FAME, FORTUNE and KANYE: Does becoming a celebrity change people?
Vivid memories of the old West
Watching this video of a 19-year old Kanye West spitting some major bars at the grand opening of Fast Beats back in ’96 (some of y’all were literal infants) reminds me of the old Kanye.
I remember when I was first introduced to the “college dropout” aka the Louis Vuitton Don in 2004, dressed in your finest Ralph Lauren polo, not Maison Martin Margiela and Givenchy.
There was something raw and innocent about this Kanye. Not to say that the transformation of Kanye West over the years from said college dropout to full on narcissist and “rap god” hasn’t been entertaining; it’s just tired. That being said, K. West’s talent has been completely overshadowed by his life choices and self-absorption. For Example: Once Kanye posed this question during one of his infamous all caps rants, concerned as to why haters were blocking his way – “WHY WON’T YOU LET ME BE GREAT?!” Apparently, we are getting in his way…
The Pursuit of “Greatness”
Amidst the chaotic struggle for fame, Mr. West may one day come to the deep realization that if he wants people to take him seriously, that hunger for the game and passion from 1996 has to reemerge.
His career has become about accolades (and making it very clear when he’s been “duped”), leather jogging pants, Vogue covers, Kardashians and PR stunts (hello Yeezus merch laced in confederate flags).
Not to say that expanding your horizons is bad, nor is having interests outside of music wrong – but sometimes it feels like fame strips away the very soul of an artist, leaving them to crave attention and notoriety by any means necessary.
The reality of fame and disillusionment
Something happens to celebrities when they reach the pinnacle of mega stardom. They get really freaking weird and start naming their children immediately regrettable names like Jermajesty, Mephis Eve and Apple. Or they head down the path of literal demise, consumed by drugs, sex, alcohol and arrogance. We’ve seen this happen to too many of our favorite artists and a high percentage of teen stars (think Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus).
Fame does funny things to people. It can make some feel invincible and others trapped in a strangle bubble of self-absorption –simply out of touch with reality and struck by amnesia, struggling to remember why they got in the game in the first place.
Being a public figure isn’t easy. They are automatically labeled a role model, with every move mapped by paparazzi. And you’re only as good as your last body of work, constantly being picked apart and scrutinized – held to the highest standard of human perfection. Because people will love you one day and leave you alone the next. We’re fickle like that.
Stardom and wealth can make or break people. And it’s sad to see some of the most talented lost in a sea of applause and flashing lights.
Checking our reflection in the mirror
Yet those of us a level or two below stardom are often no different. A little notoriety and suddenly our step is different and our shoulder more cold. We’re screaming, “No new friends” and giving folks that don’t fall in line the side eye.
Still, celebrity and fame and wealth don’t have to be curses. They can be the very tool and platform to reach new generations and actually help people. But in order for artists to do so, they’ll have to regain the same hunger for the game as they did the very first time they held a mic, not forgetting the past or losing their passion to notoriety.
More specifically, the Kanye West before fame, ego, and dolla dolla bills y’all, has been overshadowed, maybe even forgotten. And I wonder if I’ll ever see the old Kanye from 1996 again. Do people actually come back down to earth once they’ve reach the pinnacle of “success?” Can they?
I guess we’ll see. As Kanye so eloquently said in “Heard ‘Em Say”, “nothing is ever promised tomorrow or today.”