By Ray McDonald
Kanye Omari West: who is he? Is he the challenging, creative rapper responsible for some of the best hip-hop releases of the past decade? Or is he a self-important irritant who, among other incidents, highjacked Taylor Swift’s big moment at the 2009 MTV Awards show and more recently lashed out at photographers after walking into a pole?
We’re all, every one of us, a mixture of good and bad. On Tuesday, June 18, Kanye West releases his sixth solo album “Yeezus,” and he’s been promoting it by projecting videos from the album on public sites worldwide.
Kanye engages me emotionally, more so than just about any other modern pop music artist. On the one hand, I can’t stand his enormous ego – on the other, who else would find such an audacious way to publicize his work? Kanye’s shown a keen interest in art and fashion, working with such industry leaders as Louis Vuitton and Italian shoemaker Giuseppe Zanotti. There’s a restless intellect at work here, and it keeps me scouring the media for new reports of his creativity – and public missteps.
His father, Ray West, was a photojournalist, while his mother Donda was chair of the English Department at Chicago State University. He and his mother spent some time living in China, and by all reports he suffered greatly when she died suddenly in 2007 after complications from cosmetic surgery.
Although “Yeezus” leaked late last week, I haven’t heard the entire album; in a typical twist of unpredictability, he brought in one of my favorite producers, Rick Rubin, just days before its release. It’s practically guaranteed to open at number one on the United States pop album chart.
On June 15, Kanye West had his first child, a daughter, with his girlfriend, reality-TV star Kim Kardashian. So he has little hope of escaping the rigors of celebrity in the era of the 24-hour pseudo-news cycle. Just do me one favor, Kanye – keep your head up when you walk. You never know what you might run into.
What’s your opinion of Kanye West and his testy relationship with fame?