Ask high-schoolers about Kanye West’s music and persona, and it’s not surprising that they won’t have any insights. Kanye is really interesting for people in my generation because we’ve followed the bizarre career trajectory of this person who’s become one most interesting people in pop music since 2004. To the high school class of 2015, Kanye is just some old egomaniac who hates Taylor Swift.
No matter what age you are, the trends you think are important have been over for years or have never existed at all in the heads of high-schoolers.
Since the release of his first album in 2004, Kanye West has been one of pop music’s most dynamic yet divisive figures; his artistic triumphs and commercial successes are matched only by his outsized ego and inability to self-censor. In 2010, the story was the same. He self-released solid new material to his 1.7 million Twitter followers and his new album garnered perfect reviews from influential critics, but he was also rebuked by George W. Bush in the former President’s memoir, and he botched an interview that he was professionally coached for on the Today Show…
Altogether, my students seemed almost totally unaware of the travails that Kanye West confronted in 2010. Does this mean they are more out of touch with celebrities than I thought? Less connected to social and entertainment media than most adults assume? Unable to see West’s tragic trajectory, which I found self-evident? Hardly. In fixating on the traits that led West to ignite the VMA spectacle of last year, my students pointed toward a truth about this particular artist: Kanye West’s audacity and egotism feed the flame of his artistry, but they also overwhelm and overshadow him. As such, the Kanye we saw in 2010 is the same Kanye we’ve known every year since he became a star.