Home Features Columnists The good, the bad and the ugly: Kanye West

The good, the bad and the ugly: Kanye West


For his column this week, Zak Mahinfar (soon to be your new Comment Editor) looks at Kanye West, and asked the question: complete madman, or cultural genius? 

Fresh from speaking at Oxford University earlier this week, during which he basically performed a self-aggrandized monologue and compared himself to Picasso ‘or greater’, Kanye West once again situates himself as the human embodiment of the marmite complex. No celebrity polarises to the extremes that he does. Many are besotted by his audacious persona and raw artistic talent, whilst others are utterly bemused by the hype and think him a perplexing imbecile. The jury is certainly still out.

We British are famed for our modesty, so it’s no wonder some of us struggle to get our heads round the bloke. There’s no debating that Kanye would wholly benefit from having a slice of humble pie pureed and forcibly poured down his throat. I can’t help but wonder if it’s all part of an act; this over-eccentric egotistical construction which he consistently nourishes and fulfils. For the media, he must be the gift that keeps on giving. And yet, he certainly possesses the accolades and commercial success to support his self-entitlement to at least some degree.

I would ordinarily struggle to warm to anyone who so unapologetically refers to themselves as a ‘creative genius’, but for some I think that’s part of the appeal. I’ll concede that he’s mothered some all-time classics: ‘Gold Digger’; ‘Stronger’; and that verse in ‘American Boy’, which literally gives me tingles. But he is just a rapper at the end of the day; he’s not changed the world, although I’m sure he’d dispute that fact.

Kanye West, mid-lecture at Oxford University Image: @Aledr via Twitter

To me, he very much bares resemblance to a giant hedgehog on acid. Erratic and potentially very dangerous. Gallivanting about at award ceremonies deeming himself so unarguably talented and well established, that he has the right to just pluck and redistribute the honours that he personally disagrees with. Someone should remind him that, to the great relief of humanity, he does not rule the world.

It’s not so much the act itself, but rather the unfaltering confidence in his execution of it that seems so unforgivably audacious. Look mate, if you want to create an awards ceremony in which Beyoncé wins every single prize, year on year, by all means do it. It would probably be tremendously popular, if not a little predictable, but you could call it The Kanyes and I’m sure it would take off.

So, having established that Kanye’s a bit of a pillock, there was a certain allure to his Oxford address that sparked a hint of favour in me. Despite my countless grievances, in a very Kany-atypical manner, I have found myself warming to this questionable being. He certainly possesses charisma and I was extremely engaged by his ideological commentary and perception:

“Time is the only luxury… you’re looking for this moment where you sit in your BMW after all the work you’ve done and all the accolades you get… and it’s something that feels empty. To everyone who reaches that point. [There’s] this concept of the selfish human, this idea of separation by race, or gender, or religion, or age, or my favourite thing to hate, class… beauty has been stolen from the people and is being sold back to them under the concept of luxury!’

He’s certainly a visionary. With ‘That’s all.’ as his concluding statement, he then proceeded to promptly exit the stage in true Kanye style.

There are many things that I really love about the prior quotation, but not least the uncertainty as to whether Kanye West made an intentional reference to Miranda Priestley from The Devil Wears Prada. Is Kanye the type of person who cites The Devil Wears Prada during a speech at the University of Oxford? (See what I mean about the gift that keeps on giving bit?) He’s messing with our minds. He knows what he’s doing… maybe he is a genius after all.

So, as much as I despise his attitude, his very demeanour, I respect his hustle. That ability to capture a stark discrepancy of feeling: an unfamiliar void somewhere between complete animosity to his pervading arrogance and utter awe of his fearlessness to stand up for what he believes in. For that at least, I commend him. Maybe it’s this unfaltering self-confidence that has served him so well and something which we all can learn from.

Zak Mahinfar, Online Features Columnist

If you missed Zak Mahinfar’s last column on Beyonce’s perfection, you can find it here. You can also find all our other Features columns here.

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