Kanye West has never been one to follow the crowd. When rappers were firmly planted in the baggy look, he popped up in a pink Polo, corduroy jacket, slimmer-fitting jeans, and a backpack. When rhyming about money, cars, and girls, was the formula for a hit record, he released “Jesus Walks.”
Today, he’s still blazing his own path. While peers like Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, and Beyoncé are aligning themselves with brands, and nabbing “creative director” titles, Yeezy’s busy blasting corporations.
The man once self-appointed as the “Louis Vuitton Don” feels that marketing has taken a turn for the worst—and has been spreading his doctrine over his last few European shows.
Disecting the 35-year-old’s latest stance is interesting not in that it marks another opportunity for his true intent to be misconstrued and reconstructed by the media, but because Ye’s love for name brands has been a big part of his art. The 2004 release of “All Falls Down,” flipped the braggadocios rap persona on its head. In a medium that celebrated one-upmanship, and glorified being able to afford luxuries that the rest of us could only dream of, Ye switched the viewpoint, putting the gaze on the dude who needed certain tags to feed his ego: “Man I promise, I’m so self-conscious/That’s why you always see me with at least one of my watches/Rollies and Posha’s done drove me crazy/I can’t even pronouns nothin,’ pass that ver-say-cee!”
Of course, making money to afford a certain lifestyle has never been at the forefront of his decision to enter the rap game, yet the topic has always found its way into his rhymes. Ye’s climb from college dropout to producer for Jay-Z, to one of the biggest names in Hip-Hop, is that much more inspiring because of who he represents. He’s the guy who doesn’t necessarily relate to pushing drugs to put food on the table, but still has a story to tell—one that usually includes material things.
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Photo: Pascal Le Segretain