Kanye West still doesn’t trust American media. Maybe that’s why his last two interviews have been with his baby’s-mama’s-mama and Zane Lowe, the British journalist who politely grilled JAY Z in anticipation of “Magna Carta Holy Grail.” But while Kanye gave Kris Jenner a speaking voice soft enough for Paris during their light-hearted chat a couple weeks ago, he gave Lowe a much more intense experience during their hour-long BBC interview.
West addressed mixed reviews to his wildly experimental sixth solo album, “Yeezus,” by explaining that if you didn’t like it, you weren’t supposed to. According to him, the creative risks he took (like choosing to start with “On Sight” instead of “Blood On The Leaves”) were meant to draw distinct lines in the cultural sand. Kanye told Lowe that his goal with “Yeezus” was to challenge listeners instead of just presenting them with a product that could easily be consumed, enjoyed and disposed of.
Basically, West is no longer interested in pleasing everyone with radio hits like “Gold Digger” (which he revealed he never liked in the first place). His new mission goes beyond popular culture to a level of genius that will influence generations. He isn’t chasing Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas— or even Michael Jackson. He’s after Ray Kurzweil and Steve Jobs. He wants to be the creative force behind a trillion-dollar company and there’s nothing you (or Ari Emanuel) can tell him that will make him believe he can’t.
This evolved view of his creative purpose should have freed Kanye. With no one left to please, he can follow his ambition to new levels of innovation in any field he chooses. But for West, like many artists of the day, the endless possibilities of the Internet-age are clashing with the suffocating limitations of mainstream America. His refusal to participate in the new slavery of corporate capitalism prevents him from reaching the masses of “new slaves” he’s trying to free. That dichotomy is what inspired the rage of “Yeezus,” as well has his “rants” during concerts and interviews.
As passionate as we know West to be about his music, he’s just as obsessed with visual expression. Kanye could barely contain his frustration as he explained to Lowe that he’s been trying to break into the fashion game for a decade now (he claims to spend 80% of his time on design and only 20% on music). But ‘Ye isn’t lacking experience (he interned at Fendi in 2009) or passion (he’s already dedicated the 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell prescribes for becoming a master of anything). So what’s holding him back from being the Black Ralph Lauren?
Apparently, the circle of power in high fashion is just as difficult to break into as the Hip Hop industry or Hollywood. And although he has best-selling Nikes and years of clout as a fashion icon behind him, ‘Ye still needs a JAY Z-level co-sign from one of the Gods of the game to be taken seriously. Without it, transitioning into the elite world of Givenchy and Versace will be even more difficult than crossing over from producer to MC (go listen to his early bars if you need a reminder of how hard that process was.)
Some may suggest that West follow his own advice and “take the power in his own hands.” Between his rich friends and millions of dedicated fans, a simple Kickstarter should be enough to get the ball rolling. But Kanye doesn’t want to work around the system in hopes of eventually making an impact. He wants to crash it. He wants to affect everyone inside and out of fashion culture and revolutionize it the same way he did the rap game.
If he succeeds, West will unlock the gates for visionaries with perspectives that Rav Simmons and Hedi Slimane couldn’t dream of. Just as his music destroyed Gangsta Rap and created the possibility of Drake and Kid Cudi, his goals in fashion have revolutionary potential. Like his most beloved hits (“All Falls Down,” “Jesus Walks,”) and most infamous moments (George Bush, Taylor Swift) ‘Ye’s current insanity is driven by his dedication to truth and progress. If you let him tell it, Yeezus has been adding to humanity for over ten years now. And if the past is any indication, he’s going to lead us all to artistic salvation or die trying.
– Gee King