First, to the citizens of Kanye, Botswana, especially those living left of centre, we offer our sincere apologies. The cancerous body of press on Kanye West to which I’m now contributing is smothering your town’s good name. Perhaps we can help, actually…
We’ll spare you the basic introduction. If you don’t know who Kanye is, it’s likely that A) you’re a jaded hipster, or B) the only contemporary music that you know consists of recent releases from artists that didn’t do enough drugs in the 70’s to kill them before they could start grinding out jazz covers and songs about climate change deep into the 21st century. Group A, please leave. Group B, if you get internet on your porch, Wikipedia.
So, Botswana, what are we up against here? Does the guy actually have talent? If we ask the man himself, he’ll rattle off a set of his peers to contextualise his genius: Michael Jackson, Shakespeare, Jesus, God, etc.
Kanye, I like you, but I hope to God that Jesus could spit a good enough freestyle that he wouldn’t have to turn it into a joke like some embarrassed adolescent boy singing karaoke with ironic enthusiasm.
That being said, Kanye’s talent as a producer justifies much of his critical acclaim, and the verse that he has time to sit down and think about usually turns out sharp, and often tongue in cheek (many of his detractors fail to see that).
Whether or not Kanye is a ‘musical genius’, as many people actually agree he is, is more than I can determine. I don’t quite see it, but listening to the captivating, operatic speeches he gives in his interviews – his ‘arias’, as Bret Easton Ellis called them in an interesting podcast featuring Kanye – I do get the impression that there is some extraordinary line of thought tying together ramblings on the fashion industry, the rap game, and egoism. There could very well be some work postmodernist genius behind it all. So perhaps he’s more of J.H. Prynne than a Shakespeare.
Here’s the real issue, Botswana. Irrespective of Kanye’s talent as a musician and a writer, he is a superb marketeer.
Before uttering a single word at the acceptance of his honorary doctorate from the Art Institute of Chicago, Kanye proceeded to remove the bottles of plastic water sitting on a shelf in the transparent podium and place them offstage. He then says, ‘I’m sorry, that was just my opinion.’ His speech then begins, ‘I am a pop artist, so my medium is public opinion…’ You don’t plan something like that, he can clearly improvise publicity better than he can improvise lyrics.
Even Kanye’s ‘mistakes’ seems to just fuel the mark-Ye-ting machine. When I first heard that Kanye had released The Life of Pablo exclusively on Tidal and then had a fit when everyone started to pirate it, I was genuinely surprised. How could someone seemingly so in touch with this generation not see that coming? However naïve his hopes might have been, the media coverage caught fire proliferating Kanye’s claims that his music will NEVER be available on ‘Apple’ (yes, it is now available on Itunes) and his threats to sue The Pirate Bay for facilitating the distribution of his music. Every change of tack, every update to the album, another splash of gasoline on the fire.
Kanye is a creature of impulse, and 9 times out of 10 that impulse works out incredibly well for him. He simply speaks his mind. He is the epitome of the social media phenomenon – no sooner does a thought pop into his head than it is tweeted and consumed. He is a publicists worst nightmare, but then a publicist would only be a hinderance. He is, essentially, Donald Trump.
Now, awareness-raising, social-justice-wielding, gif-reposting, Republican-bashing, I’ll-move-to-Canada-threatening Democrats of the internet: please, please, for the love of Bernie, listen for a minute.
You face the same problem as Kanye, Botswana; you are up against a marketing-monster. While Trump does occasionally, though often accidentally, say some pretty lucid stuff, his success is just a blindingly obvious reconfirmation of the rule that all press is good press. Every time that he says something that should damage his following, you clamour for it – to ‘analyse’ it – and the demand for Trump increases.
If Trump is elected, it will not have been the fault of the old, white, uneducated victims of Conservative fear-mongering, but the fault of his outspoken detractors, who, by allowing their fear (of a Trump presidency) to cloud their better judgement not to feed the trolls, have created, out of a joke, something to be afraid of.
Those of you in the town of Kanye, on the other hand, assuming that you have a problem with being known as Kanye (disambiguation: Town in Botswana), are a position where it’s actually helpful to analyse the rhetoric of Kanye West and Donald Trump. Try applying it to your Wikipedia page, to start:
- Currently reads: “It is the administrative center of the Southern District.”
- Should read: “It is the center of all administration. Nobody knows administration like we know administration. Nobody.”
- Currently reads: “Kanye is the original Bangwaketse village; Bangwaketse is one of the biggest tribes in Botswana.”
- Should read: “Kanye is the original Bangwaketse village. That’s the biggest tribe in Botswana, practically in Africa, okay? We’ve been Bangwaketing since before the game even started.”
You really can’t lose.