Life As One Of The Last People On Kanye West Island » VSB

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Life As One Of The Last People On Kanye West Island

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It’s 9:30 AM.

I’m home. Drinking orange juice and watching Divergent. It’s the fourth time I’ve seen it this week. I keep hoping it somehow gets better. I’m always wrong.

I open my blinds to let the morning sun in. The light breaks through. It’s sudden and arrogant, as morning sunlight tends to be. I open the blinds completely, daring the sun to engulf me. It does. I don’t care. “Fuck you” I say to the sun. In my head. Because swearing aloud at the sun would be insane.

And then I notice it. A “For Sale” across the street. This shouldn’t bother me. This might be Kanye West Island, but this is still America. And Americans are allowed to sell their homes and move to other places. If you can’t do that in America anymore, we might as well be in Iraq or France or something. But it bothers me. Because there are so damn many “For Sale” signs now. So damn many.

What was once a booming neighborhood — the “hippest community in the country“, according to some shitty magazine ten years ago — is now becoming an artifact. A memory. A ghost. A motherfucking fossil. I can’t blame them too much for wanting out. It has not been an easy stretch. Ever since Kanye’s mom passed, the living conditions and property values on Kanye West Island have fluctuated. No one seems to want to live on Kanye West Island anymore.

Most inhabitants moved here in 2004, when the property was still “fresh” and “new” and people had tired of the shenanigans on 50 Cent Island and Shitty Southern Music Island. Kanye West Island was a Godsend. An Island made specifically for them. I mean, where else would you find Louis Vuitton belts in Old Navy but on Kanye West Island? Nowhere, that’s where.

As the years passed, Kanye West Island wasn’t just the hippest place to be. It was the best. No Island was better. The food was great, all the women were Deltas with Master’s degrees, and everyone believed in Jesus.

But then his mom died. And something in Kanye West changed. Which, eventually, changed what it meant to be on Kanye West Island. It still was the best place to live. But things were different. The stores got weird, selling clothes no one wears and food no one eats. The churches started to close. And White women just started appearing. Like, literally everywhere. You could not open an oven on Kanye West Island without a White woman popping out of it.

People first started leaving in 2010. Well, many of the original residents started leaving. It just wasn’t as conspicuous at first, because as soon as they’d move out, someone new — usually someone related to Kid Cudi or working for Gawker or something — would move in.

As 2011 and then 2013 came, the exodus continued. But then, there weren’t as many new residents. Just people leaving. Reluctantly and angrily — all saying they’d stay if things stayed the way they were in 2004 — but leaving.

And now, my block is littered with “Now Leasing” signs. The roads are filled with moving vans. U-Haul. Hertz. Budget. And some off-brand shit I can’t remember. People can’t get off Kanye West Island fast enough. Some are even moving to J. Cole Island. Which is cool, I guess. If you really like to sleep.

People — friends, family, former neighbors, etc — have asked why I’ve stayed. Why haven’t I moved off Kanye West Island yet. And I don’t really know what to tell them. Because the truth — I actually like 2015 Kanye more than I liked 2005 Kanye — never seems to satisfy them. They don’t believe me. They think I’m still here because I’m scared to move. Or because I like being a contrarian. Or even just because there are no more 45-minute waits for brunches on Kanye West Island anymore. (Which, admittedly, I do enjoy. Because who wants to make reservations to eat some fucking eggs?)

And they think these things because they don’t think it’s possible for a person to love and enjoy College Dropout and love and enjoy Yeezus even more. Because, apparently, the type of person who’d loved College Dropout — and the type of person who’d be a fan of someone who created College Dropout — aint the type of person who’d love Yeezus. 

But here I am on Kanye West Island, enjoying my orange juice and watching Divergent. It’s a nice day, today. Maybe I’ll go for a walk later.


Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.

  • Guest


  • Kanye is certainly is interesting and it’s important to have an interesting person at the forefront (commercially) of genres. Hip Hop definitely needs Kanye even if I’ll never co-sign the whole genius thing people like heaping on him.

    • Lola

      *still missing the genius thing too*

      • J Dilla is the only person in hip hop I would call a genius.

    • Kanye is a bad wig away from being Phil Spector.

      • miss t-lee

        Listen here…lol

    • Guest1

      I still don’t understand how one is a genius when one samples so much.

      • Man see it’s not even the fact that he samples that bothers me. It’s that in like Bound 2 he takes samples (That he doesn’t even clear!) and takes 30 seconds of the song. That’s not even a sample. Ponderosa Twins Plus One deserve song writing and composer credits for as much as he took. Then there was Otis which was bleh. He’s too on the nose and literal with all of his samples. Granted, I’m HEAVILY biased to crate diggers, but like if you gave him Marvin Gaye’s entire album “Let’s Get it On” he wouldn’t do much with it outside of sample Marvin singing “Let’s Get it On.” He obviously has an ear for the right stuff and placing them in the rights places. It’s just there are like 20 different producers that do samples much better that would never get credited as a genius.

        • panamajackson

          I mean, RZA gets called a genius too and all those early Wu joints were pretty much straight samples. I do think he’s a musical genius. He still has to create a musical landscape out of them. And while “Bound 2” is pretty much a straight jack a la RZA, some of his sampling is very complex. I mean, its hiphop. We called Premier a genius, and one “Mass Appeal” is literally a straight rip. Lots of hiphop producers do that. I think he’s very creative in how he samples. And how he gets the most out of sound when doing so. For instance, on “Late” off of Late Registration, he jacked the Whatnaughts wholesale, but that sh*t is beautiful. Ultimately, that’s what you want right? Dilla definitely had his moments of straight jacking a sample.

          • Guest1

            You seem to know a lot about music. Do you think that hip hop (and to a lesser extent some R&B) don’t get enough respect at the Grammys because they are not “original” so to speak? Kind of like Gene Simmons line of thinking with allowing hip-hop/pop into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

          • RZA pioneered the style so he gets pass because NY bias. While Premier is top 10 dead or alive, I hate when he does it too. He did the laziest loop of Adrian Younge on his album with Royce da 5’9″ (the track with Jay Electronica) on it. I’m not saying Yeezy is trash with it, but there a bunch of young and old gods out there who really dig and get mad inventive. I appreciate that more even though Kanye may have a better batting average with what he’s doing.

            Also check out the new Kendrick.

            • CamCamtheGreat

              Just here for “Blacker the Berry.” People need to know.

        • JhaneSez

          I think there is an element of music preservation in his samples… bringing classics to a new generation. We are after all living in a time when Missy is considered a new artist by this generation… there seems to be a clear desire to pay homage to the grove as opposed to following the arbitrary rules of sampling beats ~JS

        • IMHO, nobody has sampled better than Dilla.

      • miss t-lee


  • the Kanye pushback reminds me of the college football debate…theres always going to be that subset of people who feel like they would chop off their right foot to get that opportunity so they dont want to hear any arguments of the contrary.

    Kanye is inarticulate and the flaw in that is that his message is routinely lost in his rhetoric, but when you look at what he’s saying its just that he wants…more. Grammys for rap albums are cool but he wants to hoist the last trophy of the night for Album of the year, sure plenty rappers can make an urban clothing brand he wants to make fashion week, he’s recognized as a musical genius but he wants to be looked at like Steve Jobs. Perhaps its too ambitious, perhaps it comes off as entitled for someone more successful that 99.9% of the world but that’s just who he is.

    *chills on Yeezus island*

    • MrsT

      I barely even stepped off the boat when my ship cruised by Kanye West Island back in 2004, but I agree with your 2nd paragraph. And I think the death of this mother made him want MORE even more.

    • MeridianBurst

      I don’t see why he should settle for JUST having an urban clothing brand, or settle for anything else that is commonly done and achieved for that matter. If he wants to exceed that I don’t see why people have such a problem with him trying to knock that door down. He wants to have a notable fashion house, to be looked at as thee industry pioneer, to be the person who’s privacy and space is respected/the person who puts boundaries on paparazzi. Of course he’s going to have a hard time explaining that to a normal a*s person off the street. Of course there’s a disconnect there. I just don’t like how people make him out to be a villain for wanting different than the usual. People like him are why barriers don’t exist for those who come after.

      • halima229

        Omg. I agree. People want him to stay in his place as an urban designer but why shouldnt he reach for the stars? Racism is very prevalent in the fashion industry. Rappers spend money on clothes made by someone who doesnt look like them and no one seems to care smh.

      • mojasowa

        The problem isn’t with his ambitious nature or eccentricity. Many eccentric artists are loved. When you act rude and disrespectful to other artists and behave like an entitled baby, people may treat you as such, and you WILL alienate fans and potential fans. Then you can whine some more about the injustice, because you fail to see outside of your own narrow perspective, and blame everyone around you.

      • Mel

        Completely agree.

    • PhlyyPhree

      “Kanye is inarticulate and the flaw in that is that his message is routinely lost in his rhetoric, but when you look at what he’s saying its just that he wants…more. Grammys for rap albums are cool but he wants to hoist the last trophy of the night for Album of the year, sure plenty rappers can make an urban clothing brand he wants to make fashion week, he’s recognized as a musical genius but he wants to be looked at like Steve Jobs. Perhaps its too ambitious, perhaps it comes off as entitled for someone more successful that 99.9% of the world but that’s just who he is.”

      Regular a*s me gets it. What has become normal is not enough for him and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him for not wanting normal. What would music/fashion/the world look like if more people had that kind of ambition?

      • I don’t get people TRYING to be weird. Why would someone aspire to be that? It’s an incredibly lonely and isolated state of being to exist in. Only normal people fantasize about being strange. In an ideal world all the weirdos eventually embrace and love who they are. There are years of fits where you just want to fit in and be like everyone else though.

        • Andrea

          I agree. I don’t understand anyone Trying to be weird. I don’t believe normal people fantasize about it. Or if they do. It is like fantasizing about being black. You do it for a minute. Maybe I’m just too used to People who fantasize about being like everyone else.

        • MeridianBurst

          The aspiration is to be great, iconic, innovative, and transformative. Ground breaking.

          Those are ALL things normal people fantasize about being and won’t ever be, so when they experience it in someone it automatically becomes a bad thing. Also, when you have that capacity in you to be that kind of person, it means who you are as a person isn’t tuned to function in a normal capacity. You accept it about yourself even though there’s a substantial part of you that feels strained by it.

          You just wanna be another face in the crowd but you’ve got this abnormal tick to you. Isolation comes in when you value your ideas, concepts, vision etc., and such things ARE normal to you. You’re completely content in that. It’s lonely because people actively and purposefully try not to get you. They don’t wanna come and be part of you or actually take the time to relate to you. They’d rather offend you than be kind, respectful, understanding, open minded. The fits aren’t so much of wanting to be normal, but wanting to have human experiences even as you’re operating on a completely different wavelength.

        • Asiyah

          “I don’t get people TRYING to be weird.”

          Exactly. If you’re weird, be yourself, but when you are deliberately trying to be different for the sake of artistry I don’t see the point.

    • Question

      This. All day.

      I actually think what you’re watching is a Black man who thought idealistically that his output would be acknowledged for what it is but folks are steadily pushing him down saying “stay in your lane”. Unlike others, he keeps trying – running into that same damn wall, convinced that one day if he runs with enough momentum he will knock it down.

      I can’t say that I will participate in the Kanye Fandom I did 4 years ago, but I’m not gonna participate in the “dude is crazy” rhetoric either.

      I haven’t sold my spot on Kanye Island yet – and I don’t plan on it. I’ll rent that joint out until the market rebounds, or keep it in the family to reminsce of better days “back when ______”.

    • Dougie

      But it’s ridiculously entitled. He’s always been entitled, but at least he was making great music before. On the outro of College Dropout he said “I played him Jesus Walks and he didn’t sign me!”… as though that was the end all be all and there was no other choice. Kanye has always felt entitled. What it seems he forgot is that it takes a while to pay dues. He must have forgotten his small ass apartment in Newark NJ before he had any money. He forgot that he had to climb in the ranks before he was at the top…. The same goes for fashion. He has to earn his shit and he thinks he has already.

      To put it in perspective. Christian Louboutin was designing shoes for everybody in the high fashion industry for years. All the top brands. But then he wasn’t making enough money so he decided to become a gardener. To pay rent. Now he’s the top shoe designer in the world.

      Kanye has to pay his dues. He might be the best at everything in the world, but without patience he just looks like a little child crying about why he’s not getting an invite to the neighbors tree house.

    • Epsilonicus

      I am sharing this on FB

    • Asiyah

      I admire his ambition, but when it borders on disrespect for others who are similar to him such as Beck it becomes problematic. Don’t alienate people who are as artistic and as weird as yourself. I love me some Kanye, but you can’t harp about artistry and then stan for people who aren’t exactly as creative and visionary as yourself. Then you just become some sort of parody.

  • Lola

    when his book came out… you didn’t start researching other island properties????

    • Charlisia Nwachukwu

      i missed the book?

      • Lola

        if by ‘missed’ you mean dodged a bullet. then yes.
        the trees that died for that…. its a fcuking shame

  • Julian Green

    I don’t think I’ve ever stated this publicly but…I don’t get what the big deal is about Kanye West. Sure, I’ve liked a few of his songs here and there, but I’ve never gotten why he’s feted as some kind of genius musical alchemist. He’s not a great a rapper, his beats are interesting but I don’t think they’re as genre-defying as everybody keeps telling me they are and (to me) he doesn’t seem to posses many personality traits beyond pretentiousness and narcissism.

    I wouldn’t say he’s at J.Cole level of “meh”, but I just don’t find him as interesting as everybody else seems to.

  • Agatha Guilluame

    *opens boutique real estate agency on Beck’s Galapagos (wonders who this chain of islands is named after)

    • MsSula

      Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely adore Beck. I think he is one of the most brilliant and prolific composers of his time. I still do have my house on KWI though. Great music is great music.

  • I started renting my property on Yeezus Island to meth cookers after 808’s and Heartbreaks. I finally sold it a few years back after I burned the structure to get the insurance money. #MoeSzyslakdatho

    • Agatha Guilluame

      The only person making a living on Yeezus Island is the nucca making the for sale signs.

      • Lola


      • Sell your property on Yeezus Island to the Air Force so they can use it as a bombing range.

    • Lizzy

      I really can’t stop laughing. Such an amazing comment. Thanks for making my day.

    • Sahel

      Should have sold it to those guys who make shatter,it would have blown up years ago

  • Muze

    *raises fist in solidarity* we’re the only two left. lol. but… he needs to close his mouth sometimes.

  • Pinks

    I don’t understand the obsession with him, and I’m starting to believe my pretend aunt in my head (Wendy Williams) that he may in fact have become a madman in the time since we were first introduced to him.

    He comes off as a kid who needed to get his a22 beat a lot more as a child, by his mother and by other kids. I love Yeezus, but I couldn’t quite get with the genius moniker mostly for the fact that HE was so hell bent on being seen as this savior we all needed so desperately. I also didn’t care too much for 808s and Heartbreaks, which apparently means I suck.

    Dah well.

  • BeautifullyHuman

    I’m out. I think I’ll just continue to visit Kanye West Island from time to time.

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