Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kanye West: Hip-Hop's Ultimate Brand

Kanye West is the most polarizing figure in America.  On one side, he has millions of fans who worship his music, and critics who praise his innovative production and brilliant lyrics.  On the other side, there are droves of fans who wished Mr. West would jump off the nearest cliff.  Which is somewhat understandable considering the mile long list of people he's wronged or insulted, including Grammy voters, George Bush, SNL, South Park, Taylor Swift, and about 50 million of her fans.  But Kanye has never really done anything other than speak his mind.

I'm never ashamed to admit that Kanye is my favorite music artist of all time.  I think the man breathes creative genius in just about everything he does, and puts more effort into a single song than most musicians put into their entire albums.  People are always quick to say they hate Kanye West, and therefore refuse to listen to his music.  What a shame.  Over the past decade or so, Kanye has carefully crafted some of the greatest music we will ever have the luxury of hearing.  And along the way, he's created a reputation and persona unrivaled by anyone else in entertainment.  Essentially he created a brand. A brand all about Kanye West, what he likes, and what he thinks we should like too.  I don't think our perception of him is necessarily accurate but it's at least its what he allows us to think.

Take notice in the way Kanye dresses and presents himself around the release of his albums.  During College Dropout and Late Registration he presented himself as a clean cut, polo shirt wearing, kid from Chicago who had been through alot, but has finally made it.

Then Graduation came around, and he evolved to match the stadium sized, synth heavy, futuristic sound of the album by dressing the part, and launching the Glow In The Dark Tour. He was finally on top, so he was going to live like it and make sure you knew about it.

Then suddenly his world came crashing down. After his girlfriend Amber Rose broke it off, and his mother tragically died after a plastic surgery mishap, Kanye went into full emo mode. Or at least his version of it.  It was Kid Cudi emo music before Kid Cudi emo music was cool.  He wore an uptight, nerdy suit and glasses with a heart patch on the lapel.  His auto-tune induced singing was about heartbreak, and pain, and suffering.  Months later, after album promotion was complete, he back to his old ways of lavish partying and celebration...until he crashed the stage at the VMA's, took the mic from poor Taylor, and caused his greatest public backlash to date.

He went into hiding and began searching for answers.  He wanted people to think he was trying to help himself become a better person, but really he was busy crafting his next album, a hip-hop masterpiece.  His Sgt. Pepper. His Thriller.  His Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  It was undoubtedly the best album of the year, and maybe even the best rap album of the last 5 to 10 years.  He burst on to the stage at the 2010 VMA's, a year after Swift-gate, wearing an all-leather bright red suit, and debuted Runaway. Other than the single "Power," it was the first real look into his new image.  Kanye had finally embraced what everybody had already thought about him.  Kanye West had embraced crazy.   Twisted Fantasy was just that. An insane, disturbing, crazy look into the mind of a musical genius.   Kanye was finally being more honest and open with his fans (and giving away free music didn't hurt either), he started Tweeting his most bizarre (brilliant?) thoughts and people finally began to embrace him again.  He still had his haters, and he always will, but Kanye accepted he can only impress certain people, so he may as well put his effort into pleasing those who want to be pleased.

With the release of his collabo album with his mentor Jay-Z, Kanye continued the brilliance, toned down the crazy, then anchored it with the level-headed, business savy Hova, and branded it with the luxury and lavishness of a warehouse lot full of Maybachs.
Watch The Throne will certainly bolster their gold mine bank accounts, but Kanye won't let anything slow him down. It's hard to say what he'll do next, because he's the most unpredictable celebrity alive.  Charlie Sheen takes crazy lessons from Kanye West, not the other way around.

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