In Defense of Kanye West

by Couch Sessions

Kanye West is an asshole. But who cares? He’s not here to make friends. That refrain, echoed by dozens of reality tv show contestants, is exactly what too many of us have forgotten in our condemnations of him. Like the wannabe-models on ANTM and the cuisiniers on Top Chef, he’s not here to find a BFF. He’s here to win. And, let’s be frank, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

West has been involved in his fair share of controversies over the years: 2005’s AIDS-is-manmade-and-intentionally-delivered-to-African-villages comment; “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”-gate; the whole Jesus thing on the cover of Rolling Stone; the paparazzi airport beatdown; and a handful of other mini-scandals duly accompanied by all-caps rants on his blog.

But the drama came to a head, as you certainly know, last September: Who could forget the Taylor Swift debacle? (Taylor herself certainly can’t, as she demonstrated pretty pathetically in her VMA performance earlier this month.) After the asshole-rapper-interrupts-young-country-star debacle made headlines and blog proclamations around the world, the vilification promptly began. Kanye West, once the perfect candidate to voice our collective angst, became the most hated man in the world. What he did was wrong, low, and humiliating. By his own admission, “Beyonce didn’t need that. MTV didn’t need that and Taylor and her family friends and fans definitely didn’t want or need that.” But who died and gave us the right to moralize?

I repeat, Kanye West is not here to be our friend. Our relationship with him is pure capitalism: he offers up some goods and services, and we pay–or we should, at least–for the pleasure of enjoying them. He should therefore be evaluated on the basis of those goods and services and on his contributions to the genre, not on his manners.

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West’s most recent musical output, a smattering of tracks released through his G.O.O.D. Fridays initiative, has been as much about the tunes as about the method through which they’re delivered. Ever the self-aware and perspicacious artist, he’s been quick to realize that even his star power, as huge as it is, may not be enough to successfully battle the changes in the music industry. Given the dwindling of record sales, the growing threat of privacy and the mounting emphasis on singles over albums, West has devised an ingenious and impressively new-media plan to lead up to the release of his fourth LP later this year: every Friday, he releases a brand-new track, fresh off the presses, for free download on his blog.

For the past five weeks, he has delivered epic, if unpolished, tracks featuring the likes of Bon Iver, Raekwon and Nicki Minaj. Most of the songs have been no less than masterful (aside from an unfortunate verse from Swizz Beatz  on last Friday’s “Lord Lord Lord”). Seriously. I’m hard-pressed to think of another rapper who can on a single song weave between doling out advice (“Now we ain’t all gon’ be American Idols/But you could at least grab a camera, shoot a viral/Take the power in your own hands”), politics (“Bring our troops out if Iraq/Keep our troops out if Iran/…Now the question is how we gon’ stop the next Vietnam”) and, well, hoes (“She ain’t give you ass?/That p***y fictional”). But, I digress.

The real impact of the project has come from West’s knack for doing exactly what he wants. (He pretty much sums it up on “Power”: “No one man should have all this power.”) He gets his friends to jump on some tracks, bypasses the middle-man and, in the process, has managed to singlehandedly make music interesting again. It took, for a example, a handful of tweets and a couple of days for West to produce one of the most unlikely collaborations of the year: a remix of Justin Bieber’s “Runaway Love,” featuring Raekwon the Chef.

Of course, a lot of credit is due to his Twitter account, which quickly accumulated over a million followers and through which he’s managed to regain control of his message and his career. Over the course of some six hundred tweets, we’ve been introduced to self-reflective Yeezy, remorseful Yeezy, Yeezy the artiste and, of course, asshole Yeezy. And while bloggers, journalists, fans and haters sit around arguing over his merits and failures and pathologies, he’s laughing all the way to the bank. More power to the asshole.

  • Melfi

    good post. one minor correction; ye is releasing his 5th LP this year, not 4th.

  • Stone

    I have to agree. Let’s face it, someone has to play the role of the bad guy, and Kanye is that dude.

    But what is great is that yeah, the dude is has taken over media better than any label could ever do. His career will be studied and analyzed in the future. Believe that.

  • KFK

    I’m feeling this commentary.
    Kanye West isn’t the bad guy at all.

    Kanye is more like the best. If anybody should get braggin’ rights, it’s Mr. West.
    Let him be the cockiest b****** he can be because the rest of them sure as hell CAN’T.

    • WOW

      How can anyone of you even remotely support Kanye West. He represents the worst elements in our society. Bragging rights for what? Droppin albums that sell? You all buy into his crap and unfortunately, line his pockets with cash in the process.

      He has no message, he cares about no one, he is only interested in his own self betterment, selling records, and living in his own disgusting world.


  • YouAre AnAsshole

    Test. Not wasting my time composing if I have to register.

  • YouAre AnAsshole

    Ok, so it appears that I can post without joining, something very few sites allow anymore, so you’ll be the benefactor of a voice of sanity and reason that other sites simply censor. Of course, since I’ll be using correct English and not reducing myself to your ghetto slang, you may have trouble understanding me.

    I find it appalling that people like you justify on ANY level, the contemptible bullshit that is Kanye’s personality and reputation. Your feeble attempt at differentiating likability vs. the “business of winning” is without merit. Any entertainer owes his/her living to the public and those who consume the product that they produce. By all that’s right in decent society, no one should buy shit from him after his multiple demonstrations of his honor-less, narcissistic essence.

    It would be arguable if he was an asshole who had a particular talent for composing works of brilliance that had merit beyond his lack of character. But his music is the same mindless vapid shit that every other rapper/pimp wannabe is producing these days. And clones like you just eat it up because it’s the only source from which you draw your own personality. Ghetto culture (and those of you who mindlessly conform to it) is little more than a collage of vapid cliche’s derived from a handful of rap songs. It is not a valid intellectual culture; rather, a filthy, vulgar lifestyle designed to offend decent people by advocating prostitution, pimping, drug use, gangster lifestyle and illiteracy.

    You who condone it have devised a complex web of defenses and justifications to attempt to confuse others into believing that this filth has merit. And, to your credit, you’re having a great deal of success convincing young kids and guilty apologetic whites that under all the filth, that there is some sort of valid message worthy of hearing.

    At best, Kanye West is someone who has learned how to manipulate his audience by giving them what they want, arrogance and depravity. At worst, he is what he appears to be, a spoiled, ignorant, angry narcissist who can’t get outside of his own self consumption enough to be cognizant of his lack of human decency.

    One would think that such tripe would have no audience. But in fact, there is a huge audience for Eminem’s misogynistic filth, Lil’ Wayne’s mindless advocation of gangster lifestyle and, yes, Kanye’s reduction of women and society down to that of a cracked out pimp. The people’s work is not poetry. It is not creative. It is not enjoyable to listen to. Yet, it sells. Why? Because 40 years of kowtowing to filth has led America to a point where filth speaks and the masses listen …. intently. And to what? Moral depravity.

    Kanye has nothing of value to say, in his music or in his life. He keeps proving that, time and again. But those of you under the spell of ghetto-centric filth will continue to gobble up whatever musical swill that he and his ilk spew out.

    All I can recommend for you is, go take a warm enema and get quiet and begin to think for yourself, from your highest self; the part that’s not steeped in hatred of decency. And when you’re ready, come join the non-filth world!

  • Watcher

    To the poster who left a message here on the 20th of November. I agree with you, just don’t like the language you used.

    We can try and justify it away but filth is filth and Mr. West is one amongst many purveyors of unqualified filth in society.

    Unfortunately the masses have been starved for so long many cannot tell the difference between filth and good music, as such journalists could become beacons of light – showing the way back to sanity for those “lost in the mix.”