Why Kanye West the man is enemy No 1 of Kanye the artist

Why Kanye West the man is enemy No 1 of Kanye the artist

Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

We're a day away from the release of Kanye West's latest offering. And like all else about the man, there's serious drama involved - you couldn't have missed the online mayhem surrounding the name of the album.

And while it's tough to beat the time he announced his 2020 presidential campaign, here's what's happened in the soap opera so far:

From being named So Help Me God in 2014, the album became SWISH in 2015.

That seemed to be set, but then a few weeks ago Kanye made another change - this time to WAVES. This led to a hilarious Twitter showdown between him and Wiz Khalifa - one that would make The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac writhe in their graves.

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But he wasn't done. Just a couple of days ago the internet was informed that WAVES may in fact not be the title after all.

In control

He followed that up with another tweet saying that anyone who can figure out the meaning of the acronym will win tickets to his Yeezy Season 3 show, along with a free pair of Yeezy's.

Naturally, Twitter has been guessing hard.

"To Live Or Perish," guessed one user.

"The Last Original President," tried another.

"The Love Of Poopfingers," tried a third.

We don't know about his album-naming skills but what's certain is the rapper knows how to build hype.

Even if these changes must have been nerve-racking for his record company. After all, the selected title also needs to be found somewhere on the CDs to be released in stores this week.

It may all sound a little haphazard but on a promotional level, the rapper knows exactly what he's doing - the daily media coverage over the last few weeks thanks to his Twitter spats and his proud posts on wife Kim Kardashian's app "Kimoji" are proof.

kanye west album release Kanye West and Kim Kardashian  West attend Kanye West Yeezy Season 2 during

Kanye and Kim Kardashian West at Yeezy Season 2 during New York Fashion Week in September 2015. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

He also called the album a "dream that can't happen without God."

"I'm only doing two percent of the work. God is doing the rest of the work."

Just listen to any of Kanye's 7 albums for proof that he constantly pushes boundaries

And on the day of the release, he will not only be performing his entire new album live, he will also present his latest fashion collection in association with German sportswear label Adidas.

Over 18,000 people are expected at the sold-out event at Madison Square Garden, which will also be broadcast in a few hundred theatres in the US and in 25 European countries.

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Megalomania central

Kanye's antics have hardly been either subtle or private: at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards he ran on stage to grab a trophy just awarded to white country singer Taylor Swift and proclaimed that it actually belonged to Beyonce; while on Twitter, his use of capslock can only be called EXCESSIVE.

West is among a breed of musicians whose performances extend beyond the stage - into their personal lives.

Here's the "Kanye running for president" speech from the 2015 VMAs:

(BTW: hats off to whoever captured the spirit of the moment with that music.)

More recently, he tweeted that T.L.O.P would not be "the album of the year, but the album of the life", only to later clarify that it would in fact only be "ONE of the greatest, not the greatest".

The rapper has previously also said that he's "the voice of this generation". And yet, much as his attitude alienates people, a large number of his fans accept it as part of his genius.

Others believe his insults, both on Twitter and off it, reflect a kind of insecurity; a knee-jerk defensiveness that forces him to rant and rage without forming full arguments. Or stepping back to analyse the situation.

In fact, according to a new memoir by longtime record executive and Kanye collaborator LA Reid, the legendary Kanye West persona is just an act.

Kanye is not just making club-friendly dance rap or releasing monotonous gangsta anthems

"Despite how he's viewed by the public, there's a lot that people don't understand about him," wrote Reid in his book Sing to Me. "The truth is, beneath the persona that Kanye projects, there is a sweet, insecure artist who is eager to prove that he works hard at being great."

Along with the regular dash of ego, there's a reflective quality in his music as well. Sample these lyrics from the song Amazing from 808s & Heartbreak:

"I'm a monster, I'm a killer

I know I'm wrong

I'm a problem

That'll never ever be solved


No matter what, you'll never take that from me

My reign is as far as your eyes can see".

Talent to match

There's no doubt that the man is talented. All you have to do is listen to any of his 7 albums so far - from The College Dropout to Yeezus - to know West is a kickass producer with a crazy good knack for beats.

The rapper has sold over 20 million albums and ranks as the world's seventh richest hip hop star, according to Forbes magazine. And he's collected more 20 Grammys.

Songs like Gold Digger, Stronger, Heartless, Touch The Sky, Diamonds are Forever and Flashing Lights only serve to cement that opinion.

And even those who don't care for his music acknowledge that the guy is constantly pushing himself into new territory conceptually, aesthetically, and musically. He's not just making club-friendly dance rap or releasing monotonous gangsta anthems.

West has helped pave the way for artists like Drake, The Weeknd and James Blake

In 2010, his fifth album - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - was ranked Best Album of the Year by The Telegraph, NOW, Billboard Critics' Picks, Paste, Rolling Stone, Vibe, Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Time Magazine, The AV Club, Pitchfork, Slant, Spinner, and Stereogum.

In 2014 Pitchfork retrospectively called it the album of the decade, and NME put it at #24 on their Top 500 albums of all time list.

Ahead of the curve

If you can't stand the guy, I urge you to listen to his music. Kanye's message often gets lost because his delivery lacks charm and eloquence.

He has a gift for sampling - something that lies at the heart of the art of hip-hop. He's tried to innovate sound with each successive album - adding elements from classical music, soul, blues, funk, New Wave synth-pop, arena prog rock, industrial and electronica (his Daft Punk sampling for Stronger is genius). His music is harmonic and reflects his passion for the music, making his works lyrically and musically diverse.

He's obviously not a fluke in the music business.

It should be recognised that West has repeatedly redefined his sound, charting paths for whole genres in unexpected new ways. He revolutionised radio again with 808 & Heartbreak, developing the confessional, minimalist and melodic hip-hop that helped pave the way for artists like Drake, The Weeknd and James Blake.

In short, he's pretty much always been ahead of the curve - which also explains his frustration and bravado.

And given that the already-released No More Parties in LA has Kanye teaming up with the hottest young talent currently on the scene, Kendrick Lamar, there's every chance T.L.O.P will be something special.

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Aleesha Matharu

Aleesha Matharu @almatharu