Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy… I wanna give you a hug, my man.

Yeezus - Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings_web - cropped

Photo courtesy of Roc-A-Fella Records
and Def Jam Recordings

 

Kanye_West

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I’ve spent about a week with Yeezus, and I know you’re in a dark place. I know you’re worried you’ve traded your soul for riches. I’m a little worried myself. But I really hope you come out of this, bro. You’re headed for Kurt Cobain Land.

I remember back when you were just a kid from the Chi with a backpack. I remember when you made music ’cause you loved it. I remember when you weren’t dating someone that makes her living off of a vapid reality show. I remember when you first wrote “Jesus Walks” and inspired me to send up a few to J.C. myself.

But I can’t relate to you anymore, brother. I seriously doubt your credit card got denied last week. And I bet there was a time when asking your baby momma for “other bitches” wasn’t on your wish list.

No one dreams of a life like that when they’re a kid.

I know you didn’t either. But somewhere along the way, things done changed. It’s almost like you’re living your life Benjamin Button-style. Where’d that happy, young 20-something go that made me laugh my ass off with Kanye’s “The New Workout Plan“? The same one that was so grateful for what he had on “Last Call“? The one that brought joy and warmth to my depressed nights in college when I’d put on Late Registration or Graduation and just get lost in the warmth of soul?

I mean, look how fun this album cover was! Photo courtesy of Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings

I mean, look how fun this album cover was!
Photo courtesy of Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings

You had it. You were it. A producer I looked up to. The child of a Black Panther father, that’s where you got your fire, but you were also the child of an English professor mom that you obviously loved with all your heart.

You said in a recent New York Times article that she was your family. And God took her from you, you felt all alone.

I can’t imagine, man… I really do want to give you a hug and tell you it’s gonna be okay. You let us know how much it destroyed you on 808s & Heartbreak‘s “Coldest Winter.” And I felt your alienation on the last track, “Pinocchio Story.” You told a crowd of screaming fans, most audible the Ye-obsessed ladies in the crowd, “I turn on the TV/and see me/and see nothin’.”

Photo courtesy of Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings

Photo courtesy of Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings

I’d feel the same if my momma was taken from me. I’m not quite sure how I’d handle it in your position. Maybe I’d blast Taylor Swift at an award show. Maybe I’d mourn for a lost love in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy‘s “Blame Game.” Maybe I’d start dating a woman who didn’t come up like you did, through raw talent, but through a viral video of a talent of a different kind. One that doesn’t take your level of dedication, heart and realness.

You remind me of Twain after he lost his wife Olivia, after he lost his youngest daughter Susy. When he decided that no loving God could create the fly. When he decided to send Tom and Huck, not on an adventure in a cave, not down the Mississippi, but on a trip with Satan. And he’s one of my favorites too. But I felt for him there at the end. When everybody knows your name, but no one can understand your pain.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

So I can’t blame you, man. I get it. And I love the production on Yeezus. I can’t help but think how cool it is that Daft Punk helped you make those crazy, dark songs just a few months after Random Access Memories, a happy disco record. That another one of my heroes, Rick Rubin, responsible for MCA, Ad-Rock and Mike D helping me become who I am, grabbed the fragments of your craziness and helped you put it into a cohesive whole.

People get pissed that you compare yourself to Jesus, but I know you’ve been wearing that crown of thorns yourself for a while now. I couldn’t be where you’re at. I couldn’t handle it either. You two have more in common than most think. You both speak from the heart. And a whole lot of people want to nail you to the cross for it. But that’s always been my favorite thing about you and the Big Man. You were you. I think the main difference is that J.C. left this world with peace in his heart. I want that for you too, Ye. They might not know what they do, but you know what you gotta do.

I know J.C.’s looking down and laughing at you pissing off the Pharisees. But I know he’s worried about you too. Yeezus does sound like In Utero, and that’s what troubles me. Kurt only had 204 days left on this planet after he made that album. I hope you get some help brother. He had everything too. The lady, the daughter, the money, the fame, the critical acclaim… and he sounded about as troubled as you. If he’d been a hip-hop artist, I imagine In Utero probably would’ve sounded a lot like Yeezus. I want you to live past Christmas. You gotta be here for your baby girl. She needs you.

‘Cause comeon dude, it’s summertime! I want you to soundtrack the sunshine, not with grinding buzzsaws and garbage disposal-sounding tracks that require popping a couple ibuprofen to get through, but with happy, blissful anthems of hope. I need a whole album of “The Good Life” from you to fall in love to on these summer nights.

But maybe I’m just being selfish. Maybe you needed to work that shit out on record. And if so, if I’m just way offbase, I apologize. But you can’t blame me for sending up a few for you, brother. I see so much potential in you, my man. You used to be filled with such youth. You were the dude that had the balls to call out George Bush for his lackluster response to the Katrina disaster.

Obama thinks you’re a jackass. And I think you are sometimes too. And you think you are sometimes too. It’s cool. You got us all talking again. We’re all weighing in on you. From the bottom to the top. Some people love you, some people hate you. But everyone feels something about you. After all, hate isn’t the opposite of love, apathy is. And no one is apathetic about Kanye West. It seems everybody’s got an opinion on that one.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ye in the studio with an MPC 2000 XL, a MacBook Pro and a copy of Super Mario World.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Maybe you just need to go back to school. Maybe you just need to play some more Super Mario World with No I.D. in the studio. You’re the one that made that a dream for me. I’ll know I’ll have made it when I’m cutting up samples and laying down tracks in the lab while my girl and best friends play SNES. I can’t thank you enough for that. You gave me a dream. You taught me that if you believe in yourself enough, if you let the haters hate, disregard ‘em and keep taking steps toward that mountain in the distance, you can do anything in this world. Like Emerson taught us, God lives in us all. And that includes you, Yeezus. No one can ever take that away from you. You can’t even take that away from yourself.

But whatever you decide to do, you’ll be in my thoughts and prayers, Kanye. Love ya brother. Call me if you need to talk. I’ll be here. Anytime, day or night. We’ll talk “Late.”

One day we’ll both fly away. One day we’ll both touch the sky. I’ll give ya that hug, man. Here or the other side.

7 Responses to An open letter to Kanye West

  1. jungle diddy says:

    First comment! woo hoo! good writing tyler! i think we need to hang out for a night and then you need to write me a letter! good luck in everything and don’t hesitate to contact me if you ever come springfield way!

  2. David K says:

    I really like the letter.

    I do think you are being a bit selfish, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. As someone with no knowledge of you, but getting the feeling that you are an artist who was inspired by Mr. West among others, I ask you why are you an artist?

    THE reason I consider Mr. West to be one of the greatest artists on earth isn’t because he’s a great producer or a great rapper. It’s because EVERY SINGLE PIECE he has ever created uses both lyrics and sound to give me a glimpse into what he experienced during its creation. I know friends who have had their mother die. Talking to them about it offers little, if any, moving, all-encompassing perspective about their feelings/struggles/motivations in the purest sense. I have found more motivation from Mr. West than all of the successful entrepreneurs and executives that I have had the chance to meet and talk with. They are people who clearly have motivation that parallels Mr. West’s, but they are completely INCAPABLE of giving me the perspective he can.

    Mr. West doesn’t work through life outside the booth and try to retell the story like almost anyone who tries to give you or I advice. Those are the people who don’t have the courage to show you the work in progress that we all are (or should be). These albums aren’t the story of Mr. West finding himself as a strong motivated artist. They are auditory evidence of the actual moments that define Mr. West.

    So, as I said, I do think Mr. West “needs to work this shit out on record” I think that’s what he has always done, and I hope it’s what he always will. I absolutely loved your letter because I think you truly just wanted to share an opinion, and didn’t do so with an undertone of “I’m a paying fan, you owe me this or that.” Those fans disappoint me because I have to believe that when they listen to music, they do so believing that the artist owes them something for their $14.99…

    • Tyler McConnell says:

      David,

      God man… what an amazing comment! This is what we hope for in the office. Beyond our wildest dreams what you did here.

      I find myself completely agreeing with you. Half of me at least. I’m of two minds about it, ya know? I tried to express that other side in here some, and I think you caught it. “Working shit out on record,” my favorite artists always do that.

      In rock, Max Bemis of Say Anything’s best album was Is a Real Boy… The one he wrote when he was unbelievably messed up. The one that, in the middle of recording it, he had a mental breakdown from alcohol and drug abuse. The two didn’t mesh very well with bipolar disorder. But I’ll be damned if that wasn’t the best record he ever made.

      I’ve heard him lament that critics think that first record, the one he created when he was so troubled, is his best work to date. “The one I made when I was a miserable human being? That’s the one you guys like? That breaks my heart.”

      It breaks my heart too, but it’s also unequivocally true.

      I feel the same way about Ye. Although the beats of Yeezus are a little too metal-on-metal for my soul sample-craving ears (call me out of touch, I probably am), I really respect what he tried to do here.

      I love that he lets the real him out. That he has the courage to put that shit on wax. Whether he’s putting an Ikea bed together with his mom, or making babies with one of the most vapid women this world has ever seen (Although who am I kidding? It’s not like Kim’s particularly hard on the eyes. I’m just curious the last time she read a great book. I could totally be a judgmental idiot here. Maybe she’s secretly Natalie Portman upstairs. But for some reason, I doubt it).

      I love that he’s always himself. That takes ridiculous courage. I just hope he’s at peace, that’s all. If he is, disregard everything I wrote above.

      And the part about you finding him to be one of the most inspiring dudes you’ve ever come across? I’m totally there with you, Dave.

      “Five beats a day for three summers, I deserve to do these numbers.”

      You do Ye. I agree.

      And this might highlight just how much respect I have for the man. This is the computer I wrote this on.

      http://i.imgur.com/5JxLKgl.jpg

      Check out the pic on the bulletin board in the background. I don’t have anyone else up there. Just Ye. Dude’s been a hero to me. For a long time. I just want him to be okay. I don’t want him to feel like he needs to milk his insanity for my listening pleasure, like so many late artists have before him. No matter how good the music is. I want him to still have that fire in his eyes if we get the chance to meet somewhere down the line.

      • David K says:

        I really don’t know much outside of the world of rap and I can’t even say I know all of it because I turn a record off if I think it’s an act. Your example of Say Anything perfectly explains what I think can be found in real art. I’m disappointed that Max Bemis didn’t see his album’s success as support from fans who genuinely care for him, but may never have the pleasure of meeting him face to face.
        Yeezus has so successfully conveyed Ye’s pain and anger that both you and I wish for him the same peace that we would a close friend battling sadness and frustration.
        I think Ye knew and hoped the album would make his fans uncomfortable. I waited for almost a week to listen to the album because I wanted to be at home alone, in the dark and listen all the way through Yeezus. I literally had to turn the lights on. Those Ye soul-samples you and I and many others cherish help me drift off to pleasant dreams of buying my way to heaven, but Yeezus had me checking under the bed… And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I truly think Yeezus brings us closer to feeling the uncomfortable pain of fame and fortune than any celebrity ever has.
        I don’t think you are out of line for questioning Kim as a girlfriend and wife for such a great artist. We know plenty of famous women with amazing degrees, great senses of humor, and artistic talent. I don’t think Kim is one of them. But I think the same of Jessica simpson and I have heard she is actually smart with a knowledge of what sells. We can fairly say we know the depth of Kanye’s love for female beauty and Kim physically fits the bill. She is the next step in his journey to find love, a journey we have seen the ups and downs of. I think she will be one of the key factors deciding if Ye gets back to a place where soul samples express his feelings.
        (Am I the only one who thinks some Yeezus songs like Blood on the Leaves reference a girl that Ye still has feelings for that isn’t Kim?)
        I think his daughter will be the most important factor. We both know what role his parents played in shaping him. I believe Ye will put into his daughter’s life something that will make his passion for music look like a very casual hobby. I hope we are lucky enough to have some rub off in the booth. After kissing his daughter to bed and heading to the studio, knowing he only makes music that is what he feels, I think we’ll get our soul tracks back. In a way we’ve never ever seen from Ye… It won’t be the hungry Ye that motivates many, I think it will be a fatherly Ye who has found peace and wisdom in parenthood and hopefully love. That is if he can come to terms with his fame, something paparazzi and polarized public opinions won’t make easy…
        I feel like I’m rambling and I know I am no writer, but the art of Kanye West is very meaningful to me. I hope you are lucky enough to meet him one day. As a finance major, I will never give up hope that I can get across a meeting table from him and surprise him a respect unlike that he has seen from record labels, fashion companies, and big corporations.

  3. Nate G. says:

    Interesting article. I appreciated the analysis of his work and you’re interpretation of where he’s at.

    I can’t help but think that Kanye would lose his shit if he read this though. You say that you “get it” and that’s kind of the problem. You’re explaining what he created to himself. While anyone’s free to interpret things as they like, it’s pretty silly to think that you, or anyone that listens to his music, is going to help him understand himself any better. It’s placing him in a box and belittling his experience. It’s his life and no one’s going to be able to actually relate or understand. All of the “my man” and “brother” is patronizing. I really don’t think Kanye wants to give you, or anyone who thinks they know and understand him, any hugs. No disrespect about your piece. You clearly have a lot of respect and knowledge about Kanye and your concern is probably justified. I just think that we honestly don’t have any right to tell an artist like Kanye what he should do. He’s the one that’s putting it all out there for us. It’s tragic if it ends badly, but honestly a society that tells him who he is and what he needs is likely who he’s directing most of his angst towards.

    • David K says:

      I think thats silly. Why the hell would he spend his life and give up what he has to put out art for anyone who wants to listen if he doesnt want and feel a connection with them? You’re suggesting that its simply for his ego and that he wants to mix blood sweat and tears into our ears and he doesn’t give a fuck about us?

      By saying “we get it” we are paying him one of the biggest compliments an artist can get. I dont “get” ANY OF THE SHIT I hear on the radio. I don’t know what katie perry lady gaga bruno mars or any of those weak ass artists feel and experience. And those are the ones who probably dont really give a shit about fans.

      “we get it” as best we can with much more empathy than any other artists music allows. Does ANYONE feel bad for taylor swift after her 20000th heartbreak song? No. Do Hey Mama and Family Business put me in tears? Yes. this isn’t an ego contest about who figured Ye out. This is some fans saying you know what? Much of Kanye’s art gives me seconds of pure empathy for his joy and sadness unlike any artist has done for me.

      We’ve listened through the ups and downs of Ye’s career and life. It all comes down to this question —- Would Kanye West be where he is and who he is if, after tens of thousands of hours or work, there was no one on the other side of the sound? If he made all this music alone then tossed it into the darkness never to see or hear about it again, would it really serve as the foundation of development it has?

      I think we can agree the answer is no. Art is art, in many ways, because of the audience.

  4. Tyler McConnell says:

    So glad you liked it G, thanks for commenting!

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