Asshole of the Month: Kanye West (Ye)
One thing history teaches us is that some of the greatest creative geniuses can also be flaming Assholes. The pioneering scientist Sir Isaac Newton was notorious for petty, vicious feuds with rivals, and even professed faith in alchemy. Picasso was a womanizer who used most of the women in his life like cheap doormats. Frank Sinatra was famous for violent temper tantrums. French painter Edgar Degas and German composer Richard Wagner were rabid anti-Semites. Which brings us to the rapper and entrepreneur formerly known as Kanye West, but now legally known as just Ye (we’ll stick to calling him Kanye for the most part, since much of this biopic occurred under that name), who recently added anti-Semitic rants to his long rap sheet of bizarre, shitty behavior.
There’s no doubt that Kanye is something of a musical genius. He’s been nominated for 75 Grammy Awards, won 24 and so is tied with Jay-Z for the most Grammy wins of any rapper. He’s sold over 160 million records worldwide, and Rolling Stone honored him as one of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time. His constant innovation is credited with transforming hip-hop from gangsta rap to a more mainstream sound. Erik Nielson, a professor specializing in hip-hop culture, summed it up like this: Kanye is a “mediocre rapper, but an extraordinary producer. He is willing and able to experiment in ways that many people either don’t or can’t,” with a “broad, eclectic range of sounds …that has opened up new possibilities for artists who came after him.” And most importantly: “He is talented enough that he has made the calculation that you can dislike him and you will still listen to his music.” In other words, he can act like a world-class dickhead, confident that he’s so good and otherwise cool that you’ll just ignore all the outrageous bullshit.
Exhibit A: his serial hijacking-the-mike, prima donna act at awards ceremonies. It started at the 2004 American Music Awards, where Kanye burst out of the auditorium after the Best New Artist award went to country singer Gretchen Wilson, later sobbing: “I felt like I was definitely robbed… I was the best new artist this year.” Two years later, at the MTV Europe Music Awards, he stormed the stage protesting that he should have won the Best Video award instead of Justice and Simian. The next year, at the MTV Video Music Awards, he played the race card, groaning that he wasn’t chosen over Britney Spears to open the show because “Maybe my skin’s not right.” In 2009, at the same awards show, he grabbed the mike from Taylor Swift as she was accepting the award for Best Female Video, blurting that Beyoncé’s nomination was “one of the best videos of all time,” implying that she should have won the award. For this, President Obama called him “a jackass.”