I defend Kanye West in the way that most people defend their Starbucks addiction. It’s borderline unhealthy. Sure there has been the Taylor Swift incident at the Grammy’s, the repeated assaults of paparazzi and his stream of consciousness rants on the radio that might make the average person turn away in disgust. Ugh, what an ego. But even his extracurricular choices can’t deny the genius, yes I said it genius that is Kanye West.
Ten years ago today, West released his debut album “College Dropout.” Followed by Graduation, Late Registration, 808s & Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus, Kanye continues to impress me with his depth and variety.
I realized the depth of my appreciation for West’s artistry this past summer in New York. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, I found myself aimlessly wandering around the city –people watching in Washington Square Park and window-shopping in adorable little boutiques in SoHo. But I was not alone. Kanye was there with me –from beginning to end. I began the afternoon listening to College Dropout and found myself on a musical journey from album to album, which culminated in his most recent release Yeezus. Each album provoked different emotions and life experiences, as one would expect from an artist who has mourned the death of his mother and fallen in love with fiancé Kim Kardashian.
My journey with Kanye began as an 11-year old searching for my place: a 6th grader wearing Ralph Lauren in a sea of Lacoste and trying out for the volleyball team because everyone else was doing it. Listening to Kanye unapologetically declare his desire to be the voice of a generation, address race in a “post-racial” society and rapping about Christianity when “they say you can rap about anything except for Jesus” meant everything to me. The ingenuity of auto-tuned gospel music, the tenacity of literally rapping through wires and the frankness with which he addresses his critics has inspired me to be my own person. If Kanye can do it, I can do it too.
So I will continue to eat my salad, no dessert to get that man I deserve, swipe my “African-American Express” and spend everything on Alexander Wang.