Sunday, 21 June 2009

Western Philosophy

For years, I've resisted the seemingly natural, universal human emotion that is Hating Kanye West.

Sure, he's arrogant, even more so than other rappers - but, I figured, with good reason. While he's not the genius he clearly thinks he is, he is still capable of genius. Last year's 808s and Heartbreaks, for example, is not only one of the most emotional and experimental hip hop albums, but one of the most affecting works of pop ever. Even my parents love everything he does (apart from "the language"), so *hearting* the man my mum calls "Kanny" is a family affair.

Even if I could find it in me to hate Yeezy, it would be a pointless pursuit. As he explains in his book Thank You And You're Welcome, "I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I'm not". And "love your haters - they're you're biggest fans".

But this book could mark a turning point in my feelings towards West. According to him, this "entertaining volume of 'Kanye-isms' - the creative, humorous and insightful philosophies used in creating my path to success... captures the same wit, playful irony, and piercing insight found abundant in my lyrics". Well, if you usually turn to Dr Phil or Tyra Banks for your piercing insight, there's every chance that these 50-odd pages of trite self-help slogans could be your path to enlightenment. The only thing stopping the rest of us free thinking, sentient beings from ramming this book up the author's ass is the fear that it's so unsubstantial that he wouldn't even feel it.

You can "read" sample pages here or even buy a copy from Kanye's website, if "believe in your flyness... conquer your shyness" sounds like the kind of homespun homeboy philosophy you can embrace, so I'll focus on what I found to be the most disappointing spread, entitled "Embrace your flaws". Here West recounts the story of having eight teeth removed and braces fitted as a child, to illustrate the point that "I don't believe in accepting a changeable condition... sometimes it takes a little polishing to truly shine". One wonders whether his mum, whom the book is dedicated to, was thinking exactly the same kind of bullshit while she was wheeled into the cosmetic surgery operating theatre where she died.

Kanye's feelings of guilt and culpability about paying for the combined breast reduction and tummy tuck that killed his mum are well documented. In fact, it is his exploration of these emotions on ...Heartbreak that made it a masterpiece, and songs like Pinnocchio Story that led me to believe that the artist had completely re-evaluated his life: "There is no Gucci I can buy/There is no Louis Vitton to put on/There is no YSL they could sell/To get my heart out of this hell/And my mind out of this jail". But it seems that silver-lining benefits like self-awareness, sensitivity and an awareness of reality were temporary and short-lived.

After all (page 21), "You should be happy right?"

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