Kanye West: Transcendentalist
Kanye West was born June 8, 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia. His parents divorced when he was three years old and his mother raised him in Chicago’s infamous south side. West graduated highschool and then attended college for one year before moving to New York to pursue a rap career. He was discovered by Jay-Z a prominent rapper of the time. Jay-Z hired West to produce for Jay-Z’s album of the time, The Blueprint. While producing West created his own demo and signed with Roc-A-Fella records. After a debilitating car crash, West recorded and released his first album, The College Dropout. Kanye West started his own recording label, GOOD label. He continued to create albums all of them giving him success. Over his career he has released 7 studio albums. Through all of these albums he has explained his life journey with his hard childhood, the loss of his mother, his driving accident, etc. This is what makes him a transcendental artist. Kanye West is a modern day transcendentalist because through his music he expresses ideals of self-confidence, freethought, self-reliance and non-conformity.
Self Confidence is one of the easiest things to find in both Kanye’s music and media appearances. In Kanye’s POWER in the chorus you hear the line, “No one man should have all that power,”(POWER). In this line he is referring to himself. He has also stated on his twitter how he believes he is the most influential artist alive, although he has deleted his twitter since that time (Refinery29). Kanye clearly believes that the abilities he has as a rap artist are above all others and completely untouchable. Even at times when he admits his faults, he still finds a way to tell how amazing he is. “Mark Zuckerberg invest 1 billion dollars into Kanye West ideas after realizing he is the greatest living and the greatest artist of all time,”(TheVerge). That was a real tweet sent out by Kanye West after another tweet where he explained how much debt he was in. Kanye truly believes in each of the things he says and is one of the most self-confident people on the planet.
Kanye West has also showed off his freethought on a number of occasions. Kanye West is never afraid to speak his mind. In his famous speech of, “Imma let you finish but..”, he took to the stage and stole the microphone from Taylor Swift to express his displeasure with the grammy’s pick for best music video. He also expressed his displeasure with the Grammys after the fact in Vanity Fair saying, “If they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us,”(Vanity Fair). He has at one point shown how much he dislikes modern politics by announcing that he would run for president via his twitter. He has also expressed his political opinions in a number of songs. In his hit song POWER he says the lyrics, “System broke, the school’s closed, the prisons open,” referring to how in poorer neighborhoods schools will close but the business of prison will stay afloat(POWER). In the song Diamonds from Sierra Leone Kanye West comments on the diamond trade and how we support is with lines like, “ I thought my Jesus piece was so harmless Til I seen a picture of a shorty armless,” or “Over there they die from what we buy,”(Diamonds from Sierra Leone). West has never held back from any opinions,political or otherwise. At the end of one of his concerts he went on a rant where he just spoke his thoughts. There was no one censoring his, no one holding him back, his mind was free. He also constantly called out people he believed to be less real than him on his twitter. He does all of this with seemingly no filter. He holds nothing back because he is a free thinker who does not really care what others think.
Kanye West’s self reliance has also shown through in his entire life. He began his rap career on his own after he left college. He sought out work while he was making his own demo. His demo was made entirely on his own. This demo was so good that it allowed him to be propelled to high popularity and become a staple in modern day pop culture. His first albums was self written and he did not use ghostwriters as often as other rappers. Using his wealth from his rap career he made his own shoe and clothing lines which helped to make him even richer. He even had plans to shoot much higher as we can see from his DONDA chart, a chart made up of things he wanted to work on,where he plans to work on everything from the cure to cancer to holograms(Daily Beast). He has personally sought out investors in order to help make his dreams a reality. His self reliance can be seen clearly based on how he has always done everything on his own. He worked his way to stardom on his own and continues to keep his own hands in his work. Though he did have help now and then he always created his own personal works with his own hands.
Finally, one of the strongest qualities of all, Kanye West wholeheartedly expresses a huge amount of nonconformity. West has always stuck out in the mainstream. Early on his music was different from the rest of the rap community. Some of his songs were pure rap while others had funk or soul thrown in. Then as he progressed he stuck out more with his outrageous outbursts and his free-thinking ideals. Into modern times he has his clothing line which is different if anything. He is not afraid to say anything despite what it may mean for his reputation. For example in his song I Feel Like That he goes over how he feels immense pressure and is overwhelmed. He once cancelled and entire show and refunded all of the watchers because he felt that he could not perform at his peak. This is very different from most celebrities who always try to seem like they are the pinnacle of what a human can be. He has also changed up his music distinctly over the years even going as far as to make songs with soul or funk themes. He did this while the rest of the rap industry evolved completely differently. Kanye West’s difference from others in his community combined with his outbursts and distinct musical sound all make Kanye West a compelling nonconformist.
Kanye West is transcendental. He shows this through both his music and his public appearances. He shows off his incredible nonconformity, his high arrogance and self confidence his ability to survive on his own, and his free thinking nature. You can even see parallels between him and the past transcendentalist. He and Thoreau were both outspoken in life, Thoreau did things like not pay taxes to support a war he was against and Kanye West had crazy acts like stopping in the middle of the VMAs. They both shut themselves away, Thoreau in the woods and Kanye deleting his twitter and doing fewer live appearances. They both wrote beautiful works with words, Thoreau in his essays and Kanye is his raps. So next time you hear someone call out Kanye West for his outlandish behaviour remember, he takes inspiration from some American classics.
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