Is Kanye West Taking a Page Out of the Donald Trump Playbook?
Trump Photo by Mikel Galicia
Kanye West is too big to fail. Sure, he'll be the butt of jokes for anyone looking for low-hanging fruit as long as he has access to his Twitter account and he may pile up some truly impressive debt, but he's not going to fail. The release of The Life of Pablo might be an ongoing disaster, but he's not going to fail. There are simply too many people who love him for that.
Which can be mind-blowing if you're one of the folks that can't stand him. He is incredibly hateable if you have no interest in his music and don't find his outbursts either hilarious or charming. Truth be told, Kanye doesn't even feel like a real person sometimes: much in the way that no one would write a story about the biggest rapper and the biggest female R&B singer getting married, no one would dare script a story about the most hated man in music marrying the most hated woman in entertainment. Life doesn't work out that way, except that it does, because Kanye does him, even when that means marrying a Kardashian.
But while he might not fail, for the first time in a long time Kanye doesn't seem as powerful as he once did. Ever since his triumphant return post-The Taylor Swift Incident, it's seemed like he could do no wrong, even when it would seem like maybe he was trying to. At times it's felt like Kanye was trying to figure out if there was a line to how outlandish he could be, and that's only escalated recently.
But why would Kanye would be doing these problematic things – tweeting about Bill Cosby's innocence, the gross/weird stuff about Taylor Swift, putting Chris Brown on his album but cutting Sia – now, as he tries to launch a record, a fashion line and save Tidal?
Donald Trump had a great 2015 and could very well be on his way to having a great 2016. And he had that great year because he was willing to do what no other candidate in the upcoming Presidential election has been willing to do: say the outlandish, problematic, impossible things that many Americans think. And every time you think that he's crossed the uncrossable and will surely drop out of the race, he just gets more powerful. Did you ever imagine a Republican in our lifetime leading in the polls while also flirting with the 9/11 Truther movement?
What a lot of people forget about Donald Trump is that he literally has nothing to lose running for President. Has the campaign cost him money? Sure, but any personal money he puts into staying in the race is an investment in the future riches that are sure to come his way. Even if he doesn't end up as President – and there's probably a very good argument to be made that becoming President is actually the last thing he wants – he's going to walk away with a brand that is stronger and ability to command way more money for pretty much anything he wants to do.
And if you're the guy who wants to be the next Walt Disney or Steve Jobs, the Donald Trump Experiment must make you salivate.
A man who lives for the spotlight, in the spotlight.
Kanye West dreams big. When all is said and done, he doesn't want to be known as a great rapper, he wants to be known as a great human. He's no longer competing with the 50 Cents and Drakes of the world; he's trying to be the next Walt Disney or Steve Jobs. While putting out good music seems to be effortless for him – even Pablo, flawed as it may be, has moments of brilliance – he wants more than just a body of great music. But becoming more than just a musician isn't easy. And it isn't cheap.
And these problematic things he's done, they've gotten him attention. You can't get on Twitter without seeing something about Kanye West, like it or not. Kanye knows this. He knows everyone is waiting for his next Twitter burst. This is likely exactly where he wants to be.
Whether he can capitalize on the attention remains to be seen. Donald Trump likely never wanted to be President and likely stumbled upon his formula for success. And had it not worked out, had he gotten shut out of the debates or given up the ghost after Iowa, he was going to be okay. Not only is he too big to fail, but the race for President doesn't mean anything to him. But Kanye cares...about his art, about his name, about his legacy. He's too big to fail as an artist, but all that other stuff he cares about, yeah, he can easily fail that. And while being outlandish may work for old white guys, you have to wonder who is lining up to give money to the guy who tweets that Bill Cosby is innocent.
The funny thing is that there was a person in his life that Kanye might have been better off learning from: his equal and opposite, Taylor Swift.
Sure, Swift doesn't have the freedom to say outlandish things the way that Trump does, but she has something arguably just as important: When she speaks, people think – right or wrong – that her opinion has value. Sure, she's done that by picking her spots when it comes to talking about things deemed controversial, but people always pay attention.
True, it would have been more gratifying if she had actually said Kanye's name at the Grammys, but she also didn't have to; everyone filled in the blank spaces for her. Maybe that type of speech isn't enough for Kanye. Maybe being outlandish just suits him better. That Kanye is going to continue to be Kanye is the only thing that is certain.
But it's worth noting that Taylor Swift doesn't have $53 million in debt.
And it's also worth noting that Donald Trump has declared bankruptcy multiple times.
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