On a fan coming to terms with ‘I still love Kanye’ throughout the artist’s past rants and most recent revelation
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 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 four kids—with Psalm as the newest addition—and just dropped his latest studio album Jesus is King.
— ye (@kanyewest) November 3, 2019
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 when 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.” Would I revisit my Christian faith because he found salvation in his? Maybe, maybe not, but I did enjoy listening to Jesus is King.
There's so much more I want to say in defense of Kanye, but as someone once said and wrote, “proximity limits” and honestly, people can like or dislike him, and it won't change my appreciation for the artist. I never have the words or enough of it to explain exactly how his music affects me; how brilliant Through The Wire was as it alluded to a near-death experience he had in 2002. Only One can bring nearly anyone to tears because when you listen to it too many times, you’ll hear his breath jump and West 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.
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 thicker 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, the reason behind his provocations and his salvation. Is it real or is it performance art, a publicity stunt or a for-real celebrity conversion? Many miss the old Kanye, are confused with the “new” Kanye, but when he speaks up or raps about his exploration of bipolar disorder or rekindled fire for his faith, I’m taken back to the early 00's, pre-Twitter and Kanye West with the message: “To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers. Jesus walks for them.”
I still love Kanye.
This article was updated November 22, 2019.
Art Alexandra Lara.