Kanye West may be the most controversial artist in America right now. Between his proclamations of godhood and his interruptions at award shows, it’s easy to see why. I believe that West is actually just running the longest and most dedicated performance art experiment of all time—and I don’t know why nobody else sees it.
West has been obsessed with the idea of fame and wealth since his debut album The College Dropout dropped in 2004. As his status has escalated, so has his obsession. Everything he does is calculated to be an answer to the question, “What would the biggest rapper in the world do now?”
I don’t think anything West does is slapdash or thoughtless. Early controversies like the Taylor Swift fiasco set him on the ground as a fiery jerk. He reaffirmed his giant ego by calling himself a genius, and marrying Kim Kardashian was the jewel in the crown of his pop icon status.
What could establish a musician as an icon more than marrying the empress of empty fame? Back in the day, the biggest rock stars would marry models, but that isn’t enough anymore. In order to truly ascend to the realm of the ultra-famous, one has to marry into a powerful family. Reality stars are the new American royalty, and Kardashian is the queen.
West’s close-knit friendship with Jay Z and Beyoncé is also well-planned. The other most powerful rapper in the game today and his ultra-powerful wife––who is considered a queen in her own right––are the perfect allies for a man who has decided to be the most iconic in the world.
West has also been hinting at the idea of his carefully-constructed public face more in his live performance. On his Yeezus Tour, West almost never performed without a mask on and he would often do so inside of a glass pyramid, creating a level of detachment from his audience. This may mean that the identity of Yeezy represents yet another mask for West.
I think a lot of this stems from the loss of West’s mother, Donda. Every fan knows that West loved his mother very dearly, and her sudden death was absolutely devastating to him. What was more traumatic, however, was the idea that she would be forgotten—and one day, so would he.
So West set to work. He crafted his own superstar personality, calculating every move he would make––from shutting down America’s Sweetheart to marrying a plastic queen. The act worked: he’s now a universally-recognized icon. A lot of people think West is a jerk, but he might just be a genius after all.