It’s without debate that Kanye West is the most polarizing public figure of the 2000’s. His art and antics cause such a mix of emotions that you can’t tell if you love or loathe him. His music created the sonic backdrop to some of our fondest hip-hop memories, his approach to fashion flipped the sneaker and streetwear industries upside down, and the nostalgia of it all keeps us tuned in. At the same time, he’s the catalyst for a cultural shift in perspective regarding ownership, before Jay-Z made the soundtrack to that school of thought . The crazy thing about these accomplishments is that he told us he’d do it, and many people called him crazy before they saw the proof of concept.
“You’ve seen my execution. Did I not become the biggest rockstar on the planet? Did I not influence all musicians? Did I not go and get the exact girl that I wanted? Did I not ruffle the feathers of two presidents? Did I not get a chance to work with my idol (Jay-Z)? Did I not make Louis Vuitton? Did I not make The College Dropout and Late Registration, Graduation, 808’s and Heartbreaks, Blueprint 1, Blueprint II, Watch The Throne, Cruel Summer, and Yeezus?”
Being a visionary is a gift and a curse. Having enough foresight to not only anticipate the future, but scream it from the mountain tops, is a type of freedom most people will never experience. On the other side of that coin is the amount of doubt society casts on futurists simply because they can’t see what’s on the horizon. For most people, the future is only as far away as they can see for themselves. A visionary lives in a reality that feels temporary, damn-near drowning in concepts that seem so vivid that it’s hard to understand how no one else can see the picture.
“I’m 10 years ahead mentally, and I’m trapped in today’s time.”
Imagine being a creative whose entire body of work is proof of your ability to bring futuristic ideas to fruition, only to have people doubt your next steps solely based on their inability to understand your direction. Some of us don’t have to imagine because we turn ideas into tangibles for a living. Whether you’re a graphic designer for a marketing agency or a Hollywood director, you know what it’s like to possess the power of creativity. That power makes you feel like a giant. Throw fame and fortune into the mix of your work-life, then look at me with a straight face and tell me you wouldn’t take a dive off the deep end a few times — especially if the culture you helped shape had the nerve to cast doubt on you yet again.
It’d be the type of frustration capable of causing unparalleled anxiety, especially when there are billions of dollars at stake depending on your brain power. That right there could drive a sane man berserk. Not to worry, Mr. H-to-the-Izzo’s back to wizzork. In his latest interview, Kanye let Forbes into his headspace to describe what the title so inspiringly describes as his second coming.
If you’ve made it this far into the article, you’re probably screaming about Ye wearing the Maga Hat, saying slavery was a choice, and even sitting with President Orange Face at the White House. None of those actions are being excused. Personally, I’ve never been so disappointed in a public figure as I was in those moments. Kanye West was my introduction to the culture. I can tell you exactly where I was when I heard the sample to “Through the Wire,” before Ye even started his verse I was stuck. I started sketching and writing poetry because he said that’s what he did. Fast forward, and I’m a professional creative because of those early moments. Aside from all that, I’m a Black man in America, and to watch Ye go from “Racism’s still alive they just be concealing it,” to “Will MAGA hats let me slide like a drive thru?” made my skin crawl.
Do I forgive those actions? No. Does it matter if I forgive Kanye? No. Does it matter if any of us forgive Kanye? No. All any of us are voicing is an opinion, Kanye included. We all give too much power to other people’s stance on circumstances. Kanye’s outlook didn’t do shit to make things worse for the state of Black America. Frankly, if he’d gotten on national tv and condemned Trump, it wouldn’t have changed anything for the better either. Did the plight of Katrina victims improve when he condemned former President Bush? Say your answer out loud so you can hear yourself agreeing with me.
“I won’t feel right ‘til I feel like Phil Knight.”
What stands out most from the Forbes article is that Yeezy sales are on track to hit $1.5 billion by the end of 2019. When compared to Jordan Brand’s annual sales of $3 billion, it’s clear that Kanye is on track to not only match His Airness in revenue but also surpass him. The difference is, Kanye owns 100% of his brand, while Jordan only makes about 5 percent of the revenue made off of his own name and likeness.
I urge you to refer to Kanye’s 2013 Breakfast Club interview, where he emphatically insisted upon the value of the creative and how we must take ownership of our ideas. He explicitly mentioned the importance of having a legacy to leave behind for his daughter. Yet for some reason, that message only resonated with the culture when Jay-Z made an album about it. His concert rants aimed at corporate entities who failed to properly fund and partner with talented creatives like themselves drew so much backlash you’d think he was on stage renouncing his citizenship. The same fans who criticized him, hailed Rihanna for her partnership with LVMH.
When it comes down to it, there’s never much wrong about what Kanye says when it comes to the life and times of creative professionals in America, but there’s everything wrong with the way he says it. He’s crass, insensitive, and more sure of himself than most people can handle. That’s the gift and the curse of foresight. You’re so confident in your ideas, and you’ve proved yourself right so many times that you tend to talk to people like they can’t tell you anything. That’s the danger of earned confidence. People forget your resume and expect you to do the same and shrink to behavior that makes them comfortable, even though it’s not the behavior that brought you your success.
As idea generators and reality makers, we can’t afford to lose our earned confidence because it’s the engine that drives our foresight. Once you grow out of adolescence and early adulthood, the walls of the world seem to close in on your ability to dream. We need to dream to be productive in creative fields, so when you do hit a homerun with one of your ideas or successfully predict where an industry is heading, you must hold onto that magic. It’s what will protect you against naysayers who don’t do any of the work but bask in the glory of the reality you create for them. Stay the course and pay more attention to the gift of foresight than the curse that comes along with it.