What do you give the man who has everything? Well, if that man is Kanye West, you can start with a f*cking break.
‘Ye’s latest album The Life of Pablo continues to explore the darker side of fame and fortune, a theme that he’s harped on in every one of his albums since his 2010 paranoid magnum opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
To fully understand how dramatic ‘Ye’s anti-fame shift in attitude is, we need to take a look at his early work. The Pink Polo Kanye of the College trilogy saw fame and fortune as the ultimate end goal. He was proud of his Benz and his backpack. He couldn’t wait to get his money right. The overwhelming joy of Yeezy’s early production style echoed his unbridled enthusiasm for getting money and getting known. ‘Ye wanted listeners to understand that fame was everything, even more important than craft. Getting on this TV (Momma) tellingly held priority over putting sh*t down.
Then, Kanye got what he wanted. And found out that all that glitters – even the ridiculously opulent packaging for Watch The Throne – is not gold. Since MBDTF, Kanye has repeatedly tackled the various pitfalls that are only revealed to the uber-rich and famous, like the tippy-top tax bracket comes with a societal decoder ring.
Yeezus tracks like “New Slaves” and “Black Skinhead” railed against avenues that still weren’t available to Kanye as a black man. Overwhelming wealth couldn’t help West break into certain areas of society, including high fashion, where ‘Ye says designers wouldn’t be “satisfied unless he picked the cotton [hisself].”
“Real Friends” off of Pablo takes a decidedly narrower view of fame’s downsides. Rather than focusing on society as a whole, he’s taking aim at his family and friends. West is harried by his obligations to those who are closest to him and feels like being one of the most successful rappers on Earth and keeping up with your inner circle at the same time is an impossible goal.
“I’m a deadbeat cousin/I hate family reunions,” Kanye says in an abrupt turn from previous messages on tracks like “Family Business.”