Full disclosure: I’m writing this from my deck on my beach house on Kanye West Island, where I’ve been living since 2004 and now exist as one of the last remaining inhabitants. I am not a rich man. Well, I did not move to Kanye West Island a rich man. The only reason I’m even able to afford a beach house is because mostly everyone moved off the island years ago, and the land here is so cheap now. I am also the deputy mayor, the owner of a chain of drive-thru sushi shops, and the high school basketball coach. As just alluded to, there aren’t many people on Kanye West Island, so everyone still here has multiple jobs.
I’m bringing this up because I’m aware there are many people reading this who either left Kanye West Island years ago or never even considered moving to Kanye West Island because they believed it was an overrated carbon copy of The RZA Island. So my thoughts might not seem particularly objective. But they are. Trust me. They are.
Anyway, at the time of writing, I’m roughly 12 hours removed from watching Kanye West accept a VMA Video Vanguard Award with a speech that can best be described as “Peak Kanye.” Not “good” Kanye or “bad” Kanye, but just Kanye being the best Kanye he can be. And, depending on where you stand, Kanye being just Kanye is awesome. Or amazing. Or intriguing. Or annoying. Or enraging. Or “the reason why you no longer have a cable subscription.” If there are 40 million ways to be Black, there are 40 million ways to feel about Kanye.
This opinion variance is a direct result of his unique cocktail of very vague but very real talent, his performative emotiveness, and his behavior; each of which influences how the others are perceived. While Kanye is ubiquitous, his talent is not obvious — at least not as obvious as someone like a Pharrell — and this makes for some apparent contradictions. Some hail him as a genius. Others believe that those who consider Kanye West a genius should be examined for concussions. Or, at the very least, drug tested.
Kanye is not a particularly strong rapper, but he’s created two or three of the best rap albums ever. He frequently — and, often, explosively — touches on racism and bias in his music and in interviews, but he’s married to a woman whose fame and fortune are largely based on her ability to capitalize on being White and pretty with certain physical features often associated with women of color. He is a tireless, passionate, and unapologetic advocate for artists, and seems to be unafraid to voice his opinion, but seems to be so scarred by the backlash he received from White people after being rude to Taylor Swift that he literally created an entirely new speaking voice to address them. He often sounds like a Black comedian doing an impression of White people.
He is the human Rorschach test, and nothing exemplifies that better than his rambling, clear, lucid, and incoherent 11-minute-long acceptance speech and the reaction to it. He concluded his stream of consciousness screed — a rant where he managed to evoke both Jesus and Hennessy in the same two-sentence span — by announcing a presidential run in 2020. Which, again, was Peak Kanye. Because no one else would have ended that ridiculous ass speech with that announcement. And because no one — not even those sitting on beach house decks on Kanye West Island — knows if he’s serious. He is literally impervious to prediction and our expectations. Which might not make him the greatest artist ever, but definitely makes him the greatest Kanye West of all-time.