Life on the Other Side of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll
I have no problem with North West. It would have been cooler to call her True West, Best of the
West or Dottie West, to be sure, but, ultimately her name doesn’t matter. North West will not be known as North. She’ll be called Neezy, which will be taken as a diminutive for Denise, which is what Lil North will probably change her name to as soon as she learns the term “emancipated minor.”
Many hip hip hop names begin with Young, Lil and Big, and many hip hop nicknames end in Eezy. There’s Young Buck and Yung LA, Lil Kim and Lil Scrappy, and Big Sean and Big Pun. Then there’s Weezy (Lil Wayne), Jeezy (Young Jeezy), and Chris Brown (Big Sleazy). This confuses me. The only Eezy I can consistently identify is Kanye, and the only time I called him Yeezy, everyone within earshot laughed at me. Including his mother.
Yes! I knew Ms. West, and even though he might not recognize me without a clipboard and a camera crew, I know Kanye. I love him, and my feelings haven’t been diminished by his association with Kim Kardashian. I learned a long time ago that loving Kanye means overlooking the company he keeps. If I hadn’t, I would have stopped listening to him in 2005, when he recorded “Heard ‘Em Say” with Adam Levine.
That said, I’m fine with his behavior. Kanye is exactly the person he presents himself to be. He may occasionally be a pinhead and a meanie, but he’s authentic, and amen to that.
I probably did a dozen shoots and a handful of parties with Kanye between 2005 and 2010, but I got to know him when we shot an Usher special over the course of three weeks on Usher’s “Yeah” tour, which Kanye opened. I mostly hung out with Ms. West and Ms. Patton, Usher’s manager/mother,* but it was during those three weeks on the road that my relationship with Kanye flourished. I passed him in the vast backstage hallways almost every night, and once I ran into him in catering.
I spent a lot of time with Kanye over the next five years. He was never anything but charming, respectful, and cool as fuck, and, while it was never easy to book him, once he was booked, he was all in. He did bust the seams of my vintage Gucci jacket by trying it on after I left it in his dressing room at a party, but I got over it the moment he hit the stage that night. He was brilliant, and it was too hot to be wearing a one-of-a-kind hand-stitched black label Gucci silk blazer anyway.
The Kanye backlash started with his first interviews, but it didn’t become an international movement until the
Taylor Swift//Beyonce incident at the VMAs. It was ludicrous and uncalled for, but it shouldn’t have raised the ire of general public, particularly since it happened at the MTV Awards, an event that hasn’t been relevant since 1942. I can pretty much guarantee that if Taylor had interrupted Britney when she accepted the Best Pop Video to say that Lady Gaga’s video was better, everyone would have been all like “Right on, Teezy!” and our President would definitely not have called her a jackass.
My point is this: Kanye’s music is bold and uncompromising. It’s fearless, innovative, euphoric, and, like all of the best music, it’s a dead-on representation of who he is. I can forgive Kanye his audacity — five out of his last six records are spectacular, and if that’s because he’s arrogant, it’s ok with me.
Truly extraordinary artists are often difficult, and that’s been true for a long time. Consider Mozart. who, not unlike Kanye, was once renowned more for his arrogance than for his art. And no: as much as I love him, I’m not comparing Kanye to Mozart. I don’t have to. Imma let Kanye do it himself.
*Jonetta and Donda were cooler than anyone else in the 100+ traveling crew, and once I accepted that I was at an age where I preferred mothers to sons, I had a blast.