Give me some good resources about Kanye West
January 4, 2015 11:24 AM   Subscribe

I want to learn more about Kanye West, but I don't really know where to start. I don't have a broad rap background. But I'm impressed by West's abilities in music and fashion as well as his willingness to say and do what's in his heart, whatever the consequences.

For example, his singing on 808s & Heartbreak was a major risk for a rapper but he did it anyway because that's what he felt. Speaking out for Beyonce (at Taylor Swift's expense) was a bold and maybe misguided thing but he thought there had been a real injustice and he said something, even though it lowered him in public opinion for a while (until he "redeemed" himself by releasing My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). Same thing with "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

I've searched back on AskMe and MetaFilter and really liked the feature posted in this AskMe about Kanye's Rap Camp in Hawaii. It's clear to me that he's intelligent and has worked really hard for his position and accomplishments. I'd like more articles like this -- that show his good instincts and intelligence -- but don't really want to randomly google stuff, so here I am, AskMe. Help me out!

I've read his Wikipedia, and I'm relatively conversant in his life story and history, but nothing that delves really deeply. If you think there are some videos that would help me, I'm up for that, too.
posted by onlyconnect to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: He did some interesting interviews with GQ and Interview Magazine.
posted by endquote at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2015

Best answer: Search for Kanye on /r/hiphopheads.
posted by girlmightlive at 11:48 AM on January 4, 2015

Best answer: I found this interview w/ Rick Rubin to be illuminating.
posted by stinkfoot at 12:02 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "American Mozart" a good 2012 piece from the Atlantic.

An interview with Kanye, but all the responses come from his social media postings.

July 2014 profile from GQ
posted by hepta at 12:08 PM on January 4, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for these links, folks -- they were helpful. The reddit trove will be something to go through for days, weeks even -- I would never have found that on my own!

I'm going to be adding in more links here over time for posterity as I find them. For now I'm going through past MetaFilter posts about West.

Kanye West releases single Only One featuring Paul McCartney, a song written as if sung by his mom to him and his daughter. (1/15)

A post about a silly Kanye West self-compliment generator had some good comments and links. (12/14)

MetaFilter discusses the GQ article that endquote linked, above. (7/14)

MetaFilter discusses Go Fug Yourself's take on Kim Kardashian's Vogue cover. (3/14)

Metafilter discusses the Steve McQueen interview in Interview linked above by endquote. (1/14)

MetaFilter discusses the Seth Rogan/James Franco spoof Bound 3 and noodles over what was really going on in Bound 2. (11/13)

Discussing West's re appropriation of the confederate flag for tour swag. (11/13)

MetaFilter discusses the feud between West and Jimmy Kimmel after Kimmel spoofed West as a child. Really good discussion. (9/13)

MetaFilter discusses the essay "In Defense of Kanye's Vanity: The Politics of Black Self Love." Great article:

Conversations that take Kanye’s vanity as a given annoyance obfuscate the fact that Kanye has helped change the game entirely for how black men are allowed to express their vulnerabilities in public. In the Times interview, he talks about how, in the public’s imagination, “the idea of Kanye and vanity are like, synonymous.” He goes on to explain, however: “But I’ve put myself in a lot of places where a vain person wouldn’t put themselves in. Like what’s vanity about wearing a kilt?” If you see him simply as a crazy egomaniac, you’ve taken away his right to be a dimensional human being. You miss the moments when he is so boldly asserting his vulnerabilities, his anxieties, his humanity — the times he is placing his bare self on the line as an artist. This bravado mixed with a deeply sincere self-reflectiveness has characterized his career from the very beginning. It began with the earnest confessions of his first single and grew to become to an entire album where he sings — despite openly acknowleging he’s a horrible singer — about heartbreak. It’s hard to imagine the sappy crooning of Drake or the angsty emo rap of Kid Cudi existing if it weren’t for Kanye. And, to return to the sartorial for a moment, notice how in that quote, he articulates his expression of vulnerability in terms of fashion choices, in terms of a leather kilt. He’s keenly aware of the way black identity, and black masculinity in particular, is wedded to an image, a static image, and he purposefully plays with that. (6/13)

Discussion of Yeezus and appearance on SNL. (6/13)

Short story linked in this thread (10/12): Kanye West Is Better at His Job than I Am at Mine But I'm Way Better at Being a Fake Ass Feminist

Furor in London over the shoes West designed for Nike: People sleeping in the streets. (6/12)

This gets us 3/5 of the way through the MetaFilter threads about West.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:03 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Here is some more stuff I came across that I liked:

Between Two Nerds: Why Is Kanye West's Only One So Good? by Kyle Kramer and Eric Sundermann. An excerpt:

You can hear it. I was struck immediately by how intimate “Only One” is. Since his mother died, Kanye’s music has been nakedly emotional and completely raw and in no way short of sincere, but it’s always had a type of anguish that translates well to being performative. There’s something instantly different in the quality of emotional access we’re getting here, and that’s clear as soon as Kanye calls himself ‘Mari. He’s never referred to himself by this name, a shortening of his middle name Omari, on a track before, and doing so puts us on new terms with him. The version of his mom that we got nine years ago on “Hey Mama” was a story and a list of her accomplishments—it was powerful, but ultimately it was someone telling us how he felt. This is Kanye showing us how he feels. Gone are the specifics and the storytelling; instead it’s simple thoughts and pure emotion. It’s the way Kanye’s voice cracks on certain words. The lyrics are simultaneously more universal and more personal. In other artists’ hands, they could fall into the territory of empty platitudes, but instead I come away reassured that Kanye has never been realer, that we’re engaging with all of Kanye Omari West here instead of just some performance avatar. Instead of trying to be a god, he’s the complete opposite: He’s human, and he’s imperfect.

From Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar by Donda West with Karen Hunter. Yes, you read that correctly -- this book was written by West's actual mother and published in 2007.
"It's been said that Kanye is a creative genius. With that, I agree. It's evidenced in his music, designing, and directing. Of course, the world knows him best thus far for his music. But he pours his heart into everything he does. And with that passion I spoke of, he expresses himself in multiple ways. The same passion he has when he creates his music or draws a picture is the passion he has when he makes such statements as "George Bush doesn't care about black people" or "I should have won that award." It's passion. And I would never stymie that.
. . . . So when he went up on that stage and said what he said, I understood. That was not my proudest moment -- not by far. But I understood.
Why sit there, smile, and applaud when you really feel like you were robbed. I hate false humility. I don't go for it. There's a lot to be said for being a gracious loser, but my philosophy has always been "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser." While it's prudent and appropriate to be silent sometimes -- some things are indeed better left unsaid -- being honest and open about how you feel is not all bad. I didn't like Kanye making the comments he did, I didn't applaud it, I didn't find it amusing. But I understood.
. . . .
I suppose if Kanye won and someone came up onstage and went off, I would have a problem with it. But if they really felt they were better than Kanye, I would honor their feelings. We're dealing with human emotions. Real, raw, honest human emotions. (Note that the West's interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance was still to occur after this was written, in 2009.)

. . . .
Everyone knows Kanye is pretty unhappy when he feels he's lost unjustly. And despite my disappointment in his not winning sometimes, I'll admit it may serve him better in the long run to be a more gracious loser--even when he feels he's been robbed. However, he will use that experience to do something even greater. Kanye hates to lose. He hates coming in second. It's just the way he's wired.
As his mother, I support him without exception because he will learn from the experience. It will help him grow as a person, and in the end he will find a way to overcome it.
That's what separates success from failure -- the ability to overcome adversity to become even stronger.
All of this I say in the context of asking the question "Is it arrogance or confidence we see in a determined, strong-willed, expressive Kanye?
Despite the opinions of others, I say that it is confidence. It's the confidence you develop when you're challenged or challenge yourself to be the best.
I always set high expectations for Kanye. It wasn't something I had to talk to him about. It was just understood. And it wasn't the kind of pressure that some parents put on their children, where the kids want to jump off a building for getting a B. I think that's unhealthy.
I never put any expectation on Kanye that I didn't believe he could meet and exceed. It was always clear that he could be anything he wanted to, so I wanted to make sure that he never had any excuses for why he didn't accomplish something. Exposure, support, encouragement, feedback, praise, and spending lots of quality time with Kanye have resulted, I believe, not in an arrogant person but a confident one -- one who believes in himself enormously.
To believe in himself, however, meant he had to know who he was. Otherwise he might believe in some pseudo self, some figment of his imagination. So I made it a point to address the issue consciously. As an educator, I always posed this question to my students. Who are you? Naturally, I posed it to my own son. I was first confronted with the question myself in the essay "Who Am I' by Marya Mannes. I taught it for nearly thirty years in all my freshman writing classes and used it in parenting Kanye too. It raised one of the most important questions we can ever ask, the question of who we are. I don't remember the opening paragraph precisely, but it went something like this:
'Who are you? Not you together, but you singularly? When did it begin -- that long day's journey into self? When did you begin to know that you are unique, separate, alone? We came from somewhere. Not from just the seeds of our fathers and the wombs of our mothers -- but from a long line of forefathers before us. The time of self-discovery is different for everybody. Some, very few, find themselves early in life. For others the discovery comes later. But for most, and those are the tragic ones, self-discovery never comes.'
This poignant message, though not offered here verbatim, is nonetheless one of the most important we can ponder. The essay continues to challenge us to think on the question of who we are. I believe all parents should ask their children this question at some point. I asked this question of Kanye when he was twelve. I did not want him to be one of the tragic ones. He answered loud and clear, not in words but through his actions.
I didn't sit down and tell him, 'You have to be the est.' I just always thought he was. This, I believe, bolstered his confidence and his enthusiasm in all that he did. And given how competitive he was by nature and how determined, it all worked out. I saw it in him when at seven months old, he was determined to get out of his crib and be free, even if he split his head in the process--which he did. That never stopped him. And he has been fighting to do exactly what he wants to do ever since. I suspect he always will.
Is Kanye the arrogant artist some think him to be? Well, arrogance is in the eye of the beholder. (pp. 163-67).
posted by onlyconnect at 8:55 PM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Not mainly about Kanye, but I remember finding this excerpt from Grantland on The Rise of the NBA Nerd pretty interesting:

But 21st-century blackness has lost its rigid center, and irony permeates the cultural membrane. More than kids knowing they can be president of the United States, it might be more crucial to the expansion of black identity that — thanks to, say, N.E.R.D or Odd Future — they know they can be skate punks. Kanye West can release an album called The College Dropout, then run around the world dressed like an Oberlin junior. (The backpack craze was popularized by him.) West had done what 15 years of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Family Matters could not. He ushered in the chic of the black nerd. He cleared a safe space for narcissism and self-deconstruction; for singing rappers with names like Drake, J. Cole, and Tyler, The Creator; for the Roots to be Jimmy Fallon’s house band; for the threat in the music to move from the street to the psyche. Hip-hop had already begun to splinter into a land of a million mixtapes before West’s arrival. And with that shattering, black male style was transitioning away from Sean Combs’ “Puffy” era gilded age, with its plushness, flamboyance, glamour, and actionable danger.

If you were black, liked hip-hop, but also liked the confessional dimensions of the singer-songwriter, West was an alternative you could relate to, and you could see the change in NBA press conferences. Once upon a time — about two or three years ago — these same players greeted the press and stepped onto buses awash in big, creamy sweaters, roomy leather jackets, and substantially karated wristwear. Then, suddenly, that was switched for less urban, more meticulously groomed style. You can still find baggy denim shorts, long white T-shirts, sideways baseball caps, and platinum ropes with a diamond-encrusted crucifix. But it’s Allen Iverson in the time of Blake Griffin, Gucci Mane in the moment of Drake. These men aren’t dressing for A-T-L pool parties. But they’re not wearing the clothes of the streets, either. Durant and James and Stoudemire are wearing what black kids are wearing in the suburbs, where white kids’ belief that the racial grass is greener applies to black kids.

posted by villafoyager at 11:43 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

This thread is amazing.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:53 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

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