It’s no secret that Kanye West is, well, out there. At times where isn’t exactly defined. And other times we know exactly where Kanye is, talking to you like it’s just you and him. Most of the time you’ll find him on stage though — essentially what the general public perceives Kanye to be.
Well, now that I’ve got the Kanye that you expected out of the way, what I really wanted to do was go a couple layers deeper into the Kanye you pay no attention to; the one that went to Chicago’s American Academy of Art, the one Elon Musk wrote about in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, and the one that interned at Fendi and (sort of) at Gap in order to learn the fashion industry from the bottom up.
If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with with the gods and the nights will flame with fire. — Charles Bukowski
Go and Google “Kanye West rant”…I know right? People actually took the time to transcribe his rants! Would you expect any less from the glorious internet? Back around 2012 the world got its first glimpse of the now famous Kanye West rant during three shows in Atlantic City, the ones with the Maison Margiela masks. People thought the rants were crazy and bold, his fans loved them. When you’ve already won 18 Grammys (at the time) and were nominated multiple times in rap categories (3 times for album of the year for his actual albums), you might start to think something is up too.
I’m not here to write another article on Kanye West rants, however.
Although if you’ve read one of them, then you’ve probably read them all because it’s very rare anyone who writes about a Kanye West rant goes into the substance behind what he says. (This might be where you stop reading, I know.)
The unfortunate flaw of Kanye West’s brand is that he/it continuously falls back into the hip hop world, whether he likes it or not. As disco was to the 70’s and 80’s, pop was to the 90’s and early 2000’s, hip hop music is the current musical commodity of choice. Thus the general public quickly forgets (or never even realizes to begin with) that Kanye’s creative roots are entrenched in art and design because of his musical associations. Hashtag just another rapper. Hashtag Kimye. Hashtag sigh.
So what has Kanye done outside of music?
Well there was that time Kanye debuted his short film, Cruel Summer, at Cannes where he had a camera invented in order to film for the seven screens that were used to display the film. No big deal, right? Reviews of the film and the experience were warm but missed the point surrounding the potential for future experiences. Cruel Summer sets the stage for what we should be expecting from a cinematic experience in the future, breaking the fourth wall digitally. And if you don’t believe me, do your research on what Wagner did for opera in the 1800's.
In 2011 Kanye partnered with Es Devlin (Kanye’s go-to set designer) on creative direction and set design for the “Watch The Throne” tour. The set design featured a main stage and two large cube stages where Kanye and Jay-Z performed simultaneously — how else do you get two of the world’s best emcees performing at the same time for close to two hours straight? Okay, fine. This had something to do with music — technically you could do a whole other article on the innovation behind Kanye’s music.
This humanity that I talk about, this civilization that I talk about, this future utopia I talk about…it can only happen through collaboration. — Kanye West
“The Throne” tour also sparked the creation of Kanye’s creative house, DONDA, named after West’s late mother Donda West. DONDA has become a collective of designers, creatives, and artists from around the world, lead by Virgil Abloh, Kanye’s creative director. And of course Twitter had a field day when the DONDA organizational chart was tweeted out. Typos here and there aside, the idea behind DONDA shares a lot of similarities with the coveted Bauhaus in Germany from the early 1920’s-1930’s. Unless you’re an art school nerd, you had no idea about the actual intelligence behind DONDA.
DONDA’s focus areas
The Bauhaus was a multi-disciplinary house focused on all of the arts and areas where they could be collaborated upon for the betterment of the world. The influence and impact of The Bauhaus still remains today in multiple countries around the world. So sure, DONDA sounds very ambitious today but when compared to The Bauhaus, it really doesn’t seem that farfetched at all.
Around the same time Kanye became the first non-athlete to have a signature shoe with Nike, Kanye was often found behind the scenes in the fashion industry. After his famous interruption of Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMA’s, Kanye moved to Europe where he interned at Fendi, learning the fashion world from the bottom up. Two years later he would go on to do his first self funded fashion show in Paris — a feat that could have been accomplished without spending years learning fashion behind the scenes, because, well you know, he’s a celebrity.
Cue the the accomplishment the general public knows Kanye for outside of his music — the Nike Air Yeezy and Adidas Yeezy Boost. Again, first non-athlete ever to have their own shoe with Nike. And in 2015 the Yeezy Boost was dubbed shoe of the year by Footwear News (the Oscars of foot wear…I didn’t know it existed either). Regardless, the years of creative collaborations across Bape, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, APC, and Nike clearly set the stage for what Kanye is currently doing with Adidas. However, instead of thinking of this feat as an allegory of consumer society, if you look at these accomplishments with a creative eye you realize they are all stepping stones to feats much larger in the future.
The question still remains, will Kanye West run for president in 2020? The answer is who cares. If you can look past the media facade and celebrity articles about fluff you’ll see Kanye envisions a world not many people see. If you put his rants in context you realize they’re mainly all just a summation of frustration from trying so hard to produce content and material goods that have a positive effect on the world. In simplest terms, aiding in the creation a world where everyone is happy.
Maybe this would really happen if he got his money right.