Whether you call him Yeezus, Yeezy or even Mr Kim Kardashian, Kanye West is undeniably one of the most successful artists of all time. From profiles written about the rapper on Forbes to his American Idol appearance, Kanye’s name is influential and arguably exceptional.
Yes, he’s often outspoken and egotistical (“I Am A God” springs to mind) but Kanye is not a product of luck. Nor is he foolish professionally. If anything, Kanye’s entrance into Hip Hop in 1996 and into the Hip Hop mainstream in 2002-03 was two of the best things to happen to the genre.
Many articles will say Kanye is gratuitously popular. But this fails to take into account that Kanye is more than just a rapper that releases unforgettable record after unforgettable record: “Through the Wire” or “All Falls Down” are two examples of this skill. Since the late ’90s, Kanye has presented a threat to what audiences, investors and music executives perceive as “normal”. And that’s what Kanye continues to do and is what is the key to his success.
How many other rappers do you know of that have rapped a number of their tracks in a Spoken Word form on a prestigious platform, unearthing the underexposed similarities between Hip Hop music and other theatrical forms?
How many musicians would create three different versions of a music video to ensure that it captured what was “necessary” and then release each one over the course of two years to ensure that they were relevant enough?
Do you know of any other rappers or even musicians that would use a platform as prestigious as MTV to totally criticise the ridicule of the award given in order to make a valid point? (And then run for the President of the United States of America…)
It is this perfective ‘otherness’ that makes Kanye a force to be reckoned with. Compare his style to other rappers that emerged in the noughties and the significance of his artistic uniqueness is crystallised. His records and reputation in ‘the game’ certainly reign supreme to 50 Cent’s glamour-rap of 2002/03 and Lil’ Wayne’s rap-meets-synthesiser-and-cough-medicine of 2008 that have similarly dominated the Hip-Pop music charts. And this is why I classify Kanye as an “artist” and not just a rapper. He IS controversy. He IS creative. And it’s his threat to normality that has fuelled his success.
Nonetheless, I often wonder what would have happened if Kanye wasn’t so famous and maybe remained an independent rapper, focusing “only on the music.” It’s impossible. His persona has become as essential to his music as the music itself. His music lives on the edge of all art forms, it is music, it is art, it is the closest rap has come to living theatre in history and it is unforgivingly unique.
It is all of these things and so much more that has turned Kanye into an instantly recognisable brand. Dominating fashion, music, videography, production and Hip Hop, Kanye frequently deconstructs expectations in front of the faces of the public and he’s killing it. Who knows what he’ll do next, but if a Kanye Presidency is on the cards, the opportunities could be endless.
Check out his latest records below.