Kanye West a complicated genius more and more known for his jams than his musical innovation


There’s no denying that professionally, Kanye West is one of a kind – a musical virtuoso, if you will.

In the Netflix series Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy, a charming West displays an unwavering sense of determination and self-confidence at a time when the industry didn’t take him seriously as an artist.

As a talented and accomplished producer who had previously worked with some of the biggest names in music (including Jay-Z and Talib Kweli), West had been typecast.

He wanted to be an artist, but people saw him as a producer.

But not only did West refuse to stay in his lane, he continued to prove he was capable of creating new ones.

He’s an artist now. He still produces music, but he’s also a fashion designer and entrepreneur with his own sneaker brand, Yeezy. And his innovation even resulted in the creation of an audio remixing device and music streaming platform, Stem Player, which arguably succeeded and arguably failed.

He even built his own cult brand, Sunday Service.

But West was heavily criticized for the music video for Eazy, a song in which he collaborates with rapper The Game.

In the video, West is shown removing and burying alive a clay version of his ex-wife’s new partner.


And when West was temporarily suspended from Instagram for violating the platform’s harassment policy, it left some of his 15.8 million Instagram followers an enigma.

Tre Johnson is one such Instagram follower. He describes West as a complicated genius.

“He’s like a lot of people,” Mr Johnson said.

“He’s super flawed.

“He is incredibly talented.

“And he also struggles with mental health issues.

“So yes, that makes it very complicated.”

Mr. Johnson is a race and culture writer who has written articles for Rolling Stone and Atlanta Black Star and is currently working on a love letter to West, which will be published in The Washington Post.

Tre Johnson writes a love letter to Kanye West to be published in The Washington Post.(Provided)

He is also the author of Black Genius: Our Celebrations and our Destructions, which will be published by Penguin Books next year and explores black American subcultures from a historical and cultural perspective, examining everything from surveillance of public figures.

Mr Johnson is troubled by what he sees happening on social media with West.

“I know everything about art is subjective,” he said.

“And I think that’s been true for a few years.

“Now we see a much closer convergence between his state of being and the quality of his music.

“His personality went beyond what he was best known for.”

Fan says there’s no excuse for West’s ‘reprehensible’ behavior

Mr Johnson told the ABC that West’s mental health issues could not be used as the sole explanation for his poor behavior (West addressed his bipolar diagnosis in his music, including on the song Yikes, which appears on his album Ye).

“It clearly takes that into account, but most importantly, sanity or not, he says and does dangerous things there.

“His orientation around harassment, around evoked or explicit violence towards other people, his obvious contempt towards [his ex-wife’s new partner] Pete Davidson, and even what many women have rightly called an emotionally abusive approach to [his ex-wife] Kim [Kardashian] — these things are reprehensible.”

Mr Johnson said it had been difficult as a fan of West and his work to read his Instagram posts and see comments from people validating the abuse.

He said the public narrative around West compelled people to take sides one way or the other — and that was disappointing.

“And that’s really unfortunate because I think that reflects where the culture is in a lot of ways now…he’s complicated. He’s really complicated.

“And he’s really disappointing at this point now, and I still love him, you know?”

The love letter Mr. Johnson writes to West will explain how his music influenced and reflected his life at different times, but will also describe the point where he had a clear start.

“Like him, I had to battle my own mental health demons at times,” he said.

“And there were times when he and his music helped me understand those things.

“But then, now we’re at this starting point where I can always go to his music, but I can’t go to him.

“And I think that feels like a real loss.”

These are real people we’re talking about

AD Carson is Assistant Professor of Hip Hop and the Global South at the University of Virginia. He is also a hip hop artist who recently recorded an album, Talking to Ghosts, which deals with, among other things, mental health.

It was written during the COVID-19 shutdowns when he, like many people, faced isolation.

Dr. Carson also wrote a chapter in the book The Cultural Impact of Kanye West.

In the chapter, Dr. Carson compares West to Jay Gatsby from F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.

But speaking to the ABC, Dr Carson warned people against treating West like he was just a character in a story.

“And there are consequences and ramifications for all their actions, as there should be.

“It is much more than a story that we consume.

“These are real lives of people.”

Dr AD Carson, a black and white photo of a black man with a beard wearing a baseball cap and t-shirt
Dr. Carson says fans need to remember that the celebrities involved in the West saga are real people with families.(Rich Tarbell)

Dr. Carson described West as an intriguing and incredibly talented artist, but said he was also an example of the dangers of marketing.

“It feels like we’re perpetually treated to news cycles that make it look like Kanye West is about to roll out a new project,” Dr. Carson said.

“Because it seems like almost every time he’s had a project to roll out, there’s been incredible media controversy that’s been stirred up to get his name in the headlines.

“And then there’s an album that ‘coincidentally’ comes out…and it’s ready-made press or ready-made marketing for the project that’s about to come out.”

He said there were double standards on social media in which prominent people were allowed to walk away from the types of behavior for which others would be arrested instantly.

“Because they are notable, they generate news and because they generate news and they are notable, then social media platforms are – rather than preventing them from the harassment they engage in – let continue because they have a remarkable account.

“It gives them the ability to harass people more easily than someone who is unremarkable.”

He said social media platforms needed to assess who was protected by their policies because people with little power were less protected.

“The people who are held accountable are usually not the ones with the ability to do the most damage,” he said.

Political manipulation could be at stake

Musically, Dr. Carson considers himself a student of West’s work and, in turn, teaches his students about it. However, he said he was clearly no longer the target demographic for West’s art.

“What I get from people who are fans of, as he calls it, ‘old Kanye’ is that there are people who feel the same way – that they’re not his target demo anymore. .

“I don’t find myself listening to Kanye in the background,” he added.

“If I listen, it’s for the purpose of being able to talk about something he did, or to use it as an example in class, or to prepare because that’s what we’re going to talk about in a conference.”

He said West’s target audience these days seemed to be people who might vote for him if he ran for president, or who would benefit from his running for president.

West reportedly garnered just 60,000 out of an estimated 160 million votes when he ran in the 2020 US presidential race and he later suggested on Twitter that he would run in 2024.

“I imagine the fans of the candidate who wins because he is there as a spoiler [candidate]these people would want Kanye to run as much as they want their candidate to run… that’s really not fandom – that’s Kanye’s usefulness as a political tool,” Dr. Carson said.

He said that when cultural figures were seen as larger than life, people sadly stopped seeing them as human beings who had thoughts, dreams, ambitions and families.

“I believe there are more responsible ways to act [paying him this attention] without making Kanye an object or commodity that takes away not just his humanity, but the humanity of the people he engages with.”


Comments are closed.