How Kanye Can Find His Way Back

Kanye at the Saint Pablo Boston tour stop, September 9, 2016
Kanye at the Saint Pablo Boston tour stop, September 9, 2016

Kanye West is a desperate man. How else can one possibly explain his headline-grabbing antics, rants that go on forever but rarely yield anything of consequence, music videos that are dubbed art but are really just salacious for the sake of being salacious? Sure, Kanye, who plays Toyota Center on Tuesday as part of his Saint Pablo Tour, was always a bit of a wild card. Even his first few albums, while more traditional hip-hop releases, conveyed an artist who really didn’t fit into a particular box.

But the post-Graduation Kanye has operated under the shroud of experimental, groundbreaking music. In reality, Kanye’s last few records, while experimental, haven’t really been all that good. In fact, his latest The Life of Pablo, is perhaps his worst record to date. Couple that with his public outbursts, awards-show embarrassments, rambling soliloquies — and let’s not even get started on his marital choices — and you have an artist who has lost his way (in fact, the Houston Press recently detailed how Kanye did just that).

But how exactly can Kanye get back to what he once was? Here are five suggestions.

Kanye rose to prominence as a producer for such major acts as Jay-Z; he was a key figure behind Jigga’s 2001 opus, The Blueprint, arguably the best rap record of the past 15 years. So why not get Kanye back in the production booth and let him play to his strengths? Hell, let him produce an album for a hip-hop hitmaker like Drake or Schoolboy Q. And even if Kanye decides that he’s best behind the mike – this is incorrect; he’s a far better producer than lyricist, but still — perhaps something a bit more traditional is best. Kanye’s first three albums — The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation — were each unique in their own way, but were tied together by one common theme. In the end, they were each traditional hip-hop albums with traditional hip-hop songs. Newer tracks like “Famous,” “Fade” and “FourFiveSeconds” are somewhat distinct, but not particularly good. Instead, Kanye should focus on making another “Jesus Walks” or “Stronger,” more traditional hip-hop tracks that fit into the pop stratosphere but still managed to say something of real consequence.

Perhaps Kanye decides to ditch the public eye, discover a few new acts and perhaps break a new superstar (this is called the Dr. Dre Path to Success). Or maybe he decides to take the family to a secret locale for an extended vacation/sabbatical. Whatever course he decides to pursue, Kanye needs a little break from the public eye. He was once a beloved figure, but has since executed a heel turn to become among the most polarizing people in pop culture. The only issue is, his shtick has become a bit tiresome, which has led to indifference in certain circles. They can love you. They can hate you. But when they grow tired of you, it’s time to retreat and rebrand.

Kanye fancies himself a cultural pioneer. He wants to be Steve Jobs, Picasso, Tom Ford and Malcolm X, all rolled into one. The only issue is, he refuses to devote enough time to any particular issue — music, art, fashion, race relations, etc. — because he is too busy involving himself in all these issues. It doesn’t help that he goes on awards and talk shows and makes rambling statements that last for minutes on end but really don’t say anything at all. For instance, during one particularly famous rant on Ellen, he opined: : “I am an artist. I have a condition called synesthesia where I see sounds. I see them. Everything that I sonically make is a painting. I see it. I see the importance in the value of everyone being able to experience a more beautiful life.” Dude, what does that even mean?

Being humble and acting humble are two entirely different things. After all, anyone famous for being great at something got to such a point in part through a belief that they are the best at that particular something. Ego, contrary to popular opinion, is not always the enemy. J.J. Watt is the best defensive player in the most famous sports league in America. Leonardo DiCaprio and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are among our nation’s most beloved movie stars. Each of these gentlemen certainly has an ego, but in public, they convey an air of humility and appreciation for their fame and success. Kanye? Yeah, not so much. Simply put, Kanye needs to get back to the humble underdog that penned “Through the Wire” and spoke of his deep-rooted faith in “Jesus Walks.” Ditch the guy who has literally described himself as “God’s vessel.”

Man, the people won’t truly love you until you do. 

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