In the last 20 years, there has been no entertainer more vocal than Kanye West. At award shows, nationwide telethons, in a range of interviews and on social media platforms like Twitter, Kanye has spared no opportunity to speak his truth and his emotions with regard to both his influence and career. Kanye West, the rapper and producer, has exceedingly developed a greater cultural influence since his career beginnings in the late '90s, which has carried him well into present day. Kanye's interviews have since been the target of many celebrity commentary panels, topics on radio shows as well as on the blogosphere, known for picking entertainers apart with pleasure. What might seem like emotional irrationality brings to light a greater expression of divided truth. Kanye West has long lived a love for fashion, designer labels and creative production. In his earlier career, West spoke of his days where layaway served as his means of rocking designer threads. Far from that era, Kanye ushered in a new age of fashion awareness for kids in every hood all across the world. Known first as the "Louis Vuitton Don," rocking an LV-monogrammed backpack in his earlier photo-shoots, Kanye began inking deals and getting into the business of fashion in early 2000. Between 2007 and 2009, Kanye worked with sportswear megabrand and Icon Nike to develop what we know as the Nike Air Yeezy. This process resulted in a 2009 release of one of two of the most impactful footwear designs in the history of footwear, and in the history of Nike. The same year that the Air Yeezy was released, it was also revealed that Kanye had teamed with French fashion powerhouse Louis Vuitton. Kanye affectionately named the designs within that collection after friends of his inner circle; Don, Jasper and Mr. Hudson. The collection retailed for $870 to $1,140, and sold out at Vuitton upon release. With his first notable foray into the luxury sector, Kanye proved himself as a viable and influential figure who suddenly began to move beyond the world of rap.
All focus seemed to be on footwear, as both his collaborations with Nike and Vuitton were inarguably successes. New York Magazine broke news by way of US Weekly, stating that West worked "all the time" in Gap's New York City offices, even reportedly staying as late as midnight to complete tasks. That same report also boasted that Kanye was offering internship services to luxury houses outside of his work with Vuitton, contacting Raf Simon. Reports were scattered months apart and Kanye continued to create music, become more of a media spectacle and a front row fixture in New York, Milan and Paris. In 2010, it was revealed that Kanye had interned for a six--month period at iconic Italian fashion house Fendi. After secret internships and meetings that went unpublicized, in 2011 Kanye West hit the ground running. Debuting a fashion collection on the runways of London Fashion week, critics and audiences spewed less than savory reviews. Some sneered at his translation of luxury, citing its void of functionality. West used leathers and fur in the spring and the hemlines seen on an all-star model cast were shorter than critics were comfortable with. Attending Kanye's runway debut were designers Silvia Fendi, Azzedine Alaia, Olivier Theyskens, Dean and Dan Caten, Jeremy Scott and the Olsen twins, all notable names of labels like Fendi, Alaia, DSQUARED2, and luxe label faves like The Row - by the Olsens. After two seasons - a spring/summer and a fall/winter collection - there was no more talk of Kanye West the fashion designer. Abruptly. No word on why; no meetings with buyers happened, according to reports. In fact, it was also said that design teams were rounded up in London at Central Saint Martin's, where eager talents seeking work, had put together the collection along with West and a few high profile consultants. No doubt, West's entrance into fashion was ambitious, but never lacking potential. While critics had their share of things to say, that's the way of fashion, and even big budget names and luxury rulers go through the mill. But why the abrupt end to a fashion career that had no shortage of press? Why forego any future plans when high-end fashion had long been his dream? All questions appeared to be answered following the release of Kanye's sixth studio album, Yeezus. Amidst a radio promo tour, to shed light on his new album's direction, and to also promote his Yeezus tour, Kanye seemed agitated. Reports of scuffles with paparazzi popped up like flashbulbs at a red carpet event, just about every week. Kanye's high profile relationship with socialite entrepreneur Kim Kardashian only added to the heat of his public persona, making him much more of a media fixture.
Kanye has never been a stranger to the world of hip-hop, and has had his share of mishaps or slipping of truth at inconvenient times in the public eye. Painted as a villain, is Kanye West really just some hip-hop asshole? Or, is he misunderstood by a media-obsessed culture that is too far behind the times to appreciate his genius? Interviews were scheduled back to back, and Kanye hit New York City's Power 105's Breakfast Club to be interviewed. Infamous for their grilling nature and tongue-in-cheek comments and questions, West seemed uncomfortable but managed to make it through the interview, addressing questions about his direction and hopes to become associated with marvel geniuses of imagination like Walt Disney and Steve Jobs. Following that interview, West went to be interviewed by hip-hop host personality Sway Calloway for his Sirius radio broadcast of "Sway in the Morning." Having known Kanye since before he was signed as a rapper, Sway was able to tap into a much more sensitive side of West that was encased in anger, frustration and misunderstandings that seemed lost in translation. In looking to raise the bar, Kanye West is simply a character of too much dimension. This dimension sees no plans to remain defined or confined to the world of hip-hop or occasional collaborations on sneakers. Kanye's rants hold weight, as he has spent several years and millions of dollars dedicating himself to the craft and understanding of high fashion, and bigger business. While a rant is one thing, many great artists are seen as tortured or misunderstood, and so is the case of Kanye West. Clashing with strong silent moments and other moments of frustration-induced outbursts, he has been and will always be a true example of artistic passion that was ahead of his time, whether audiences have recognized that or not. In believing his own potential, West revealed disappointment and non-support from the corporations he lent his name to, including Nike and Vuitton, which resulted in an even bigger deal with Adidas. Kanye's Adidas release is scheduled to hit retail stores in 2015. A rant? Possibly. Unfounded or unnecessary, I think not. Words by Jeremy Danté, founder/creator of JeremyDanté.com