“I Miss The Old Kanye” But I Still Love Kanye
On a fan coming to terms with ‘I still love Kanye’ despite the artist’s most recent rants and provocations
She take my money when I’m in need
Yeah, she’s a triflin’ friend indeed
Oh, she’s a gold digger
Way over town, that digs on me
Cue the drum bass and I’m taken back to 2005, pre-Twitter and Kanye West sans the MAGA cap. West’s sound, the lyrics, even the album cover of Late Registration (a bear standing in front of two gigantic doors) under which the song was released stood out from the clubby, hip hop music of yore (though Gold Digger placed 14th in the Billboard charts in ‘05). In the same year, Kanye spoke out about hip hop’s homophobia. He became one of the first rappers to say he doesn’t have a problem with homosexuality. But I didn’t care or know much about the artist or what he had to say; I was just interested in his music.
Then in 2007, Good Life came out. ‘I go for mine, I got to shine/ Now throw your hands up in the sky’ became the anthem of a goal digging generation—or at least my group of friends. That and Stronger were on repeat on Friday or Saturday nights out or a common request to the club DJ among friends and strangers alike. A year later, Kanye dropped his fourth studio album 808’s & Heartbreaks, which corroborated just how diverse he is as an artist. If Late Registration was more soul and Graduation was a little more Daft Punk, 808’s & Heartbreaks “reflect and enact emotional dissonance, to brilliant effect (axs.com).”
Who is this Kanye West? Now I’m interested.
Kanye Omari West a.k.a Yeezus, born June 8, 1977, transcends the title rap artist; he’s a record producer, entrepreneur, fashion designer and, well, a self-proclaimed creative genius to which even some of his harshest critics can’t disagree. The Chicagoan first came into the scene as a producer for Roc-A-Fella Records in the early 2000s before pursuing a solo career as a rapper. He later founded his own record label GOOD Music and produced his subsequent albums that boast West’s range and heterogenous music styles with predominantly hip hop influences. The critically acclaimed artist later expanded to fashion design with successful collaborations, most notably with Adidas, and spawned his own line Yeezy. He also heads his own creative content company named after his mom, DONDA. And unless you live under a rock, you’d know he’s married to Kim Kardashian, has three kids, and just dropped his eight studio album Ye and is constantly stirring up a Tweet storm.
But if you’ve never listened to Kanye West, you’d only know him as one of music and pop culture’s most controversial and polarizing icons. From his Taylor Swift diss at the VMAs to his “George Bush hates black people” outburst, publicly proclaiming his love for The Donald to saying 400 years of slavery “sounds like a choice” and the rest of his free-thinking/seemingly alt-right statements, West sounds like (to quote Obama) a complete “jackass.”
But who really is Kanye West?
Maybe only Kanye would know. But as a fan of his music, creative influence and brand of unfiltered authenticity, I can only speak for myself and perhaps fellow fans.
“Why do you still like Kanye,” asked a colleague the same day the artist publicly pledged allegiance to Trump via a series of Tweets. I replied, “I don’t agree with everything he says or does, but I like him as an artist.” Truth be told, there was so much more I wanted to say, but as someone once said and wrote, “proximity limits.” I wanted to talk about his music and how I just never have the words or enough of it to explain exactly how it affects me; how brilliant Through The Wire was as it alluded to a near-death experience he had in 2002. He was due to record a debut single but couldn’t due to his jaw being wired shut. I wanted to ask, have you heard Only One and how it could bring almost anyone to tears? Listen to it too many times and you’ll hear his breath jump and him cry in the out of sync parts as he sings about his departed mother.
Those visuals, from his Takashi Murakami- and George Condo-designed album covers to his music videos? Different, not always palatable to the general public but always well thought-out. Runaway from the operatic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was just as beautiful and twisted as it was experimental; Famous was visually stunning and poetic, and Fade featuring an Alex Owens-esque (see: Flashdance) Teyana Taylor was just FIRE. He’s also low-key championed diversity in casting and collaborations before the world called for such in Hollywood, read: Ayyy Girl with Malik Yusef and JYJ and Fxxk Wit Us with Lee Hi, and his general appreciation for Japanese culture.
As a performer, my mind is blown just thinking about his performance at the 2016 Paradise International Music Festival here in Manila. It was the first time he sang his lead single Famous off of The Life of Pablo—and my first time to see hime live—and spoke his truth.
There’s so much more to be said, of him as a rounded aesthete: how he, with the help of Christine Centenera, transformed the Kardashians into one hell of a stylish clan; how he empowered a pregnant Kim who just wanted to wear maternity clothes by literally styling her and changing the way she saw her thicc-er state; how he secretly had hand at Virgil Abloh’s appointment as artistic director for menswear at Louis Vuitton…
We may never understand Kanye West, his crazy, his complexity and the reason behind his provocations. Is it real or is it performance art, a publicity stunt or an oblique way of expressing black emancipation? Many miss the old Kanye, are confused about the “new” Kanye—especially with Ye, which is seemingly an exploration of West’s bipolar mind—but when he speaks up or spits out, “I had enough of the politics” or “Cause now I see women as something to nurture, not something to conquer,” I’m taken back to 2005, pre-Twitter and Kanye West sans the MAGA cap.
I still love Kanye.
This article was updated June 4, 2018.
Art Alexandra Lara.