We all know it by now: Slaylebrity Kanye West is A polarizing figure who continues to find success by going against the norm.
West was and continues to be one of the most polarizing figures in modern pop culture. Throughout his illustrious career, West has had major ups, racking in millions of record sales and 21 Grammys. He also has numerous, some near career-ending lows, whether it be interrupting Taylor Swift at the MTV Music Awards, launching the YEEZY fashion line to mockery or even showing his support of President Donald Trump shortly after his election. However, Kanye West’s legacy is not solely defined by his musical success and headline controversies. Kanye also became a pioneer in establishing a brand for himself and breaking out of the boxes society placed on him. His entire career was fraught with difficulties, However Kanye’s determination is second to none, and he worked tirelessly to make his dreams come true, no matter the opposition, even of his own fans. Kanye West began his career as a humble producer from the south side of Chicago. His talent and more so his perseverance led him to getting signed and releasing a critically acclaimed album, College Dropout. He reached his goals of becoming a big-name rapper, however, rather than just solely staying in the lane of hip hop, Kanye West chose to expand and began working on a shoe line with Nike, later switching brands to Adidas and also starting a clothing line. He was originally ridiculed and clowned for his attempts to break into the fashion industry. Now, Kanye West is an acclaimed producer, rapper, record label owner and fashion designer who owns multiple real estate properties throughout the United States and has many other business ventures he’s invested in. Ultimately, Kanye West has stood the test of time. Adored and loathed by many, Kanye represents, in this era of conform and choose a side or be attacked, that by knowing and believing in your self worth and standing up for what you belief in, that you can find success and happiness, no matter the opposition. It is for this reason that I believe Kanye West currently is and will go down as one of the most important pop culture figures of our generation.
Big Dreams from Small Beginnings
Kanye West has always been a big dreamer. He moved to Chicago Illinois from Atlanta Georgia at the age of 3 in 1977. He became a known beat-maker in the 1990s, becoming famous for his iconic soul sampling sound. He produced for many huge names in the music industry, including Ludacris, Alicia Keys and most famously for Jay Z which includes his acclaimed album, The Blueprint (“Kanye West production discography”). Kanye had a number of hit records under his belt, and while many in his position would be satisfied with what he had accomplished in his career, Kanye sought after bigger goals. While everybody told him he should be satisfied with what he has, Kanye wanted to be recognized as a legitimate hip hop artist. This lead to him getting signed to Roc-A-Fella Records and the release of his critically acclaimed album, The College Dropout. West knew he was more than just a producer for his label and persevered through the adversity to break through into the next stage of his life as a world famous musician.
Speaking His Mind or Crossing the Line?
Kanye West has never been one to hold his tongue. He famously said in a news report after hurricane Katrina that “George W. Bush hates black people.”(“Kanye West Hurricane Katrina”). His most notorious outburst was at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards where he proclaimed “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ll let you finish, but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” (“Kanye West Storms the VMAs Stage During Taylor Swift’s Speech”) The reaction and backlash to Kanye West was immense, and the intense ridicule he received inspired him to create his most critically acclaimed album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. However, eleven years later, we can look back at that moment more objectively. Kanye West was most definitely out of place in that moment, however the sentiment was well founded. Kanye has long been a spokesperson against black oppression, and while he always struggles with getting his ideas across to the public, Kanye was likely expressing his discontent with the VMA’s and other award shows in the way they diminish black music and give a lack of awards to black artists. The Grammy’s for example has faced much ridicule for their lack of black artists winning top awards. Henry Schipper, a Grammy historian stated “NARAS created the Grammys at least in part to clean up and gentrify pop.”-(“Do the Grammys have a diversity problem?”) One can say that Kanye’s outburst which he faced intense backlash for helped to inspire the #grammystoowhite movement years later. Kanye, in his intoxicated state helped to shine a light on the discrimination present in these award shows.
Breaking Out of the Cage
Kanye West has always known his self worth, to the point of coming off overly cocky as many would say. He was quoted saying in a 2013 interview with the popular radio host Sway, ” I am Warhol. I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh.” (“KANYE WEST Flips Out on Sway in The Morning Interview HD”). This is blatantly cocky, however, it holds some truth to it. Kanye’s career had revolutionized music as it progressed, changing the sound of hip hop and music overall while simultaneously discovering new talent such as Kid Cudi and Travis Scott who helped further to revolutionize the sound. Hate him or love him, Kanye West changed the landscape of music. Around this time however, Kanye had bigger goals other than music. It was around this time that West was trying to establish his Yeezy sneaker line. Amidst much resistance from the industry, peers and even fans who just wanted him to make more music, Kanye’s Yeezys became a household name regardless, and in 2013 finally got the corporate sponsor he was looking for after switching partnership from Nike to Adidas.
I refuse to accept other people’s ideas of happiness for me. As if there’s a ‘one size fits all’ standard for happiness.
Kanye West has continued to face controversy and issues throughout his career up until today, from facing ridicule from the public for marrying Kim Kardashian in 2014 to having a mental breakdown on stage and calling out his mentor and friend Jay Z in 2016 to, most recently, in a 2018 interview with TMZ (“Kanye West Stirs Up TMZ Newsroom Over Trump, Slavery, Free Thought”) where he said slavery was a choice. Kanye has faced backlash and has literally seen multitudes of fans, specifically much of his black audience turn their backs on him. Some of it is well placed as is the case for the slavery was a choice comments which left a bad taste in many peoples mouth. Kanye has always had trouble with getting his thoughts across to people, and that can come across as ignorant, rude and disrespectful. This in combination with his diagnosed bipolar disorder is a perfect breeding ground for his notorious outbursts and controversies. However, Kanye as always has persevered. He helped to change the way major albums are released through the unorthodox release of his 2016 album The Life of Pablo. He unexpectedly changed his sound from contemporary hip hop to gospel infused rap music and began his Sunday Service traveling choir which has been met with much acclaim. Most noticeably, his Yeezy empire has grown exponentially, and Forbes magazine has estimated his stake in the organization which he completely owns to be at $1.26 billion, making him officially a billionaire. (“Kanye West is Now Officially a Billionaire (And he Really Wants Everyone to Know)”) Through all of this, Kanye has continued to be Kanye, speaking matter of fact and with disregard about his public approval, and while many people loath this side of Kanye, many more adore him for this. His brashness in this digital age where everything you do is recorded and scrutinized acts as a beacon of hope for those to scared to speak their minds publicly themselves.
Business Insider cites multiple sources of value Kanye West possesses outside of music including:
* $21 million in real estate.
* $3.8 million in cars.
* Nearly $300,000 in livestock.
* His Yeezy empire which Bank of America has valued at roughly $3 billion.
Harder, better, faster, stronger.
Kanye’s career has been one of the most abnormal careers we have seen in pop culture. Nonetheless, Kanye has found ever growing success in his life, and in typical Kanye West fashion, he isn’t satisfied with where he’s at. In an interview with GQ, Kanye claims that he plans to develop a “Yeezy campus” on his Wyoming ranches where creatives can go their to develop ideas (“Inside Kanye West’s Vision for the Future.”). He has also been attempting to develop futuristic homes for the homeless and wants to become a real estate mogul. Its this seemingly limitless creativity that draws many to Kanye West. Through all of his faults, Kanye West has remained, through the years undeniably Kanye West. While he has changed dramatically throughout his career, he has always stayed true to himself. Kanye accepts his mistakes and has apologized countless times for his faults, however, Kanye does not conform to the crowd if he doesn’t agree with them. Most recently, Kanye has faced ridicule for showing his support to President Donald Trump while most other celebrities, especially black celebrities have supported those against trump. My own personal political views aside, I view Kanye’s stance for what he believes in as admirable. I personally know numerous people of color and minorities who support Donald Trump but are scared to voice these opinions for fear of public and online backlash. Kanye stands as a symbol for those in particular who are scared to stand up for what they believe in, be it politically, religiously, economically, socially or any other way. I believe Kanye West will stand the test of time into the near future. We will see more of his outlandish comments and insane ideas for years to come and love him or hate him, he will continue to prove his worth in the public eye. Through all of the good and bad, Kanye has shown us that it is okay to know your self worth and stand up for what you believe in, look where it has gotten him.
For me, money is not my definition of success. Inspiring people is a definition of success.
Did Kanye lose his soul to a woman so heartless?
Beyonce on Kanye and Kim Divorce
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