As Kanye’s upcoming album DONDA faces inevitable delays and he rents out a room in the Mercedes-Benz stadium for over $1 million USD a day, should we still be backing him as an artist and public figure?
Kanye West – producer, fashion designer, artist – has been causing a buzz the last few weeks as the world waits for his latest album, DONDA.
Though it was first promised to be released last Friday, it has now allegedly been pushed back to next week. His pricey listening party event in late July cost upwards of $100USD and spectators reported that while most of the tracks played showed promise, they ultimately sounded unfinished and more like ‘sketches’.
All of this is hardly surprising, especially if you’ve followed Kanye for more than a few years. His behaviour has always been outlandish, erratic, and controversial.
Whether it be interrupting Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs – a moment that is now cemented in pop culture infamy – or throwing out insane takes such as ‘slavery was a choice’, West has always been unapologetically off-the-wall.
His last few projects have been similarly rushed and chaotic. Each has either been dropped onto streaming services in a rough state, requiring later tinkering and post-release work, or they’ve been underwhelming and rushed out the gate.
West seems to write lyrics mere minutes or hours before they’re pushed out, too, often resulting in a diluted and confusing final product. It doesn’t seem like much has changed with DONDA, at least thus far.
For all his strange behaviours and comments, he remains as much of a cultural icon as ever, so firmly engrained into the fabric of contemporary hip-hop that his legacy can never really be tainted.
Despite his newer, more right-leaning political opinions and increasingly reclusive, billionaire lifestyle, fans still cherish Kanye’s influence, yearning for another album that sounds like his soulful work of yesteryear.
It has been such a permeant part of his fandom that he even made a meme of it in 2016’s Life Of Pablo.
Kanye’s changing image and artistic output over the years goes deeper than just his albums, however, and reflects various societal issues that have developed throughout this century.
West himself is a billionaire, owning more land and assets than any of us will see in our lifetimes. He uses his reach and online presence to confuse and shock, recklessly tweeting and deleting thoughts as they come, regardless of truth.
One minute he is a Trump supporter, the next he’s promoting the latest Yeezy sneaker line, rolling political discourse, pseudo activism, and new-age marketing all into one giant, bewildering spectacle.
In many ways, his evolution in image has reflected the nature of modern discourse. Reactionary, erratic, and without much meaningful consequence.
As he rents out the Mercedes-Benz stadium for eye-watering amounts of cash, it’s worth asking – should we really still be supporting Kanye West as an artist and public figure?
Is he still the voice for the people, the hard-working producer who called out homophobia on public platforms in 2005? Or has he become an entirely different beast, lost inside the wealthy echo-chamber that is so dominant in our current era?