Whether he's mouthing off about George W. Bush or Taylor Swift, the rapper is rewarded for acting outrageously — in his public life and in his art. Now it's getting harder to tell the two apart. Especially with the Twitter. Esquire's Stephen March untangles the madness.
If you're in the mood to listen to Kanye West, and you very well might be, you didn't have to wait for his new album that drops next month to hear his new songs. All fall, every Friday, West has been releasing a new track on his Twitter feed, which is, in almost every possible way, the perfect outlet for his music: equal parts superficial and subversive, occasionally brilliant but mostly fun and forgettable. And the songs we've heard so far are good — witty, catchy, and, in a word, fresh — but they come at a time when Kanye matters less for his music than for the swirl of art and angst he has created around himself on Twitter over the past few years. Forget TMZ and reality TV and the other celebrity death scrums of 2010: Technology has carried Kanye all the way to the other side of fame, where there are no secrets to reveal and there is no reality to show.
As an artist, Kanye is immensely admirable. He doesn't always fare well, but he always fares forward. He's taken rap, a daringly self-centered art form, far beyond the standard ego promotion of bald hype. His last album, 808s & Heartbreak, took the shallow musical gimmickry of Auto-Tune, a program designed to eliminate individuality, and produced a hauntingly personal album. And since the early days of The College Dropout, he's resisted the silly thuggishness and tired rants that had long since failed to shock; while other rappers sell a fantasy of brute power through wealth and violence, Kanye sells the complexity of himself as he is, sometimes grand, sometimes pathetic, sometimes gracious, sometimes vicious, sometimes silly, sometimes profound. And he is nothing if not self-aware: "If I'm a douche, then put me in your coochie," he says in "Lord Lord Lord.
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