No need for the preamble here, we all know what this is about — Kanye West’s super candid, super cocky interview with the New York Times.
Kanye’s quotes from the story have, as likely was intended, both delighted and enraged fan and foe across the country. Kudos Kanye, you got what you wanted, but just one tiny quibble on this end.
These quotes right here:
“Yeah, respect my trendsetting abilities. Once that happens, everyone wins. The world wins; fresh kids win; creatives win; the company wins…
“I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it’s like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z.”
Let’s not even touch the Steve Jobs concept. It seems unseemly to pull him into this. The problem here is that Kanye West has never set the standard for downtown fashion, culture, or the kids that truly own it in his life.
In fact, it’s arguable that he’s never set a trend in his life.
wikimedia commonsWhat’s actually happening here is that Kanye West is following downtown culture, and the kids are respectfully letting him have his say. To break this down, let’s take it back to 2007, when Kanye released his 3rd album, Graduation.
That was the year Kanye started wearing neon and putting on skinny jeans. That’s really when a lot of people — uptown, downtown, black and white did. The cover of his album reflected the palate of the moment — bright colours inspired by the work of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.
It was 2007 and 2008 when electronic music really started showing up in pop music, and a lot of things changed.
But Kanye didn’t lead that movement, he followed it behind the same downtown kids that embody the style he claims to innovate. Perhaps he was one of the first rappers to do this, but it definitely didn’t come from him.
Before Graduation hit the airwaves, indie band and true innovators LCD Soundsystem released their 2nd album, Sound of Silver. It had the sentiment, and its listeners had the skinny jeans. Even more to this point, French techno DJs Justice released their underground hit gone above, D.A.N.C.E in 2007, and it’s neon technicolor dream of a video was a smash.
Kanye copped that. And that’s fine, it was great stuff. As for the Murakami inspired cover, the Japanese artist had been showing a major exhibit at L.A.’s Getty Museum in 2007, which was later taken to Brooklyn with great success in 2008. The kids loved it, and so did Kanye.
So there’s that.
A few other trends Kanye can claim to have started — shutter sunglasses. Thanks for that, Kanye. Everyone fist pumping at Avicii concerts thanks you as well.
Perhaps his fashion line?
Lest we not forget, Kanye’s first attempt at Paris Spring Fashion Week in 2011 was largely panned. The NY Times said “yawn,” actually, and given their track record at identifying what is cutting edge, that’s pretty horrific.
From the NY Times:
At the after-party for his first runway show here on Saturday night, Kanye West, even before the reviews came out, made an obscenity-laced speech in which he complained about people treating his aspiration to be a serious fashion designer as a joke, and said he had taken out loans to hire the best models, designers and location.
“I gave you everything that I had,” he said, one of his few printable remarks.
If that is true, Mr. West faces bigger obstacles in life than credit-card debt. His show was described by those who attended as, at best, a disappointment, and yet the rapper could be found almost everywhere during Paris Fashion Week defending himself.
The following season Fall Fashion Week 2012, Kanye didn’t show at all.
His glorious return the season after that was overshadowed by this disturbing news: Rolling Stone reported that Kanye would not allow critics at his fashion show at all. Not exactly the fearless attitude of a trendsetter, and not exactly the embodiment downtown energy that he claims to imbue which is, by nature, never tired, and never scared.
Now, all that said, as a musician Kanye is more than solid. His songs are thoughtful, passionate and refreshing. He makes amazing beats for very talented lyricists (something we wouldn’t call him either).
However, you won’t find downtown scenesters with an eye for art pre-ordering his next album on iTunes, waiting for it with bated breath. They’re likely more appreciative of his latest single as a welcome reprieve from the onslaught of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus tunes while they’re waiting in line at their local bodega.
By and large, Kanye has done little more than appropriate the innovations of others into his own work and call it something completely new.
But it’s not.
He is not the master of all that is cool, he just writes good songs that everyone can groove to. This isn’t meant to ream him, he’s talented — it’s just meant to set the record straight.
Thanks for the Workout Plan, though Kanye — and this mixtape from Mick Boogie. That was awesome.
For good measure, here’s Justice’s D.A.N.C.E video:
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