps me coming back to see whether it will be a horrible spectacle or a wonderful masterpiece this time around.

Here are some of my favorite Kanye West songs.

1.  Little Brother feat. Kanye West – I see Now (Aww)

Here Kanye elucidates his opinions on thick women on the rebound.  This was a hidden track off Little Brother’s Chitlin’ Circuit mixtape and is infinitely hilarious and will have you saying “Auwwww.”

2.  Kanye West, Pusha T and Ghostface Killah – New God Flow

New God Flow off the Cruel Summer Album feat GFK and Pusha Ton.

3.  Malik Yusef feat. Common, Kanye West and JV – Wouldn’t You Like to Ride

The rest of these guys sound dated and I never really liked Common except for that song Panthers with Dead Prez.

4.  N.A.S.A. feat. Kanye West, Santogold and Lykke Li – Gifted

N.A.S.A. are producers out of LA and the video is a visual masterpiece.

5.  Kanye West, Rakim, KRS-One and Nas prod. by DJ Premier – Classic (Better Than I’ve Ever Been)

People hate Ye so much there is a version of this song w/o Kanye West and there are over 3,000,000 more views.


Bonus video: Dave Chappelle talks about Kanye’s first television appearance