In 2013, when Kanye West's self-titled sixth solo album arrived – 'Yeezus', Yeezus himself was no stranger to the press junket he had foregone after the 2009 MTV VMA awards. The unspeakable incident had left a bad taste in the mainstream consciousness, and had arguably made Kanye West the most hated person in the USA.
Something had risen within him. He hit the studio in Hawaii with fervor and with legendary musicians such as Elton John, Jay Z, and the RZA from Wu Tang, as well as current greats such as Rick Ross and fledgling-at-the-time Nicki Minaj, the masterpiece that was 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' was spawned; a 'back-handed apology' to those he had ever wronged by proclaiming his vast genius. Kanye begged to be back on America's shelves again, and 'MBDTF' allowed him to do so. However, we were met with a sort of apathetic 'Ye: one who effortlessly gave us hits like 'Niggas in Paris', 'Otis', 'Clique' and 'Mercy' but never allowed us an insight into his perspective.
Starting with the New York Times interview, in which he first compares himself to greats such as Howard Hughes, Walt Disney and Steve Jobs – Mr West began to hit us with a multitude of interviews that the world had thirsted for. The huge stream of vivid, high-quality articles and videos reared a vast amount of quotes. "I just told you who I thought I was. A God. I just told you. That's who I think I am," sums up the gist of most of the sit-downs with the new Kanye West. A brow-beaten, scapegoat, who had swam through the backlash of the disastrous Taylor Swift incident and the SouthPark episode, but still had the confidence left to proclaim himself as an equal of Jesus Christ, but also stood by his words when called out on them. This happened a lot; mostly on social media.
The infamous Sway interview, with the radio DJ 'Sway' on his radio show 'Sway in the Morning' was the pinnacle of Kanye West's radio interviews. Ever. It was borderline comical in its quotes, and resulted in so many trending topics and memes on almost all forms of social media and internet forums. Kanye blew up on Sway like the volatile volcano he is, and erupted all of the frustration, anxiety, and anger that had been stored over the past few years, due to his "marginalization" at the hands of the fashion industry.
"You ain't got the answers Sway" managed to become a trending topic. Alongside "It ain't Ralph though," Kanye was more relevant than he had been in a long time, the interview currently has four million views on Youtube, and there was a kind of subdued buzz for what Kanye had planned for the future, despite the widespread notion that he was being ridiculous, most people still waited in anticipation for what he would bring to the table.
However, all of these quotes were just layers to a detailed, perhaps ingenious plan Kanye has for the future. DONDA.
If one were to Google DONDA, there would not be a website to refer to in order for them to garner an opinion or even much understanding of what it really is. There are not really many parameters to DONDA, apart from Kanye West himself, Virgil Abloh – 'Ye's right-hand man and creative director, and articles where DONDA is mentioned. Despite this, West intends this to be huge. By huge I mean the first trillion dollar company in the world – according to the BBC Radio 1 interview with Zane Lowe. "When I say, 'Clean water was only served to the fairer skin,' what I'm saying is we're making product with chitlins," said Kanye. "T-shirts, that's the most we can make, T-shirts. We can have our best perspective on T-shirts, but if it's anything else, your Truman Show boat is hitting the wall…What people don't realize is I wanna make uniforms for my high school basketball team through Brand Yeezy. I want to make that one step and then make another step. And then eventually do uniforms for the entire city. Then I want those uniforms to be hot and make money. Then I eventually want to be the anchor and the force behind a billion dollar company…I eventually want to be the anchor of the first trillion dollar company."
'Yeezus' was the voicing of the frustration he had with going to meetings with figureheads and pioneers such as Bernard Arnault, of LVMH, owner of Louis Vuitton, Francois Pinault, of Kering, owner of Gucci, Renzo Rosso, of OTB group, owner of Margiela, and Mark Parker of Nike, and having had doors proverbially 'shut in his face' reminiscent of the Will Smith movie, 'the Pursuit of Happyness.' Nike, according to West, had actually refused him royalties for the "Yeezy's," the shoes known as the Nike Air Yeezy, which proved to be a smash hit amongst 'sneakerheads' and actually went on to resell for $90,000 on eBay.
Kanye West, a man who wants to build a long standing empire, to dig out a larger circumference of the elephant sized stamp he currently has on music and culture, and break the very real 'glass ceiling' imposed on him by the shadowy figures of the classist corporate elite, is being pushed back by social media, the mainstream consciousness, public approval of his 'antics' and being a celebrity due to music, and is losing relevancy every day he spends focusing on fashion, or product and not a new album or a 'Future feature.'
But like Bound 2, and Blood on the Leaves at the end of Yeezus, perhaps things are looking up for Kanye, he has a daughter, North West, the most famous baby in the world apart from Prince George; a future king. His marriage to Kim Kardashian was covered meticulously by the biggest tabloids in the world; he graced the cover of Vogue with his wife-to-be at the time, his wedding picture, which took four days to edit perfectly, attracted the most likes on an Instagram photo ever and currently has 2.3 million likes. Kanye has had two collections for the ultra-cool, hip Parisian brand, APC, which both sold out extremely quickly. Kanye also spoke at the Cannes Lions, on a panel with Steve Stoute, the author of 'the Tanning of America' and Ben Horowitz, a venture capitalist, and co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, which has had $4 billion in management since 2009.
Also, largely due to the biggest hip hop forum on the internet, Kanye To The, which is devoted to Kanye West, a low quality, two minute snippet of his newest single, 'All Day' on his upcoming album leaked early, causing a huge buzz on Twitter, and due to it trending, actually clinched the top spot on the Billboard music chart.
Looking at the huge success in music Kanye has had, six mega-successful solo albums, 21 Grammy awards – more than anyone of his age – a collaborative album with his musical idol, Jay Z, the Yeezus tour and the Glow in the Dark tour, which both pushed the boat out creatively, we hardly think of the time Kanye West had to push to be recognized as a rapper. He started off as a producer, in a rap environment which was dominated by 'gangster rap' artists such as 50 Cent, and wearing a polo top and a designer backpack, he wasn't seen as having the right image to be commercially viable. But given a chance, he went on to outsell 50 Cent, set new precedents in musical art, and influenced countless artists, not only in Hip-Hop, but across all musical forms and genres, and continues to innovate and push the boundaries of music as an art form.
Recently, of course, there was wheelchair-gate, an incident in which Kanye, while playing Good Life on one of the tour dates on the Australian leg of the tour, wanted everyone to stand up and get hype for, in order for the best possible atmosphere to be created for all fans. You may be asking, what has this got to do with Kanye achieving what he's been spouting for so long? Well, I'd say that this huge story, although cementing the mainstream view that Kanye is a douchebag, it is one chapter in his life. Although there is a lot of negative media that may or may not have used fabrications to get clicks on their articles for ad revenue, this has happened to Kanye many a time before, and I can guarantee that he will come out of this like a phoenix from the ashes, harder, better, faster and stronger. And his music will be dope.
All Kanye wants is a chance. Adidas have given him one. The first step on Kanye's journey to failure, or success. And given his track record, I would surely bet on the latter.
Will Kanye truly become the "Tupac of Product?"