Another day, another Kanye West tweetstorm.
The rapper has been more vocal on Twitter lately than he has been in ages, surrounding the release of his long-awaited album The Life of Pablo — which dropped on Tidal on Saturday after he performed on Saturday Night Live — as well as the debut of his Yeezy season three fashion line. He's weighed in on topics ranging from his relationships to Bill Cosby to the nature of art itself.
Over Presidents Day weekend, West let loose a rapid-fire sequence of raw, unfiltered, and even vulnerable messages. He asked Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to back him financially and explained why he needs more money to make art, even though he's very rich. He talked about how being great doesn't — and maybe shouldn't— go hand in hand with being liked. He declared that "white publications" just can't understand black music. He discussed how he wants to — and knows he can — change the world.
And, yes, there was some moderate to heavy self-ego stroking:
I am the Jordan and Steph Curry of music, meaning I'm the best of 2 generations.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
If — Zuckerberg aside — this all sounds pretty familiar ... well, it should. This is far from the first time West has gone off about what makes him great, or could make him great. We've heard variations on this song and dance before.
But like my colleague Todd VanDerWerff wrote after West announced that he wanted to run for president at the 2015 VMAs: "As with everything West does, there was a naked emotionality to the speech, a throbbing heart that the sloppiness seemed almost to exist to hide."
Either you're interested in West's unfiltered thoughts or you're not. But if you want a glimpse into how his mind works, this latest Twitter monologue is about as representative a stream of consciousness as you're going to get.
People wanted me to tweet again well here's some tweets!!!— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
So let's get into them.
Kanye says he's in a "time of need," and what he needs right now is money
First, he posted a series of tweets asking for money. Writing that he's $53 million in debt, he appealed to Zuckerberg by name and put out an open call to "hedge fund guys billionaires etc" to help fund his artistic dreams.
I write this to you my brothers while still 53 million dollars in personal debt... Please pray we overcome... This is my true heart...— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 14, 2016
Mark Zuckerberg invest 1 billion dollars into Kanye West ideas— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 14, 2016
West's pleas even took the form of subtweeting Silicon Valley:
All you dudes in San Fran play rap music in your homes but never help the real artists…— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
As J.E. Reich pointed out at Jezebel, the most likely explanation for West's enormous debt (assuming that what West wrote is true) is that his fashion endeavors haven't panned out quite like his music has, financially speaking. "He previously admitted that his Yeezy clothing line had scored him a $16 million loss," Reich wrote, "and as Consequence of Sound noted, his women’s clothing line put him $30 million back in 2014."
Whatever the reason, Kanye West publicly asking for money was surprising. But West knows it sounds strange, and the next day he asked his 18 million Twitter followers for patience and understanding:
I know I confuse you guys sometimes but please bare with me.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
West believes that since he's "the best," he has a responsibility to push his way toward greatness
At the heart of West asking for millions of dollars to achieve his artistic dreams is that West believes he deserves millions of dollars to achieve his artistic dreams. As much as his opinions have vacillated over the years, one thing's been consistent from the beginning: his unwavering, unconditional belief in himself.
West's outsize ego is a big part of him, and he knows you might think it's inflated. But he sees it not as ego run amok, but as having faith in himself — and if he can change the world, or art, then why shouldn't he do everything he can while he can?
This is all all is fun all in good feelings... We will all be gone 100 years from now but what did we do to help while we were here!!!— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 14, 2016
One of the most interesting parts of West's full-throated defense of himself is the way he challenges the idea that artists should limit themselves just because people say they should, or because they don't feel comfortable going after what they actually want.
I just feel rich people are always too cool to ask for help trying to impress each other at dinner parties.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
Here, he has a point. There's very little use in sitting around and waiting for someone to sponsor you. So really, his frank admission that people at every level of expertise and on every tier of success need help sometimes is pretty refreshing.
And even if asking for help draws criticism, West isn't too concerned. As he tweeted on Sunday, he would rather be "great" than liked:
All y'all so worried about being likable but only a few are concerned about being great!!!— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
Let's not get it twisted: Kanye's claims that he's strapped for cash read a little false when he, in the same conversation, admits to being able to buy his family "furs and houses." But he had a defense ready:
Yes I am personally rich and I can buy furs and houses for my family— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
but I need access to more money in order to bring more beautiful ideas to the world.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
If I spent my money on my ideas I could not afford to take care of my family. I am in a place that so many artist end up.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
Also for anyone that has money they know the first rule is to use other people's money.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
West claims that merely asking the Twitterverse to bring his plight to Zuckerberg sparked some interest from similar billionaires, but only time will tell if anything concrete comes out of this.
His claims that he couldn't "afford to take care of [his] family" when he can afford to buy them the aforementioned furs and houses — and is married to multimillionaire mogul Kim Kardashian — understandably raised eyebrows. But he ultimately responded with an explanation of why it's important to him to be successful — and, on a related note, why he believes "white publications" like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times can never truly understand or appreciate what his music and accomplishments mean.
To Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, New York Times, and any other white publication. Please do not comment on black music anymore.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
I love love love white people but you don't understand what it means to be the great grandson of ex slaves and make it this far.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
The system is designed for colored people to fail and one of our only voices is music. One of our only ways out is music.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
Don't tell me Lebron had a bad game. What yo jump shot look like???— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
Between Kanye's hyperbolic claims lie some startling moments of vulnerability
For all the quotable tweets in which West bragged about himself, the most interesting insights by a mile were those where he admitted he might not have everything all figured out — but that he's trying anyway.
This is a God dream— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
but if the self proclaimed cockiest person in the world can lay his personal business on the line then please people see my heart.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
No matter what level you're at in life there is still a struggle— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
and a balance art family perception friends family politics and the fucking manipulators— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
For as much as West believes in himself, he's always had a complicated relationship with his ego. Aside from these startling, frank tweets, there's maybe no better example of Kanye's conflicted feelings than his latest album.
TLOP is jam-packed with proclamations about himself — what it means to be him, what other people see when they look at him, what he wants to be. On the same album where he proclaims a song to be "a God dream," he tears into his own insecurities. "You ain't seen nothin' crazier than this n***a off his Lexapro," he spits in "FML," and in "Feedback," he snarls at us to "name one genius who ain't crazy."
But the best, most thorough example of what West thinks of West comes about halfway through the album, on a track he added after freestyling during TLOP's live debut at Madison Square Garden. The track, called "I Love Kanye" after a meme of the same name, encompasses just about everything West has ever said about himself, in less than a minute flat:
I miss the old Kanye, straight from the gold Kanye
Chop up the soul Kanye, set on his goals Kanye
I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye
The always rude Kanye, spaz in the news Kanye
I miss the sweet Kanye, chop up the beats Kanye
I gotta say at that time I'd like to meet Kanye
See I invented Kanye, it wasn't any Kanyes
And now I look and look around and it's so many Kanyes
I used to love Kanye, I used to love Kanye
I even had the pink polo, I thought I was Kanye
What if Kanye made a song about Kanye
Called "I Miss The Old Kanye," man that would be so Kanye
That's all it was Kanye, we still love Kanye
And I love you like Kanye loves Kanye.
And even as the track ends with West laughing, it's impossible to tell what he's thinking. But if Kanye West has been upfront about anything, it's that even if he isn't exactly where he wants to be, he will always take Kanye West seriously.