In "I am a God" from Kanye West's 2013 Yeezus LP, he raps "Soon as they like you, make them unlike you." His brazen arrogance breeds a charisma that draws as many millions of people towards him as it repels. That verse is a direct reflection of West's need for evolution and creation.
For every tweet blasting West for his latest social media rant, there are many more tweets proclaiming support in all caps. This month, he was booed by the crowd at his show in San Jose, where he told the crowd he did not vote in the election, but that if he had, he would have voted for Donald Trump. Shortly after, his concert in Sacramento started an hour and a half late and consisted of three songs and a rant about Beyoncé and Jay Z, among other things. His Nov. 20 show in Los Angeles was canceled, the LA Times reports.
In a 2013 interview with Philadelphia's Hot 107.9 FM, West explained his thirst for the contrarian in unvarnished terms:
"For me, I have this responsibility now to live inside the backlash," he said. "To show you you can do what you want in this world. You are limitless. Perceptions and opinions do not matter."
He can even make a massive arena concert tour cater to his whims. West performed in Dallas in late September and then announced an extended tour (which has since been canceled). Such scheduling is genuinely a rare move. And though the tour didn't end up taking place, it shows West's moxie.
He's infamous for crashing Taylor Swift's MTV Video Music Awards speech in 2009 and jokingly interrupting Beck on stage at the Grammys in 2015.
There's something refreshing and remarkably real about an artist that unapologetically has no use for socially acceptable filters.
Don't we all roll our eyes in unison when an actor says she is "simply honored to be nominated?" West incites his own share of eyerolls, but never from demurring for the sake of banality.
West even managed to turn Saturday Night Live's famous Studio 8H stage into his own plaything. In 2010, clad in red leather and low hanging gold chains, West performed on an all-white stage with dozens of ballerinas dancing and clapping as he belted out "Power" from his magnificent Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album. Earlier this year, on the eve of the release of his epic The Life of Pablo album, he sang in front of a colorful projection while a gospel choir and Fort Worth's resident gospel superstar Kirk Franklin joined in.
Bucking stage design trends, West has decided that even the 50-foot mountain he used for the Yeezus tour isn't wild or elevated enough for his latest tour. Suspended well above the crowd on the arena floor, West will float on a lighted platform.
For once, the folks in the nosebleeds may have the best view.
In an age where an artist's "brand" is discussed at length, West avoids such corporate predictability -- and perhaps that's the most attractive aspect of his role in the pop-culture universe. The same old, same old, even its grandest forms, isn't any match for West's ambitious conceptualizing.
Kanye loves playing by Kanye's rules as much as Kanye loves Kanye.