The Fall of Kanye West.
(ThyBlackMan.com) As a first generation Hip-Hopper who was nearly born into the culture, I have witnessed every major Star come and go from the beginning of the genre. As a Hip-Hop executive, I can honestly say that I have my head around this culture and I’ve completely and intentionally submerged myself in the culture over the past three years as a company President. Simply put, Hip-Hop is my business. Bona fides aside, the culture seems to have hit an apex. The culture seemed to climax at the emergence of its current reigning Superstar, Kanye West.
Kanye’s career is one that spans several movements and phases in Hip-Hop, but it eventually lead to a phase of Hip-Hop created by West himself. Kanye’s been the most influential Hip-Hop artist since Public Enemy. He maintains an extreme level of media and marketing power. He maintains an artist profile that can only be compared with Michael Jackson at this point in time. And just like Michael, his decline has begun in his mid-30s.
The Fall of Kanye West is not really a fall at all. He is aging out of the emcee spotlight as-is his Senior cohort Jay Z. These men will always have throngs of aged fans attending their shows, but their time with the youth is over. West and Carter are now the culture’s greatest influencers as new Stars emerge. The problem for West is that he’s eight years younger than Jay Z and still feeling like he has something to prove as an emcee. The other problem is that Kanye has lost his core black audience over the past few years by over-reaching into other genres. Kanye’s biggest hit over the past two years wasn’t produced by Kanye and featured four other artists (‘Clique’) as was ‘Niggas in Paris’, which were both produced by Hit Boy. To be frank, he lost me at 808s and Heartbreaks which is his most critically acclaimed album; and therein lies the problem.
Critical acclaim in Hip-Hop can be a good thing if it comes from the right sources. Kanye was lauded by his peers in Hip-Hop. He was a God in rap before he proclaimed himself to be a God of Rap; but that wasn’t enough. Kanye sought and continues to seek the critical acclaim of the mainstream audience despite putting on airs (‘New Slaves’). He married the most mainstream popular woman in the world next to Beyonce. He has become business partners with Nike, Louis Vuitton and Adidas. He has worshipped at the alter of the European fashion houses for years to the point of an epic Kanye temper tantrum on the Sway in the Morning show which nearly destroyed his credibility permanently. For Kanye, the acclaim, acceptance, and love, of the black community is not enough despite his revolutionary overtures. Like many African-Americans, especially those of affluence, he seeks to be accepted. Kanye the Revolutionary, Kanye the Son of a Black Panther has died.
Kanye West once stood before the world and told the truth. He told the world on live TV while standing next to the biggest movie Star in the world at the time. He told the world that a sitting American President didn’t care about black people. He did what every black freedom fighter in the world has been begging Hip-Hop to do from its inception. And he was right. Then he apologized. Kanye let the powers that be back him down and he apologized to one of the history’s greatest war criminals.
Any fan of Kanye West could see the switch that flipped on the side of his head when his Mother Donda died. The Taylor Swift Grammy Award incident was a direct result of his drinking away the pain as he admitted to downing a whole bottle of Hennessy before the show. West often speaks of his Mother, but rarely speaks about his Father. Kanye West is a Momma’s boy. He’s the prototypical spoiled only child and his Father’s distant influence from Atlanta to Chicago is evident. He’s emotionally immature and fragile and it’s pretty obvious that it’s because he was coddled. He now looks for the world to extend to him the same validation that his Mother smothered him with, thus Kim.
Kim is Kanye’s ticket to greater mainstream white acceptance. Her presence kicks down more doors at those European fashion houses. That might seem like a stretch for a man who’s won 21 Grammy Awards, but the Hip-Hop power couple has been modeled for him by his mentor Jay Z. For all of his bluster, it’s pretty obvious that West is an insecure man. It’s obvious in the way that he unnecessarily kisses Jay Z’s behind by constantly propping up Beyonce (which is downright weird). It’s obvious by the woman that he chose that he very much prefers style over substance which is also a tell-tale sign of insecurity. It’s obvious that he needs more attention than what the world can give him and it’s obvious that the world is getting pretty fed up.
I do not support their statement nor their actions, but the famous hacker group Anonymous recently issued a cyber-threat warning against Kanye and Kim West due to Kanye’s actions. Anonymous is wrong for doing so and they’re starting to behave like the tyrants that they claim to resent, but they do act as a leading indicator in this case. People are getting fed up with his shenanigans and that might not be such an issue if his musical power weren’t fading. Kanye left his base and with songs like ‘Four Five Seconds’ assisted by none other than Sir Paul McCartney, his new target audience is quickly losing interest as well. Anonymous doesn’t represent hardcore Hip-Hop enthusiasts like me; they represent the mainstream listener and their turning on West and his wife is a sign.
Kanye was right to say that he had to change and grow as a producer in order to remain on top but why does change and growth always boil down to mainstream success with white people? Why couldn’t he change and grow in the eyes of blacks. Kanye did not evolve to become a better revolutionary, he shrank from it. He did not evolve to become a better Hip-Hop producer, he ran from it. He became Pop. As we speak, Kanye West is devolving from the one of the most admired emcees in the world, to a punchline in a Kardashian joke.
It is not a coincidence that the majority of Kanye West’s success came as he abandoned his beatmaker self in lieu of his pop producer self. 808s & Heartbreaks was heralded as some great Hip-Hop album when it’s really Pop R&b. After three albums, Kanye leaped from tracking encapsulating ghetto memes (‘H to the Izzo’) to singing “Heartless”. It wasn’t until Kanye eschewed Hip-Hop for a cross-genre mix of confusion, that the masses became thronged. It was we, in the Hip-Hop community who considered him a God when no one else did.
Simply put, Kanye is the son of a Black Panther Father and an English Professor Mother and that duality defines him. The Black Panther is the Hip-Hop; it’s the reason that he called George Bush out. The English Professor seeks mainstream acceptance, marries a high-priced reality Star, and proclaims himself to be the greatest artistic creator of a generation. West has been on an apology tour of sorts as of late; making the rounds to all of the typical rapper promo spots; your Breakfast Clubs and your Ebro in the Mornings, all the while appearing to be a newly retrained media animal. There can be no doubt that the Kardashian/Jenner factory is polishing his crossover skills, just as he had hoped for. There can be no doubt that the Kardashian/Jenner family represents the mainstream white acceptance that he longed for with Kris Jenner serving as a maternal substitute for the lost Donda. Kanye recently proclaimed racism to be the past and pretty much not a thing anymore.
The same man whom 10 years ago at the height of the Katrina catastrophe, stood correctly in opposition to a failure of a President, is now saying that racism is over. Well, what’s changed in 10 years Kanye? He got rich. What happened to Kanye West over the last 10 years? The day that he apologized to George W. Bush was the day that he gave up the mantle of revolutionary and was the day that he began his trek to Kardashianville.