It seems as though for the past two years things have been going against the grain for Kanye West, both personally and professionally. Albeit he's still been able to sell records and rock a mic, maybe 2010 will prove that a rest is best for Mr. West?!
During the summer of 2007, anyone could have easily argued that the stars were all aligned for West, his single "Stronger" was #1 with a bullet and he was single-handedly taking rap music to the next level with his album Graduation (released on September 11th of that year). The album's release was surrounded by a much-hyped competition between he and 50 Cent, on who would sell the most records, as both of their albums would be released the same day; unfortunately for 50, West came out on top, selling more than 400,000 units in the first week.
But just two months after the glitz and glam of West's newfound fame and success, tragedy struck too close to home. On November 10, 2007, msnbc.com reported that West's mother, Dr. Donda West (former chairwoman of Chicago State University's English department), had died at the age of 58, at the Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center in Marina del Rey. After having to bury his mother, West did not take a break from his music career -as most would have expected and allowed time for- he instead continued recording and touring his album; emotions caught up with him as fans witnessed a teary-eyed West at a Paris concert that year. Seemingly, West did have a shoulder to cry on, as he was waist-deep into an ongoing relationship with then fiancée, Alexis Phifer. Phifer was apparently in West's corner during the loss, but constant rumors alluded to the fact that the two were headed for a breakup.
As West graced the cover of GQ in December of '07, he was questioned on a number of topics and in regards to Phifer, he was quoted as saying, "I’m just going to go and get married. I’m not going to make a big deal out of it. It’s not to prove anything to anyone — it’s for me, for stability in my life, and I’m so happy that I found someone that I really love, that challenges me, that keeps my life interesting, that’s just as crazy as I am.”
But the engagement was called off as the two parted ways in April 2008. Phifer told People Magazine, "It's always sad when things like this end, and we remain friends. I wish him the best in his future and all of his endeavors. He's one of the most talented people I've ever met," she said.
With the release of his fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak (released on November 24, 2008), West presumably devoted the song "Heartless" to Phifer, aiming the lyrics at her secretly deceptive ways, asking, "How could you be so Dr. Evil?"
But in parallel to West's broken relationship, the album's content had no outright mention of his mother or of him speaking further on her death, instead a beautiful portrait (photographed by Danny Clinch), was included in the album's booklet, depicting West kissing his mother on the cheek. *LOVELY*
As 2008 closed out, West was apparently in the clear with another hit album, no social disruptions (aka Kanyeisms), and no public outbursts, but in February of 2009, reports circulated that West had started dating a female adult performer-cum-model that went by the name of Amber Rose; the two were subsequently spotted globe trotting during the seasonal fashion weeks of New York and Paris.
The Fall of 2009 seemingly saw the worst for West. On September 13th, at the MTV Video Music Awards, it appeared as though the icing was put on the cake, when West acted out -probably- one of the most random and revelatory stunts in music history.
Unexpectedly appearing onstage during Taylor Swift's acceptance of the VMA for Best Female Video, West first acknowledged Swift's win, but he then took the microphone from her and proceeded to tell the audience that Beyoncé Knowles deserved the award instead, exclaiming that Knowles had "one of the best videos of all time!" The incident was jaw-dropping to say the least, and the act topped several of 2009's lists of most interesting music moments. However, West did apologize for his behavior -via his blog, that same evening- and Swift (along with her mother), accepted his apology.
Moreover, there's much to be said about the steady decline of public adoration towards West, as he is undoubtedly one of the few, remaining harbingers of innovative music and cultural relevance. He became sort of a pseudo-hero in 2005, for blasting George W. Bush's lack of response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, on national TV.
And as he so eloquently rhymed on one of the year's best club bangers, West is still -to many fans- "the ish." His impression upon popular culture is very apparent (note Swift's sudden upswing in popularity since her brush with West), and according to wikipedia.org, he has even influenced Rock band U2. They've asserted that West's Graduation tour had an impact on their own music, and apparently West's lyricism inspired the band's front man (Bono), to utilize more 'percussive consonants' for his songwriting and vocal performance. Even the maestro of hip-hop, Sean P. Diddy Combs -himself- crafted a video blog praising West's prodigious talent.
Interesting enough, although a vast majority of media outlets have begun to bash and dis West's relevance, he still manages to come out on top. For the 2010 Grammy Awards, West is nominated a record six times, not off the strength of his own album (as "Amazing" was the only song from the album to receive a nomination), but mostly for him being a collaborator. It's no surprise that 808s may have been snubbed due to the abovementioned controversy, but West proves himself unmatched with his 5 other nominations:
Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group (2)
Amazing- Kanye West & Young Jeezy
Make Her Say- Kid Cudi, Kanye West & Common
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration(3)
Ego- Beyoncé & Kanye West
Knock You Down- Keri Hilson, Kanye West & Ne-Yo
Run This Town- Jay-Z, Rihanna & Kanye West
Best Rap Song (1)
Run This Town- Shawn Carter, R. Fenty, M. Riddick, Kanye West & E. Wilson
Not skipping a beat, it appears as though West has moved forward with business as usual, and according to a twitter.com account registered under @kanye_info, West is reported to be the new spokesmodel for A Bathing Ape and its 2010 Spring/Summer collection.
During the holiday season, West and Rose were spotted helping out at the Los Angeles Mission the day after Christmas, and the New York Daily News quotes West as saying, “It’s just important to [give back] when you’re blessed. It’s nice to spread your blessings and take time out.”
Passionate words from a passionate young man and maybe 2010 will see West doing just what he says, taking a -much deserved- time out.
Either way, STYLE 101: will be here to support him :)
www.kanyeuniversecity.com/blog, www.google.com, www.gq.com, www.twitter.com/kanye_info, www.youtube.com, www.youtube.com/ladyextazy, www.wikipedia.org, www.msnbc.com