“Although I like Kanye,” Obama continues, with an easy smile. “He’s a Chicago guy. Smart. He’s very talented.” He is displaying his larger awareness of the question, looking relaxed, cerebral but friendly, alive to the moment, waiting for me to get to the heart of the matter.
“Even though you called him a jackass?,” I ask.
“He is a jackass,” Obama says, in his likable and perfectly balanced modern-professorial voice. “But he’s talented.”
I know that if you’re not a hip hop fan then you’re already scoffing at the comparison of Kanye and Wolfgang Amadeus – but that’s okay. When the young composer was thrilling audiences, both raucously ribald and royal, the purists and traditionalists were disgusted as well. But I keep coming back to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and finding new reasons to be in awe – it’s gotta be the best Hip Hop album in the last ten years and it’s easily the best album period of the twenty-teens decade so far (I dare you to challenge that). It’s on a par with Stevie Wonder’s work in the 70’s for sure in terms of pure creativity and pushing the art form further.
And of course, I’m not alone in thinking this way. This despite how unlikeable the man behind the music is and seems to want to be at all times.
David Samuels (The Atlantic) followed Kanye and his “big brother” Jay-Z on their Watch the Throne tour this past winter and has an amazingly in-depth look at the artist. The most fascinating insights come when Samuels juxtaposes the unpredictable, emotional West with his counterpart Jay-Z, a study in controlled image and fitted-cap-on-frontways-cool. Take the time to check this portrait out, it speaks volumes about the state of music and stardom – and fandom – in the new Age of Economic bifurcation.