Why Kanye Matters so Gotdamn Much
Panama: so i know a lot of women who absolutely love kanye west and i can honestly say i dont get it. like i cant tell if they want to be with him? or if his swag is attractive to them or what…
kanye being an attractive human being is an oddity to meChamp: i think they like what he produces and what he’s capable of producing more than anything elsethe art more than the artisti mean, i guess that explains why guys like paul mccartney and lyle lovett have had their pick of beautiful womenthe idea of kanye matters more than he doeswell, not more, but just as muchwomen love big ideas and potential more than they love us, loland kanye is a big f*cking ideaPanama: that is trueChamp: but yeah, you’re right. he’s a sex symbol who women don’t seem to want to have sex withits weird. i’ve never believed any of the “kanye’s gay” rumors, but i have a hard time believing he was sleeping with amber rose, or anyone for that matterPanama: good pointChamp: but, he’s also admitted to a porn addiction, and i’ve heard from a few sources that he’s not particularly shy about whipping it out in public, lolPanama: apparently a lot of guys aren’ti’ve had chicks tell me numerous times of dudes i know who they’ve been with on some one-on-one hang shit and dude will just pull his shit outChamp: i knew a guy in college who’d hand women business cards with a pic of him holding his wangi always wondered who took those pictures for himPanama: lol
Midway through our latest podcast, I made a completely extemporaneous remark about Kanye West being one of the most important black people in the world; a statement so extemporaneous and unexpected you can hear the shock in my own voice when I said it. This surprise was largely based on the fact that I didn’t believe a single word of what I had just said.
But, because the verbal edit button–a device allowing you to delete reckless things you’ve said before anyone actually hears it–hasn’t been invented yet, I went full speed ahead, citing Kanye’s pandemic effect on our culture as proof of my statement’s truth. Surprisingly, the more I spoke, the more I realized this theory wasn’t that far fetched. Culture–the way we behave, how we interact, and what we believe–f*cking matters. And, regardless of how superficial you consider their particular contributions to be, our living and breathing cultural determinants–our Jay-Zs’, our Kardashians, our Beyonces–f*cking matter too.
Kanye, his brand of unabashed and simultaneously insecure self-confidence, and the art this volatile mixture created, has done more to spearhead this current era of hip-hop androgyny we live in than any other entity. Ironically, this makes him a bit of a throwback. His visceral emoting and occasional bouts of hyper-heterosexual aggression hearken back to the 80’s, when lascivious and sexually ambiguous performers such as Prince, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Boy George ruled the airwaves. I’m not suggesting Kanye is in fact bi or homosexual, but his particular type of emotiveness is unlike any we’ve seen in hip-hop, and by osmosis he’s helped to pave the way to mainstream acceptance and embrace for (among other things) Drake, skinny jeans, Lady Gaga, Rhianna, blazers, Nicky Minaj, eyeglasses, B.O.B., blogging (yes. blogging), Lil Wayne, frohawks, and Twitter.
Despite all of this, I’ve always wondered what exactly it is about Kanye that allows him to wield such a cultural influence. How the hell does this tiny guy from the Chi have so much power? While his persona is (somewhat) original in a hip-hop context, the characteristics contributing to this persona are completely unoriginal. His critically lauded sample-heavy and soulful production is somewhat of a copy of music the RZA was making in 1995. While he’s definitely improving as a rapper, he’ll never be confused for a “natural” like a Nas or even a Scarface. And, by the time “The College Dropout” was released, the emotive eccentricity and eclecticism he’s known for had already been “done” (and, arguably, done better) by Andre 3000. He’s basically an HD compatible betamax.
The insane buzz over his two relatively underwhelming new singles (“Power” and “Hear Me Now”. Although, I have to admit I love “Hear Me Now” and the “Power” remix) have helped me figure it out: It’s not Kanye himself as much as it’s the idea of Kanye–and what we think he’s capable of–that matters so gotdamn much. This explains why each of his albums (even the sucky ones I eventually allowed to grow on me) are cultural landmarks even among those who love hip-hop but hate him and/or his music. This helps me understand how we’ve allowed a man who has made entire albums based around the idea that college is a sham and publicly admitted to not reading books (ha!) to be the de facto musical spokesperson for the young and college educated African-American. This even explains why (many) women are completely infatuated by him despite the fact that they probably wouldn’t sleep with him if given the chance.
With Kanye, it’s not so much about who he is or what he’s accomplished as much as it’s who we want him to be and what he just might do. While he has definitely produced, the power we’ve given him lies in the fact that his otherworldly range of personality makes him potential personified, and this makes him completely unstable and completely impervious to prediction—exactly like culture. He’s a living and breathing cultural cipher for our Id’s and expectations (whatever they might be), and he matters so gotdamn much because we need him to.