About a year ago, rapper Kanye West was pretty much in hiding. In the years prior, the rapper had no shame in letting the public know how he felt about being snubbed at award shows or his friends being snubbed at award shows. But everything came to a head last year at MTV’s Video Music Awards when Taylor Swift beat out Beyonce for Best Female Video. When Swift went to accept her award, West jumped on stage, grabbed the mic and said, “I’m gonna let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!”
Kanye, on many occasions, had gotten away with outbursts of displeasure and was even lauded when he said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” on national television during a telethon for Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But interrupting and dissing a cute blond-haired, blue-eyed teenager when she’s getting rewarded? That’s a no-no.
Kanye was quickly condemned, chastised and chided by everyone from celebrities and bloggers to fans and soccer moms. Even President Obama got in on the action, calling Kanye a “jackass.” The days following the incident Kanye apologized on his website and appeared on The Jay Leno Show to apologize again. After that, he pretty much disappeared from the public eye.
For much of the first half of 2010, West was in Hawaii recording his new album hardly making an appearance anywhere for anyone. It wasn’t until the end of May when West would basically break his silence, when “Power,” the first single from his new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, leaked on to the internet. In the song, he addressed some of the things he’d been thinking about during those last eight months or so.
“Just needed time alone with my own thoughts,” he raps.
He couldn’t have come with a better song. It’s poignant and honest, and the music is anthem-like. The song was so good that people forgot what happened last fall. He had his comeback party, of sorts, at the BET Awards at the end of June, and everyone seemed to receive him with open arms. Good music, good movies, good art help people forgive and forget a person’s foulness from the past. Then to give it away for free?
Kanye has been giving away a song every Friday for the past 13 weeks. And these aren’t just throwaway songs. These are songs featuring such hip-hop stars as Jay-Z, Mos Def, Common, Lupe Fiasco, Rick Ross, Talib Kweli and others that won’t be on his album. How can you NOT forgive someone giving you great music for free?
Apparently Taylor Swift was still holding on to some of that emotion, however. Even though West personally apologized to her after the incident, at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards Swift preceded her performance with a clip from the infamous moment and sang a song pretty much chastising West. That would have been an appropriate time to interrupt her.
Instead, Kanye performed a new song, “Runaway,” with the chorus boasting, “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags, let's have a toast for the assholes,” where he basically seems to own up to his public image and if you don’t like it, well … you know where the door is.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, hits stores on Nov. 22. It’s a collection of pounding, head-nodding beats with candid, sincere and straightforward dialogue. He lays it all out on the table for everybody to pick apart. And it’s really no different than what West would say to Matt Lauer at a nationally televised fundraiser for a natural disaster or what he would put out there on Twitter. He has to be one of the most truthful recording artists of this past decade. One who, despite the consequences and ridicule, will give you what’s on his mind and heart without force or filter. And isn’t that what we all really want from our artists?