The Creativity and Controversy of Kanye West

Photo of Kanye West by Lester Cohen

Written by Kevin Bessey Kanye West
Images courtesy of IMDB.com

Poopy-di Scoop may mean a lot more than you thought.

Let me explain. . .

Kanye West has cemented himself as one of the most influential musicians and rapper of all times. He’s released hugely influential albums like 808s and Heartbreaks, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Graduation. And, he’s a master of publicity and controversy.

Artists need to get their music listened to in order to continue doing their jobs. Musicians use a variety of methods to do this. They try to write extremely catchy songs, they spend a lot of money on marketing, they get featured on the music of a bigger artist, or they do something crazy. Kanye has been historically phenomenal at doing crazy things.

What’s fascinating about Kanye is that there is always a deeper logic to every crazy thing he does. From his rant about Bush not caring about black people to his interruption of Taylor Swift to his claim that slavery is a choice, everything has some semblance of logic when a fan digs a little deeper. And, that may be one of the keys to his success and his following.

Kanye’s latest two albums, Ye and Kids See Ghosts are both intended to push the envelope of music, production, and hip hop. Because of that intent, they aren’t as initially catchy as some of his other albums.

He’s focused on providing deep cuts. He wants people to change the way they view music. But, songs that aren’t catchy can find it hard to “catch” on. People are less likely to show a friend some cool new tune if that tune isn’t stuck in their head.

So, Kanye needed to up the ante on marketing and publicity.

But, Kanye’s old rants about racism wouldn’t have as much effect. Protests against racism in the United States are so widespread now that they are mainstream. Saying that George Bush or the VMAs are racist doesn’t impact as much as it did nine years ago.

So, Kanye West did two controversial things. First, he proved that he could release a song about nothing and get lots of attention for it. “Lift Yourself” has a great general message. But, the rapping is so ridiculous that it brings listeners to laughter. Immediately after releasing the song, the music community latched on tight.

Then Kanye did some politically edgy stuff. He met with Donald Trump, wore a “Make America Great Again” hat, and said that slavery was a choice. Each of those actions caught the public eye in a big way. Those willing to dig down and try to understand Kanye’s decision found interesting and somewhat defensible reasoning. For a couple days, Kanye West was the talk of the town. Immediately following the controversy, he released two albums.

And, a large portion of the world listened.

Kanye West and friends
Kanye posted this photo to his Twitter unabashedly. Is it a stunt? Is he homies with the Prez? Does he just want an endorsement for his 2020 or 2024 run? The world will find out soon enough.

Lyrically, both albums are strange. Musically, they push the envelope. Few songs are incredibly catchy, apart from “Reborn” and “Kids See Ghosts“. And, they experiment with production and the human voice in some really fascinating ways. I personally enjoy both. And, I might not have paid as much attention had there not been controversy.

Do I like the controversy?
Did it catch my attention?
So, hats off to you Kanye West, if this was all part of the plan, you succeeded.