By Nimer “Neem” Basha
The Kanye Conundrum
He did it again at last month’s Grammys. Kanye West stole the show from another artist. And I use the word “stole” in the most literal sense.
On one hand, Kanye’s shenanigans are excellent publicity stunts. He didn’t win any Grammys this year, but he made sure that he was the star; for better or for worse, everyone was talking about him the day after the awards show, and in the weeks that followed. Sam Smith was the big winner that night, but Sam was, at best, the second-most talked about artist of the show (actually third behind Kanye and his “victim” Beck). Everyone will be talking about Kanye’s actions that night for years to come. People still reference the Taylor Swift incident over half-a-decade after it happened. “Imma let you finish…” has become a pop culture slogan. If the old adage is true that ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity,’ Kanye West has mastered the philosophy behind it.
On the other hand, an argument can be made that he is risking his legacy. Yeezus is musically gifted – and there’s no denying that, regardless of how you may feel about him personally – but are his antics putting him in jeopardy of being remembered more for being an a**hole and less for being a talented artist?
It’s a real conundrum indeed, but so far, it seems Mr. West is Teflon. No matter what he does, he stays strong. His music sales have not suffered as a result of his antics over the years. His fan base remains as committed as ever. Radio stations always love Kanye. Talk shows still clamor to have him as a guest. Hell, even Sir Paul McCartney collaborated with him. Paul F’n McCartney – one of the greatest artists of all time and a former member of arguably the most influential musical groups ever, the Beatles – wanted to work with Kanye West. That’s a hell of an endorsement.
When someone as polarizing as Kanye West does something controversial, many of his opposers will use it as an opportunity to bash everything about him, while many of his supporters will defend his actions no matter what they are. For example, after the Beck situation, some people who don’t like Ye were so disgusted with him that they started veering away from the topic. Rather than just saying he’s an a**hole (which is an opinion to which everyone is entitled, and certainly not unearned), they went off on tangents about how he’s a no-talent bum who has done nothing for the industry, which is categorically untrue. Those who DO like him praised him for his courage and his defense of “artistry.”
Both of those camps are wrong.
I hate that mentality where people defend or condemn an individual based on their overall opinions of the individual, rather than judging each situation on its own merit (hell, our entire Democrat/Republican political system is made up of Americans who side with one party or the other without disputing individual courses of action that their preferred party takes.) So you can like Kanye West, yet still hate something he did. You can dislike him, yet still acknowledge his accomplishments – like his total 124 awards, including 21 Grammys. As fellow journalist, the brilliant César Vargas wrote, “Without Kanye there would be no Drake, J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Kid Cudi, Childish Gambino… The man single-handedly changed an entire genre of music. He is the paradigm shift of hip hop personified.” Ye’s contributions to music are well-documented and indisputable…