If you ask most people who know me to tell you something about me, I’m willing to wager that most people would probably mention something about me being either a Manchester United fan or a Kanye West fan. Both have shaped different stages of my life in one way or the other. With Kanye I am not just a fan of the music but also a fan of his story. A story about turning a near fatal car crash into the catalyst for his biggest triumph – a brilliant career in music. I am drawn to his passion, drive and self belief. It is a self belief and confidence that (most of the time) balances delicately on the edge of the egoistic. Kanye’s confidence in himself and his abilities is often misconstrued as arrogance, but that’s only if you look on the surface. When I listened intimately to his lyrics I heard a charming and playful braggadocio.
Kanye not only made me believe I could touch the sky, but the story he shared on ‘Last Call’ , on his College Dropout album, is one of the most inspiring stories the dreamer in me repeatedly runs back to when the going gets tough. In the College Dropout Kanye came across as the relatable confident underdog with a stubborn determination to make his dreams a reality no matter how ludicrous they might have appeared to those around him. He believed in himself more than anyone else believed in him. Kanye taught me not only to believe in myself, but to trust myself and also showed me the importance of passion and hard work when it comes to achieving your goals.
The College Dropout is still my personal favourite particularly for its timing and the nostalgia high it takes me on every time I listen to it. The release of the College Dropout also coincided with the start of my twenties and rather ironically the beginning of my university (college) education. It was the perfect soundtrack for that part of my life. A time in my life I was actively and desperately seeking for something to relate to. It spoke eloquently to what and who I wanted to be. I related more to Kanye’s story than I had ever with any other artist prior.
When Kanye released College Dropout I was at a crossroads with my relationship with Hip Hop. I was feeling disenchanted and disconnected from most of Hip Hop. As much as I enjoyed listening to 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Trying album it didn’t move me, well except for when I was In Da Club. Kanye’s College Dropout album saved my relationship with Hip Hop. It was such a soulful and refreshing sound. It was light hearted. It was uplifting. But more significantly it resonated and moved me and the timing couldn’t have been better. Thanks to the College Dropout I fell in love with Hip Hop all over again.
Further releases of Late Registration, Graduation, 808’s & Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy continued to provide the soundtracks to my twenties. I was not alone in this as most of my friends at that time also related to Kanye’s music in a similar way. So you can imagine my surprise when one of friends messaged me randomly and said “Dude, I think I need to break up with Kanye.” This particular friend might just be a bigger Kanye fan than I am. At some stage he used to style his outfits based on Kanye’s own personal style. That was how far reaching his influence was. So when he said that to me I won’t lie, I was stunned. And then just as quickly I was intrigued. What followed next was in depth discussion in which we both chronicled the influence Kanye has had over our lives over the last decade. How we both have also grown into our own people and how that influences our relationship with Kanye the man and his music.
My friend’s argument was this (and I’m paraphrasing here)
”Kanye’s music is still on point, but dude has really become a douchebag. Dude is always angry, complaining and being a diva. Dude rants most of the time now. The thing now is his douchiness is starting to overshadow his talent for me. Dude used to be funny, his early albums had a lot of humour and there was a light heartedness and optimism to his music. Now he comes across as super intense, and, he is always wearing his screw face these days. He doesn’t have the class and grace of his big brother (Jay Z). His music has lost its soul. Worse still I don’t think he has anyone on his team telling him when he is being an asshole.”
He also brought up how Kanye went from singing Jesus Walks on College Dropout to him embracing his inner douchebag in Runaway off the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Album as an example of that evolution into a douche. However that was not the tipping point for him. What cemented his decision to ‘break up’ with Kanye is an incident that happened a few weeks ago. Kanye called the New York radio station Hot 97 and ranted about not being on higher up on their hottest Emcee’s in the game in list. He mentioning in that rant that he gave Sway( a presenter) a TV back in the day. He felt you can’t air a dude out like that. He thought it unnecessary and petty.
The more I thought about our discussion the more I found myself reflecting and analyzing not only my relationship with Kanye, but how he has evolved as an artist and a person. This is just my opinion, but I think when his Mum died at the peak of his career something snapped. A part of him died. The albums he has put out since have had darker themes. The light heartedness of his earlier efforts has gone AWOL. His music became more melancholic than melodic.
All through 808’s & Heartbreak and to a lesser extent in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy he was dealing with that pain of loss, his personal demons as well as the fallout from some of his less than flattering and maybe even misguided public outbursts. His genius was that he managed to channel all that angst and upheaval in his life into his music. The end product was a brilliant work of art. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is not only a critically acclaimed album but arguably his best album to date. As fans we gained from his loss. The assumption also was that he was dealing, so it was a win/win right? Well I’m not sure about that, the evidence seems to suggest otherwise.
So what does all this have to with me breaking up with Kanye’s ego? Allow me to explain. As I have grown I have made my own mistakes. Mistakes I have had to be accountable for. I have also had to deal with loss and heartbreak. In the process I have begun to despise ego because of the things it has cost me. Ego has cost me relationships and has at times stunted my personal growth by not allowing me to learn the lessons I needed to. The layers I have added to the person that I am make it difficult for me to continue embracing ego.
So that’s why I am breaking up with Kanye’s ego. Kanye’s ego is something I have always embraced and it has always enabled my own ego. I have so many of my own experiences to draw from and that has made me more comfortable in my own skin. I am leaning more on my own experiences to define myself more. When I think about the rants and outbursts I see an ugliness the man I aspire to be finds very uncomfortable with. Kanye is still is one of my personal heroes, but his ego can’t be my imaginary friend anymore. Me and his music, we good. I just hope that now that his current girlfriend is pregnant having a kid will renew and reinvigorate him and perhaps fill the void his Mum left as well as bring back some of the soul and jokes back into his music.