By Ben Schacht
“You tried to play nice everybody just took advantage / You left your fridge open somebody just took a sandwich” is the worst set of lines Kanye West has ever rapped, but that’s okay. There are only a few select few people that could not only debut an album and the latest collection from their fashion line at Madison Square Garden, but also sell out the venue, and broadcast the event to theaters worldwide.
The event itself was extremely Kanye-esque; a great focus on presentation and attention to detail that was only to be derailed by the man himself. Mid-way through the second song of The Life of Pablo, “Father Stretch My Hands,” a tarp was pulled away from the stage ground of Madison Square Garden to reveal hundreds of models dressed in Kanye’s own designs. As the album was played through, cameras panned through various model shots, Kanye, and his entourage, including Pusha-T and Travis Scott, as well as the occasional influential figure in the crowd, such as Anna Wintour. Appearing happier than he has in a long time, Kanye would occasionally stop the music to articulate feelings of appreciation or spread inspiration to those listening. The execution of this event holds its own, but Kanye West’s mere ability to host such an ordeal is what impresses me the most.
Kanye has always had an affinity for clothing, stating that he would get in trouble in school for drawing Jordans rather than pay attention in class. Throughout his career he has worked on footwear with brands such as Bape, Louis Vuitton, and Nike. Since moving to Adidas for more creative freedom, he has managed to create his own aesthetic of muted tones, distressed garments, oversized fits, and military inspiration. He now has his sights set to be creative director of Hermès.
The Life of Pablo is sonically a new direction for West, as has been the case with every album since Late Registration. Kanye has consistently innovated his own sound, bringing seven great solo albums with at least two masterpieces in the midst of them. With his early career lying in producing for much bigger names in hip-hop, this is an amazing leap of accomplishment since the release of College Dropout in 2004. He was always clear that his passion went further than production, and he wished to release his own albums. Roc-A-Fella and Def Jam funded Kanye’s recordings up to The Life of Pablo, which had its sessions primarily funded by West’s own label, G.O.O.D. MUSIC.
Watching the Madison Square Garden event made me realize how far Kanye West has come in terms of music, fashion, and raw cultural influence. On the song Spaceship off of his debut album, College Dropout, he suggests he’s been locked away doing five beats a day for three summers; now, only twelve years later, he commands his own label. He expressed extreme displeasure over his creative freedoms with Nike, and has now shown three full collections in partnership with Adidas. He consistently innovates sonically and has a clear influence on the music of today; Young Thug and Future wouldn’t exist in their current incarnates if it was not for 808s & Heartbreak. Kanye West has always told us what great things he will bring and what he aspires to do, and I believe he has come through on so much of that, and he still has a lot more to bring to the table.