It was raised by radio presenter Sean Keaveny on BBC 6Music this morning that Kanye West’s recent manifesto/self-promotion essay/rant/ego-document on The American Dream for Paper Mag acts as yet more evidence that he is the music industry’s biggest clown to date. But on the flip-side, what if in 200 years or so people look back on Kanye as being this generation’s Mozart? What if in the future Kanye was regarded as highly (and in a similar fashion) to Mozart is regarded today?
Is this feasible?
There is not doubt in my mind that Kanye West has an almost preternatural understanding of the inner workings of the enormous PR machine that dictates a significant amount of mass media that we consume each day – and in this way, he is truly a master of his own destiny. His outlandish artistic projects are not ill advised because, like his bizarre interviews and full-on-punch-ups with the press, they keep the world obsessively talking about him.
But – what is it exactly that we talk about? Is it his music?
He is one of the only musicians whose prolific artistic output is matched only by his outpouring of praise he lavishes on himself through as many media outlets as possible – stating that he is a genius, stating that he’s Picasso and that he’s not a musician – he’s an innovator.
He’s the Steve Jobs of GAP.
He’s like Anna Wintour.
The difference between him and all of these notably successful people is .. these people often didn’t state just how incredible they were at what they did. They let their work do the talking. Kanye is a different kind of businessperson: he produces albums which generate enormous sales/sell-out tours along with high ratings from most publications (one of the few artists that does) and then self-promotes the hell out of it and himself at the same time which most other people would see as unnecessary work.
Rather cynically, perhaps Kanye understands that the real currency in the entertainment industry today is promotion and gossip. The longevity lies in the story of the artist, not his art.
Do you think that Kanye will be as revered in the future as Mozart? Or does he have a more limited shelf-life? Will his Instagrams line the walls of academics of future universities? Or will they crash and burn like the photo sharing platform inevitably will?