The formation of the ANU Kanye West Appreciation Society (praise be to Yeezus) was dubious at best at the time of its birth. Following its successful launch party on Thursday 12 March, questions about its legitimacy are now at their most contentious. It’s easy to see that much of the hype has culminated into a fetish for coolness-by-association. For more purist fans though, the struggle has become how to positively represent to the uninitiated such a polarising figure, whose music is often overpowered by his presence in the public eye.
West’s emergence into mainstream hip-hop came at a time when hip-hop lyric artists frequented the realm of gang-affiliated and sexualised violence. In the marketplace of socially conscious music, Kanye had only his own experiences to offer – that of a middle-class African American struggling with the burdens of fame, self-awareness, and contemporary notions of the “good life”. To rap about materialism, the education system, and even Jesus was almost unheard of at the time, expanding the sphere of discourse within hip-hop to a degree where the majority could fruitfully join the musical conversation.
Sonically, West’s incessant sampling re-invigorated a palette that had been developed since hip-hop’s birth. Moving into meticulous instrumentation in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and experimentation in Yeezus, Kanye’s sound has in recent years become as volatile as his chameleon-like alteration of his image. Whilst other artists seek to solidify their aesthetic, Kanye aims towards constant revitalization, with a constant focus on futurism which keeps his music critically renowned. Even the infamous “Bound 2” music video, released to hostile reception, is now being studied in sociology classes.
Immersive video installations at Cannes Film Festival and his recent collaboration with Adidas have solidified Kanye’s position as a reckless creative with even more to give to the world. Hopefully one day his gaze will settle on the praiseworthy work of the ANU Kanye West Appreciation society, and he may decide that his presence is a present that we deserve.