Kanye keep it up? Is the mu­sic and fash­ion mogul spread­ing him­self too thin?

Jug­gling var­i­ous du­ties as la­bel boss, fash­ion maven and hus­band to Kim Kar­dashian, is Kanye West now in dan­ger of be­ing fa­mous sim­ply for be­ing fa­mous, rather than for be­ing a leg­end of hip-hop’s? Jim Car­roll in­ves­ti­gates

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

H e’s at it again. This week In­sta­gram was the fo­cus of Kanye West’s con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion. Speak­ing at a con­fer­ence in Cannes, West talked about how he’d like to redo the pop­u­lar photo-shar­ing app. This spot of web de­sign could be slot­ted in be­tween West’s other com­mit­ments as a pro­ducer, record la­bel boss, film di­rec­tor, fash­ion dude and en­tre­pre­neur. Oh, did we men­tion the pop­star part of the CV?

There’s noth­ing at all wrong with such avid mul­ti­task­ing. We’re all mul­ti­taskers and port­fo­lio ca­reer work­ers to some ex­tent. How­ever, West takes this to an­other level en­tirely. So much so that the mu­sic has be­gan to play sec­ond fid­dle in many in­stances to West the brand.

But the mu­sic is still, at the time of writ­ing at least, well worth shout­ing about. Most acts who are seven al­bums into their ca­reer have a few duf­fers in the bag al­ready. Not West. Ev­ery al­bum has pro­duced nuggets. There are mo­ments to love even in 808s and Heart­break (2008), an al­bum of down­beat blues cre­ated with the sparse clat­ter of a Roland 808 drum ma­chine and Auto-Tune vo­cal-pitch tool.

West has al­ways been ahead of the curve when it comes to flex­ing his cre­ative gene, from such re­leases as his au­da­cious Col­lege Dropout de­but, Watch the Throne and the head-spin­ning My Beau­ti­ful Dark Twisted Fan­tasy, as well as tour col­lab­o­ra­tions with Jay-Z, the man who ini­tially brought West into rap’s big league as the Blue­print al­bum pro­ducer.

And he’s never been shy about telling you about his prow­ess. He was like this back in 2004, when Dropout dropped and he came to Dublin to play two shows (one at the old Point and one at Vicar Street) in one night.

When West talked to The Ticket 10 year ago, he was al­ready ex­hibit­ing signs of the cre­ative grand­stand­ing and oc­ca­sional fits of pique to come. He ranted about get­ting fired from The Gap for rap­ping to cus­tomers, mod­estly judged his de­but al­bum to be “one of hip-hop’s great­est works”, de­tailed the amount of work he did to get Je­sus Walks sound­ing just right, and won­dered if mag­a­zines that put him on the cover should give him a cut of the rev­enue.

A decade on and, well, noth­ing has re­ally changed all that much. He’s still got a mighty gob on him. But au­di­ences have grown and are still in­creas­ing.

There was al­ways a dove­tail be­tween West and celebrity – he emerged at a time when celebrity and cul­ture con­verged like never be­fore. Me­dia cov­er­age of his petu­lant be­hav­iour and nar­cis­sism had al­ready turned him into one of pop cul­ture’s more ubiq­ui­tous fig­ure­heads. But his re­la­tion­ship with and re­cent mar­riage to Kim Kar­dashian has am­pli­fied this off the charts.

You can gauge West’s new­found level of fame by the fact that the new­ly­weds made global head­lines when they turned up in a cin­ema in Port­laoise on a wet week­night dur­ing their Ir­ish hon­ey­moon. People who know noth­ing about Kanye West’s place in the hip-hop pan­theon sure know his name and face now.

It will be fas­ci­nat­ing to see if this of­ten lu­di­crously over-the-top cov­er­age will have any ef­fect on his ac­tual mu­sic. Last year’s Yeezus con­tained a bit of bleat­ing, whing- ing, whin­ing and grump­ing from West about his life in the fast lane. All of this came, it must be said, in be­tween pul­sat­ing, ar­rest­ing, noisy and vivid sonic-whip­pery and cracking lines, such as: “Hurry up with my damn crois­sants”.

Such solip­sism is part of a dis­con­nect be­tween re­al­ity and per­cep­tion which many big suc­cesses face. You see it with the get­rich-quick, suc­cess­ful would-be gang­sters as they try to fig­ure out how to show they’re still street-smart when their big­gest dilemma is re­ally which of their lux­ury watches to wear.

Kanye West has never had to main­tain that sort of face, but will his lyri­cal con­cerns change now that his life has changed? One thing we can be sure of: his days of rap­ping for cus­tomers of The Gap as he folds shirts and jumpers are long gone.

Kanye West plays Dublin’s Mar­lay Park on July 2nd

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