At this point, it would be a waste of time to sit and list all of the reasons why Kanye West’s Yeezus is such an epic release.
Its groundbreaking street campaign.
Its stripped down, thrashing production that features some of the most exciting names in music today.
Its brash, honest, jarring expression of a man with a message.
So, why the hate? Still, the hate?
John Lennon famously said, at the height of The Beatles fame and musical dominance, that they were “bigger than Jesus”. This has become a sort of reference point for all undeniably talented yet bigheaded artists who get themselves in hot water with the press and general public. NOT so coincidentally, incidents similar to this have been happening more and more recently. This is less about a shift in the artist mentality, but rather the immediate access to our favorite musicians’ every thought, feeling, and opinion. Think about this: If all of the people we worship from the 60s, 70s, and 80s were filtered through The Internet and the modern press/publicity system, how would we really feel about who they were?
We hold our idols over the fire, rabidly consuming their products but criticizing their personal decisions and ideas. Why? Do we hold these people in such high regard that every indiscretion feels like a betrayal. Are we so judgmental that we have to take advantage of any opportunity to point our fingers at any celebrity who makes a mistake, as if we don’t ever make any in our own lives. Mainstream pop culture needs a bit of healthy, constructive feedback every once in awhile, but don’t some of these artists deserve a pass. Artists like Kanye West, whose contributions to music have been nothing but positive and, for the most part, celebrated. Looking at another extreme case of talent vs. controversy, Michael Jackson was never able to overcome the damning reputation he acquired in the later part of his life. And if anyone could have, it would have been him. He is still considered one of the biggest and best pop stars of all time, beyond the accusations and eccentricities. So if this is used as another reference point similar to the Lennon-Jesus line, then really what has Kanye West done to deserve such hate?
He’s outspoken, as most brilliant artists tend to be, and now, with the media being what it is, his thoughts have an audience. But is he ever that wrong? The government is fucked up. He is one of the best musicians on the planet. There is an unfair bias against hip-hop/rap culture and its artists.
And this is not an attempt to justify all of his bullshit. But come on, we’re all idiots who say and do things we shouldn’t. Where in our own lives we strive for forgivness and understanding, we almost refuse to offer our stars the same respect. And if we are going to continue to take them to task, we should at least try to separate the personal from the professional. Judge their music separately from their personalities, because when it comes down to it, they can often have very little to do with each other in a negative way. Meaning, it’s usually the things we hate about who they are that make them so great at what they do.
This is also not meant to justify anything he’s ever said or done. It’s easy to disagree with West, and what’s challenging is nothing new; trying to see beyond our differences to find some similarities and even understand why we do the things we do. As this occurs in our own lives to mostly positive results, the potential evolution that our culture could undergo if we are able to do this on a large scale is reason enough to give it a shot.
Listen to the new Kanye West as you would anything else. Enjoy it for its innovation and dark, raw beauty. Or don’t, but try to appreciate it if nothing else. And the next time you read some stupid thing a celebrity said on their twitter or whatever, maybe scroll back through your own tweets and think about how some of them might seem to 100 million people.