We gotta stop referring to Kanye’s speeches as rants. It’s disrespectful considering all the truth he’s spoken over the years. When nobody else would dare – Yeezus told us.
Public speaking is hard enough. But Ye does it in front of the world, off the cuff. No TelePrompter or Blackberry. And his speeches are almost as important to his career as his music.
Like Steve Jobs, Ye’s public addresses are bigger in some circles than the President’s State of the Union. They’ve become an essential element of his product experience. George Bush, Taylor Swift, Sway – those outbursts are as iconic as “Jesus Walks,” “Diamonds,” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’.”
But Ye has to be cautious as he walks the line between genius stream of consciousness and incoherent tantrum. And his recent speeches, including his awkward stop on Ellen and his brief monologue at last Sunday’s VMAs, showed he still has to tighten some of the screws in his public speaking game if he’s gonna give Trump and Hillary a run for the presidency in 2020.
He made some great points at the VMAs – like putting words to the “artist merchant” model of creator and entrepreneur he aims to emulate when he name checks Walt Disney or Steven Jobs – but he also didn’t appear to be on his A game. The audience applauded his every breath, but that’s because this was giddy, grinning Kanye. He was on his home court and had the crowd’s permission to keep chucking until he hit something. This was “Kobe’s last game” Kanye.
He wasn’t the laser-focused lyrical assassin who cut up White Supremacy like there were Rawkus razor-blades tucked under his tongue. This Yeezy wasn’t paranoid or restless. He was content. At peace.
Maybe that’s because he knows his revolutionary release of The Life of Pablo really did change the game. The weight of Ye’s digital masterpiece, combined with Beyonce and Frank Ocean’s radical release strategies, has record labels grasping for their last inch of leverage. When their buildings are burning, just remember, Yeezy led the coup.
But maybe he’s so relaxed because he finally found a protégée, in Chance The Rapper, that he’s comfortable leaving the keys with. That, or it’s probably just his kids — People become a lot more agreeable once their egos are eclipsed by their concern for their offspring.
If you’ve ever disagreed with Kanye, it’s likely not because of his message. You can blame it on his delivery: Too raw. Too loud. Too childish. But if you really listen to the content of his words, you’d be hard pressed to find contradiction or conjecture. From “All Falls Down” to “New Slaves,” has he ever really changed?
By now you should know better than to let the mode of the messenger block the message. That’s exactly what Colin Kaepernick’s critics are doing when they say they get his message, but just can’t agree with how he’s choosing to deliver it. If you really believe in the message, the method doesn’t matter. But if you’re scared of the truth, you will say anything to redirect the focus from the point you’re too weak to take.
“He didn’t have to do it like that.”
“I would have done it like this.”
But it’s always the ones who never do anything who claim to know the best way to do everything.
So who are we to say Ye can’t be a 40-year-old millennial? He was arguably the first millennial. The me-first, multi-talented, metrosexual who stood up to George Bush, 50 Cent and Nike. From touring with Talib Kweli to marrying Kim Kardashian, Mr. West became our Christ-conscious superstar by fearlessly covering all of our cultural bases while never forgetting to bring the point home. Whether he’s rapping or spazzing, Yeezy’s truth is absolute.
As pop’s premier artist merchant — our Steve Jobs — Ye knows he must balance creativity and productivity in everything he does. Each Yeezy season, he finds a way to capture our deficient attention spans for long enough to free our collective subconscious. He is fighting on the front lines to protect our hearts and minds from capitalism’s steady asault. That’s why, for over ten years, when he talks, we listen. If you don’t get it by now, I doubt you ever will.
Yeezy speaks to free the mind that tells us to stop trying so hard to fit in. The mind that won’t let us sit in silence when we witness injustice. Whether it’s Taylor Swift accepting Beyoncé’s award, or America neglecting its Black citizens, we need more willing to stand like Kanye or sit like Colin. Whatever the method, the message is what truly matters.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Twitter