Kanye West And Why You Have To Sometimes Believe Your Own Hype
Love him, hate him, there is a lot that we all can learn from Kanye West, particularly the benefits of believing one’s own hype:
New York Times: “Even though you had always wanted to be out in front, was there ever a point where you valued your anonymity?”
Kanye West: “Yeah, I held on to the last moments of it. I knew when I wrote the line “light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson” [from the song “Slow Jamz”] I was going to be a big star…”
For Real Kanye? It was that line right there that was going to propel you into stardom? What cued you in to this revelation Kanye? Were you sitting in your room one day, scribbling down lines in a black and white composition notebook when – all of a sudden – the skies opened up, thunder clapped, and the voice of hundreds of tiny cherub-faced angels with harps descended upon you with a chorus of “Ave Maria”? Was there a blinding light and a deep voice, which harkened; “Go forth and share with the world, ‘Got a light-skinned friend looks like Michael Jackson/Got a dark-skinned friend looks like Michael Jackson…’ I am your father. This I command you?” If so, pass that to the left hand side…
He was right though. About the fame I mean. And I guess to some extent the line too because damn if it isn’t one of my favorite Kanye-isms. If you haven’t read the entire New York Times piece, do yourself a favor and go right now or you will miss other self-promoting gems like: “I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump.”
Way to speak about yourself in the third person. Nevertheless, West has a long and prominent history of inflating his own virtues. After the New York Times piece went viral, Vulture decided it would also compile a list of all the other wonderful thoughts West has had about himself, including this one:
“I’m a pop enigma. I live and breathe every element in life. I rock a bespoke suit and I go to Harold’s for fried chicken. It’s all these things at once, because, as a taste maker, I find the best of everything. There’s certain things that black people are the best at and certain things that white people are the best at. Whatever we as black people are the best at, I’ma go get that. Like, on Christmas I don’t want any food that tastes white. And when I go to purchase a house, I don’t want my credit to look black.” — Spin, December, 2007”
And this one:
“There’s nothing more to be said about music. I’m the 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 … Man, we talked about music for God knows how long! Now let’s talk about how my sweater didn’t come back right from Korea. That’s what’s interesting me.” — Details, February, 2009”
And this one too:
“[In regard to a life-size poster of himself] “I put me on the wall because I was the only person that had me on the wall at that time. And now that a lot of people have me on their wall, I don’t really need to do that anymore.” — Rolling Stone, April, 2004”
West is the prime example of ‘ain’t nobody gonna get hype about you until you learn to hype yourself up first’. Yet folks generally have a hard time with being their own cheerleader and advocate. Many people go through life with such poor self-images of themselves, and the world in general, that the very idea that they might be deserving of a little praise renders them paralyzed. Instead, it’s much more comfortable to self-criticize and beat one’s self up because it means living without the burden of expectation. No one expects a person who doesn’t feel they are talented or having anything worth sharing with the world, to actually achieve anything. Therefore, they hang out in the shadows, feeling sorry for themselves and being cogs in the systems of someone else’s dream and ambition while the world pretty much passes them by. It is that endless wall-flowering, which keeps folks from going out into the world and commanding the respect that they deserve – whether it be a raise at work, from your significant other, or even with something you want to buy for yourself.
But having an almost narcissist view of one’s greatness is a perfect shield from the negative messages we tell ourselves as well and are bombarded with daily. People will tell you – out of concern, fear and flat out hateration – why what you are doing is a waste of time. Sometimes they will have legitimate points. However (and take my word for it), indulging in too many cautionary tales and giving weight to other people’s doubt – no matter how pragmatic they are – will only slow you down. If you sincerely feel like you have talent, you have to be arrogant enough to say, ‘despite everyone’s objections and my own fears, I do believe my s**t is hot, therefore this is where I’m going to put my faith.’ And by faith I mean the actual task of dedicating time and energy into something in addition to the unwavering belief that your craft has value.
I do realize that humbleness is a virtue. I also realize that there are too many people, faux-profiling, posing and gushing over social media sites without having done the work to warrant such self-flagellation. But I also understand that a little arrogance is needed when at times true confidence is hard to find. You know, faking it until you make it? Odds are, it was probably West’s inflated ego, which gave him the gumption to fund his very first music video at a time when his label wanted to put his project on the back burner for easier and more marketable hip-hop artists. And there is no doubt that it is West’s continued stroking of his own ego, which compels him to step out the box and test the limit of his artistry. You have to be a pretty vain mothersucker to sing on an album knowing damn well you are nowhere near close to being a singer. And yet, it totally worked (off-key and all), because he was going to make sure it worked.