Why is Kanye West Still Relevant?

Sinéad Dunphy delves into the fascinating world of Kanye West and attempts to make sense of his madness.

Kanye West is one of the most infuriating and fascinating individuals of our time. He is always controversial and always the centre of attention. His latest album Jesus is King is a gospel album devoted to spreading the word of God and redefining West as a good Christian man. The album has received mixed reviews but was a commercial success. As usual, the album’s production is interesting and creative but it is lyrically weak and worships Kanye himself about as much as it worships God. However, no matter how much offense his words and actions may cause, Kanye remains untouchable.

To best illustrate the convoluted, winding road of Kanye’s relationship with controversy, perhaps it’s easiest just to run through the timeline:

2004- Kanye released ‘Jesus Walks’, a powerful track detailing his struggle to keep faith in a world full of racism and injustice.

2005- Kanye left everyone speechless when he declared “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” on a live broadcast in aid of the Hurricane Katrina victims.

2013 – On ‘New Slaves’, Kanye made a provocative observation about how conspicuous consumption is a form of modern slavery for black people, pacifying and holding them back. However, Kanye continues to promote such spending.

2016 – At a concert, Kanye stated that Trump is a genius and claims he would have voted for him.

2018 – On TMZ, Kanye questions if slavery was a choice due to how long black people were enslaved in America.

2019 – Kanye recommitted to Christianity, started his Sunday Service and announced his desire to change his name to Christian Genius Billionaire.

Kanye’s new found Christianity is extremely self-serving. The rapper even went as far as to say that he received a $68 million tax refund as a gift from God and a divine intervention. Funnily enough, the changes Kanye has made since committing to God have largely dealt with his wife and children and don’t seem to focus much on his own actions and lifestyle. In a recent episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians, West is seen complaining to his wife the night before the Met Gala that her revealing dress was affecting his soul negatively. West insisted that Kim should not look so sexy in public since she is his wife and shouldn’t be looking sexy for others. While Kim largely shut him down she did acquiesce his concerns somewhat when she agreed to remove the fake nipples from the gown to make Kanye more comfortable. Kanye also claimed that during the recording of Jesus is King, he requested that his unmarried staff and collaborators refrain from having sex while they worked on the record. On top of this, the musician made changes at home, removing televisions from his children’s rooms and taking away makeup from his daughter, North who had previously been allowed to wear it regularly. All of these changes involve people around Kanye adjusting, but it’s hard to find anything that Kanye himself has done to improve himself and honour God, other than his Sunday Services which he uses to promote his own music and clothing, which is again, self-serving.

The musician and mogul’s actions have always been ego driven, impulsive and stubbornly contrarian. Even when he stood up against the negative portrayal of black people following Hurricane Katrina and boldly spoke out against George Bush, he was still being the ego-driven, inconsiderate man we know him to be today. His message was powerful but it also distracted from the cause he was there to support and as usual, it was clear he hadn’t thought out what he was going to say. Kanye has built his persona on being counter culture. In the early 2000s it was more daring to speak out against the President and to fight against racism and classism. Now that these discourses have become more prevalent in popular culture and have progressed in society, Kanye is switching to the other side of the fence. He is anti-democratic, anti-Me Too. He feeds his ego by feeling like he is a revolutionary.

It is increasingly difficult to understand why Kanye West is still relevant. His delirious rants are no different than those of all the racist, conservative boomers on Facebook. He contradicts and undermines himself, he insults the very people whose patronage he depends on and yet his career remains unblemished. He has 9 consecutive number 1 albums, sold out clothing lines and sneakers and everything he does musically or sartorially sets a trend. It seems that his talent outweighs his increasingly outlandish and hypocritical actions. Additionally, there are of course, some people who drink Kanye’s Kool-Aid, buying into all of his self-aggrandising nonsense. Undeniably, the crazier Kanye acts, the more publicity he gets and as the saying goes, “any publicity is good publicity”.