Kanye West was busy this past weekend. On Friday, he dropped an untitled single — now known as “Champions” — to promote his surprise upcoming album Cruel Winter. No hard date has been set for the album release at this time, but it’ll probably be after his other upcoming album, Turbo Grafx 16, which he announced in February. With fans still in a tizzy about Cruel Winter, Kanye revealed on Twitter he’d be playing a surprise show at New York’s Webster Hall at 2 a.m. on Sunday night.
The result was beautiful, dark, twisted, and chaotic. The show was canceled after four thousand people showed up to a venue that can only hold 1,500 and everyone quietly went back to their lives. But you have to wonder how one man can have all that power and you have to remember that this is hardly the first time that it has been made clear to us all that Kanye is music’s biggest star.
The Birth Of Yeezus
The 2005 rescue of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was famously mishandled by authorities from FEMA all the way up to president George W. Bush himself. During an NBC telethon to raise money for the Red Cross, a young Kanye appeared with Mike Myers to appeal to citizens for donations. Kanye broke from the script on live, nationwide television to deliver a heartfelt appeal which spoke truth to power in the face of systemic racism. Myers, still on script, interjected before Kanye buttoned the moment with a simple, straight forward admonishment:
“George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
And thus, an iconoclast was born.
Every Album He Creates Is The Best Album Of All Time
Long before Kanye was ready to drop The Life Of Pablo he was hard at work promoting the album on social media. One campaign saw him change the name of the album from Swish, to So Help Me God, and finally, Waves, while others had him engulfed in a flame war with Wiz Khalifa over Wiz’s use of the abbreviation kk. But probably the most effective way to get people talking about the new album, whatever he called it, was by taking a photo of the set list and announcing to the world that he was done with it and that it was the best album of all time. Nothing says star power like claiming the GOAT crown in the pre-release chatter and convincing people that you might have a shot at being right.
Kanye Is Everyone
Kanye ended a 2015 Miami show with an extended freestyle in which he got real with the audience and revealed that he was Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Howard Hughes, Malcolm X, JFK, Henry Ford, Michelangelo, and Picasso because — spoiler alert — he is all of us. I don’t remember being most of those people (or you) but that may be why I never recorded an album as good as 808s and Heartbreak.
He Created An Algorithm
In 2016, an audio recording of Kanye ranting backstage before his Saturday Night Live performance hit the internet. In it, Kanye got mad that the stage director moved his lights and screwed with his set. As the rant goes on however, Kanye begins complaining about his old foil Taylor Swift, calling her a “Fake Ass,” mentioning his last six years of hardship before threatening to break the internet in retribution for this injustice and finally revealing his Arnim Zola-esq algorithm for why he is a genius:
“By 50 percent more influential than any other human being. Don’t f*ck with me. Don’t f*ck with me. Don’t f*ck with me. By 50 percent dead or alive, by 50 percent for the next 1,000 years. Stanley Kubrick, ‘Ye,”
When Kanye Described Our Future Sky
The album Yeezus was a dark, minimalist, rap noir response to the epic abundance of Kanye’s previous album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. During his press roll out for his latest opus, Kanye sat down with Zane Lowe to talk about what it means to be Kanye West in 2013 and let us all in on a little secret: Kanye is the No. 1 rock star on the planet. Zane offered no response or follow up questions to the statement as its truth and meaning were self-evident. Kanye then went on to explain our future sky and how it’s a lot like the internet.
When Kanye Made A Powerful Enemy
As you may have heard, in 2009, Kanye hijacked Taylor Swift’s video of the year speech to push for Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).” As the audience boos, Kanye shrugs and repeats “Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.” Celebrities tweeted their disdain for him and there were whispers of him having a breakdown. But he came back, harder than anyone imagined. His next album would be My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with a meta critic rating of 94. Nine months later he dropped Watch The Throne which broke iTunes sales records.
Linking Up With The Kardashians
The Kardashian family brand is as big as Coca-Cola right now and in 2014, Kanye got in on that action by marrying head Kardashian, Kim. He managed to not let the domesticated life slow his roll. In fact, he has taken to bragging about Kim and dismissing her sex tape past with rapper Ray J in the song “High Lights” from The Life Of Pablo:
I bet me and Ray J would be friends. If we ain’t love the same b*tch. Yeah, he might have hit it first. Only problem is I’m rich. Uh. 21 Grammys, superstar family. We the new Jacksons, I’m all about that action.
He even bragged about Kim’s custom emoji “Kimoji” breaking the app store in the song “Facts” off the same album:
If you ain’t poppin’ sh*t then why you rap for? Haaan? Plus Kimoji just shut down the app store, ah And we made a million a minute, we made a million a minute. (We did) Yeah, we made a million a minute, we made a million a minute, ah!
When He Turned His Biggest Foil Into A Fan
Six years after interrupting Taylor Swift onstage, she awarded Kanye with the Video Vanguard award, admitting in her speech that Kanye’s album The College Dropout was the first album she owned, declaring; “Kanye West has had one of the greatest careers of all time!” That’s more than success, that’s revenge.
There Is Nothing More To Be Said
During a conversation with the now defunct male fashion magazine Details way back in 2009, Kanye made it clear that there was nothing more to say about him and music. It wasn’t that he was boring, uninteresting, or planning on an early retirement. He simply knew he was:
“the f–king end-all, be-all of music. I know what I’m doing. I did ‘808s’ in three weeks. I got it. It’s on cruise control.”
It’s been seven years since those comments and Kanye has not stopped talking about himself. Some might say it’s because he’s a typical, self-absorbed, narcissist while others might point out it’s because he’s an uncommonly gifted and accomplished, narcissist who has known unparalleled success.
If you need further proof of Kanye’s mastery of music in the 21st century look no further than the fact that he’s releasing two more albums this year on top of his already lauded The Life Of Pablo. Nary a hater has stepped up to call this self-indulgent. In fact, quite the opposite with both Turbo Grafx 16 and Cruel Winter highly anticipated by fans and critics alike.