The Tragic Fall of Kanye West
When Kanye West declares in one of his song lyrics, “I am a god”, what kind of God do you think he is suggesting he is? Is he, like, THE God, as in the monotheistic be-all, end-all Judeo-Christian sort of God, or does he posit himself as something more akin to a Greek god, just one of the pantheon of divine entities that dabble in the quaint but simple lives of mortals on Earth? Does he fancy himself infallible and omniscient, or does he recognize his own imperfections, acknowledging the foibles of his existence? You’re right- that last one was a stupid question. Of course he thinks he’s perfect.
Oh Kanye loves himself some Kanye, alright. In fact, the only thing he might love more than money is himself, and yes I am including Kim Kardashian and Beyonce in this equation. But now his pompous, untalented ass appears to be broke. In a remarkable moment of contrition, Kanye recently took to Twitter to announce that he is $53 million in debt after grossing over $70 million over the last three years alone. I guess it’s just not easy being a wealthy rapper these days, and this piece I am writing was set to convey sympathy for Kanye, casting him in the light of a tragic figure to be empathized with. Only one problem: as I went to do the research for the column, I was reminded of just what a first-rate asshole this guy really is.
When I used to teach tragedy to my students, be it the Greeks, Shakespeare, or Arthur Miller, we would refer back to Aristotle’s understandings of the tragic form in his seminal work, Poetics. From this, I told them that what defined tragedy was that we had a tragic hero, an otherwise good person, who suffered from a tragic flaw that brought about and, more importantly, justified his or her downfall from an elevated position. Often this flaw could be traced back to what the Greeks called “hubris”, an overinflated sense of self in which the mortal being put themselves on par with the gods, and heaven knows, they don’t like that shit. For that, the hero pays a dear price, and we, as the audience, sit back and learn a vital lesson from their suffering.
Certainly, Kanye fits the hubris part of the equation. His arrogance knows no bounds. He famously interrupted Taylor Swift to bestow us with his enlightened opinion that Beyonce’s video was clearly better than hers, even though she was holding the trophy. Believing himself to be a self-proclaimed “creative genius”, he once suggested, “I am Warhol. I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh. Walt Disney. Nike. Google.” Shit, he wrote a song entitled, “I am a god”. I’m just surprised he put the “a” in front of god. Somewhere Oedipus is shaking his head, hands still covering his vacuous eye sockets, and muttering to himself, “Even I wasn’t that self-involved.”
The problem is that this douchebag was never likable to start with and rather than having a singular flaw, Kanye has more issues than a morning confessional on The View. His lyrics are horribly misogynistic, and his attitude towards women is deeply offensive. Having lead a lifestyle of excesses that included draping his children in furs and hiring an entire orchestra to propose to his wife, he now has the audacity to ask simple folks on the internet to make donations to his favorite charity: himself. He is notoriously rude to handlers and pretty everyone he comes in contact with. And if that were not enough, he has terrible taste in music. He trashed Beck for winning the Grammy over Beyonce even though he later admitted he had not even listened to Beck’s Morning Phase. Too bad, he would have heard the best album of the year if he had. Then, in his recent Twitter feud with Bob Ezrin and the Grammys, he suggested, “Has anybody ever heard of Bob Ezrin???” Yeah, we have, Kanye: he produced Pink Floyd’s The Wall, which will still be a celebrated album long after folks have forgotten about the crap you gave to us, so pipe down, jackass.
I might be more inclined to forgive Kanye of his numerous transgressions and absolute lack of remorse if he were nearly as talented as he believes himself to be. After all, I, like many in our modern, celebrity-apologizing culture have come to life by an asshole formula that goes something like this:
Douchebagness / (talent x charisma x vision)= Asshole tolerability
That said, you simply cannot convince me this guy is some sort of visionary when the lyrics from one of his bigger hits go something like this, “She take my money when I’m in need/Yea she’s a trifling friend indeed/Oh she’s a gold digger way over town/That digs on me.” If Frost once suggested that free verse poetry was like playing tennis without a net, Kanye is playing without a racquet.
And so, I am finding it hard to sit back and watch this tragic drama play out before me with any sense of catharsis as I can not bring myself to empathize with or even like its purported hero. But perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here nonetheless. Marry a big ass and be wary of the consequences. I just wish they had told that to Kim Kardashian before she married Kanye.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every TUESDAY and FRIDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com