I’m convinced Kanye West is an evil genius. I mean, no man can wear a kilt while rapping about Basquiat and the obscenely high murder rate in his hometown of Chicago without being a little bit crazy…and dope.
To say Yeezy is a paradox is an understatement. On one hand he seems to crave (and brag about) all of the material markers of success—designer clothes, expensive jewelry, and exotic vacations—and on the other he drops songs like New Slaves that call us all out for our mindless consumerism.
Some have labeled him a spoiled, entitled, arrogant, hypocrite, and others have called him a legend.
Wherever you fall on the Kanye West love/hate spectrum one thing is clear: He doesn’t care what you think of him, he just wants to make dope shit.
And here is our lesson for today folks: just make dope shit.
I’ve spent years caring about what people thought and editing myself to fit neatly into the acceptable category, when in my head I was giving them the finger and doing what I loved.
But I’ve always been a good girl, and the need to please kept me in the classroom longer than I wanted, it kept me in relationships longer than necessary, and it kept me diminishing and questioning my talents and skills.
But reading Kanye West’s recent New York Times interview was a great reminder to just focus on being dope and letting everyone else sort out what kinda person you are for themselves.
Perhaps it’s also because I’m knee-deep in Jen Sincero’s awesome book You Are A Bad Ass, but this Yeezy interview hit me in the heart.
While some called it arrogant and crazy (I mean, he does refer to himself as “The Michael Jordan of music” and “the nucleus” of a future billion dollar company” and necessary), I call it the embodiment of complete confidence in one’s skills. Which sadly is what many people lack and are turned off by when they view such blatant confidence in others.
But reading through this article reminded me of a few things and solidified some lessons I plan on carrying with me always.
Lesson 1: You Need Good People
I’ve talked about it before, but you really do need a circle of people around you who will elevate you and help you become your best self. Kanye said hanging with rappers like Dead Prez, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli helped him discover his style. Before he met them he was trying to sound like other popular rappers, but after he found his tribe who pushed him to be creative in his own way, he found his voice.
Lesson 2: Believe You Are Going to Make It
Yeezy has been accused of being arrogant and calling himself “so influential and relevant,” and naming his album Yeezus, doesn’t help him with critics, but is he wrong?
One thing I love about Kanye is his unwavering confidence in his ability to be successful. In one part of the interview he said:
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. At the time, they used to have the Virgin music [stores], and I would go there and just go up the escalator and say to myself, ‘I’m soaking in these last moments of anonymity.’ I knew I was going to make it this far; I knew that this was going to happen.
And I totally get him. If you cannot visualize yourself being successful, and happy, and having every single thing you want, it will not happen. Simple as that.
Lesson 3: Know Your Worth
Kanye West isn’t shy about demanding his work be celebrated by the gatekeepers. While on one hand he says accolades don’t matter, he’s ready to go to war when his work is not recognized as he sees fit. Arguing with critics about your place in history seems wholly exhausting, but Yeezy is clear about one thing: his worth.
“I’m a professional musician because I have the structure of Universal Records. I’m a professional creative. Since I did the Louis Vuitton sneaker, I’ve never been allowed to be in a continually creative structured place that makes product. I’ve had meetings where a guy actually told me, “What we’re trying to figure out is how we can control you.” In the meeting, to me! Why do you want to control me? Like, I want the world to be better! All I want is positive! All I want is dopeness! Why would you want to control that?”
He continues: I want to tell people, “I can create more for this world, and I’ve hit the glass ceiling.” If I don’t scream, if I don’t say something, then no one’s going to say anything, you know? So I come to them and say, “Dude, talk to me! Respect me!”
Lesson 4: Strive for Complete Awesomeness
When asked if any of his decisions and penchant for speaking his mind has ever led him astray, Kanye gave what I called on Twitter, the best answer of the year:
“It’s only led me to complete awesomeness at all times. It’s only led me to awesome truth and awesomeness. Beauty, truth, awesomeness. That’s all it is.”
When pressed about whether he regrets that whole Taylor Swift “I’ma let you finish…” debacle, he did not disappoint.
KW: I don’t have one regret.
NYT: Do you believe in the concept of regret?
KW: If anyone’s reading this waiting for some type of full-on, flat apology for anything, they should just stop reading right now.
*drops the mic*