How Kanye West Lost 2016 And 2020, Already – BET
I have a feeling that if I ever met Kanye West in person I would be disappointed.
They say “never meet your idols,” because once you do, you welcome the possibility of being unfulfilled. However, in the case of Kanye West, I’m already let down. It’s a looming feeling, one that my intuition stubbornly tells me is on point. If I ever crossed paths with ‘Ye, my inner Kermit meme voice would let out a devilish Kanye shrug and say I told you so, bih. This year did my fandom no favors.
2016 began on a high note for Kanye, with every single tweet the rapper penned becoming a news headline in its own merit. I know, because I wrote many of them. My Twitter notifications were enthusiastically turned on, desperately hanging onto every 140-character opportunity ‘Ye decided to utilize in continuing this mad scientist-esque narrative. At times it was fun, other times no one cared. It slowly turned into a philosophical mind game, one that had Kim Kardashian biting her acrylics and presumably begging her husband to display some chill on social media. There were rumors no publicist wanted to work with him, and the Kardashian family—specifically Kris Jenner—was worried. Rightfully so, considering every angle of Kanye had an identifiable mess attached to it, including the music. This was a relatively new phenomenon, considering even during Kanye’s most disorganized hysteria, his music (and its rollout) felt trump tight.
Towards the end of his Life of Pablo rollout, we were left scratching our collective heads, since the whole allure of TIDAL is its exclusivity, yet Kanye’s work-in-progress was widespread and drawn out. I didn’t even listen to the album until months after it hit all of the streams—much to the chagrin of fellow Kanye zealots in my circle. I didn’t want his antics to influence my opinion on the album, but it was seemingly impossible to examine TLOP without looking at how TIDAL played a critical role. What was once hailed as a top tier exclusive became a moot point because while West called out the streaming wars for being problematic, he still wanted to see his name everywhere.
While TLOP became a living example backing up his infamous creative approach aligned with the DaVinci approach of constantly poking at something and waiting for it suddenly to become perfect, the problem lies within the scope of TIDAL. Perhaps after realizing he alone doesn’t hold the power to save Tidal the way Beyoncé does, he decided helping his “big brother’s” venture was pointless and had to figure out a new way to become a hero, thus calling for a meeting for Apple to simply buy TIDAL from Jay Z and make it all go away. You know, for the sake of the music and for the sake of the kids.
All that aside, even as a diehard ‘Ye fan, I made it a point to take my time listening to Pablo. I wanted the art to stand alone, without being swayed by what my fellow music journalists were scrambling to put together before West changed the production on one song or remixed another again and again. Was he rewriting the rules on how to debut a project, or was he simply lazy and succumbing under pressure to get it done? Either way, I wasn’t ready to immediately dive in and possibly be disappointed. It was like seeing West casually at the mall and questioning if I should go up to him and say hi, so I approached his work with cautious optimism.
I was later disgusted when I watched in live time via TIDAL the must-see production he charged hypebeasts a hefty price to experience live, later relegated to a listening party of unmastered tracks played hastily off an aux cord at Madison Square Garden. It was disheartening to learn his production and engineering team were spending upwards of 20 hours a day in the studio to get the album just right—something beyond stressful when you have an unrealistic deadline and a reputed hitmaker of Kanye’s stature calling the shots. I imagined his team of writers being woken up from sporadic hour-long naps with scatterbrained text messages and thirty missed calls. When everything is urgent, nothing has urgency.
It was a sobering moment for me, once the veil was lifted. Yeezus solidified Kanye West as one of my heroes, a visionary I spent years obsessing over and looking up to. Knowing that my generation of musicians and creatives was inspired by him also inspired me. As exemplified through his impressive and critically acclaimed discography, Kanye had previously laid a creative foundation that set the bar high without making it feel impossible to achieve a high quality of art that is also forward-thinking. Somehow, he could do no wrong. Before Yeezus, he wasn’t yet a god either, and we could still relate on some level knowing there was a chance we’d run into him getting a coffee or a sandwich from the neighborhood bodega. He was someone who lived his art each day, and discovering some of his creative team by chance was part of his charm and mystique, i.e. signing Big Sean after he rapped in front of him at a radio station or meeting his former behind-the-scenes consultant Cassius Clay while shopping at Barney’s. ‘Ye, as an artist, was someone who was still approachable, while also semi-universally praised for his unconventional methods. This is why we believed him when he said he was a living and breathing rock star. Hell, we even cheered him on when he said he was our generation’s Axl Rose, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix.