How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

I Met a Father Named Kanye West

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Let me be honest at the beginning here and disclose two important things before you read on. Besides the fact that I am morphing into Andy Herald…

First, I have been working for 20th Television (Fox) for the past few months doing online strategy at the Kris Jenner Show, among others. These comments do not reflect the opinions of my employers. They are my own. I’ve been managing many different digital roles thrown together but I’m proud of the work I’ve done and paid the price in sleep deprivation. Pardon the incoherence in my writing. This is our final week of the show.

charlie-capen-kris-showI am Andy Herald’s weird, older brother.

Second, my familiarity with Kanye West is amateur at best. I know some of his music. I know a few of the headlines. But I’m not a reliable biographer. The most interesting detail to me about his life here and now is his role as a father. I’m mildly obsessed with understanding how a man’s life alters his ability to father, how his skills and self-belief mold his guardianship over his children. Today’s interview with Kanye on the Kris Jenner Show reveals a side not often seen in the media. It was surprising to watch being taped.

Sure, there was the hurricane Katrina fundraiser moment when he threw an opinion grenade as Mike Myers stood next to him wide-eyed and helpless in a moment of Canadian politeness. Kanye has compared himself to Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Anna Wintour, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, Walt Disney and Jesus. The man has simply never completely made sense to me. He is a study in contradictions and somewhat of an undefined variable. I don’t know everything he has said or done, but I can’t help seeing him in a new light. After meeting him, I am sort of riveted. Fascinated.

We shook hands in a very cordial moment and he politely made my acquaintance. Minutes later, I clicked the shutter on my camera as I watched him talk about being with Kim, how they met and fell in love, and what it was like to father a child for the first time. I kept asking myself if it was all real. There was no bombast. He seemed sincere. One moment that stuck out to me was his description of how he had changed due to North’s birth, “When my daughter was first born people asked me, ‘How do you feel? Is everything different?’ And it’s like, no. Not really. It takes time to understand. You’ve met a brand new person and the thing I think about as a dad is just protection. That’s my only goal is to protect my daughter.”

I think becoming a father changes you, and people who say it doesn’t aren’t looking at themselves or the world around them. It might not change you in ways you’re familiar with or can acknowledge, but the result is substantial. You can’t bring life into this world and not look at the world differently.

But Kanye’s admission about not feeling any different sort of underscores an observation I made from meeting him in person. I believe he is an introvert playing an extrovert’s game. He recognizes that some experiences need to be looked at and patiently understood. Though thoughtfulness isn’t usually found in the first paragraph in magazine articles, the layering of his music supports my claim and if you watch him speak in this interview today, you’ll see it. There isn’t a smile on his face because he’s processing things. He’s listening and churning inside. His mind lets him smile when he’s overcome with the impulse to do so, but not until his thinking is overwhelmed. If I could listen in on his inner monologue, I feel like it would be a sea of critical thinking about himself and the world.

“For me as a dad, I’m supposed to be this musical genius but I really can’t work the car seat that well.” -West on Fatherhood

I knew I would end up writing about him somehow, and that is perhaps Kanye’s most valuable asset to date. He provokes conversation and reaction, the worth and intent behind which are subject to great speculation. To say that Kanye is a polarizing figure is an understatement, but I’ve met a few artists in my time here in Los Angeles. Many of them provoke a response that makes the public look at themselves or the world around them. When I shook Kanye’s hand and listened to him speak candidly as a father, something shifted in the tumultuous atmosphere of my bias about him. I was very conflicted.

charlie-capen-krisMore proof of my fame. The back of my head as I pretend to take photos of someone actually famous.

The expression “celebrities are just like us” is trite but it has a kernel of validity. As we peer into the lives of people putting themselves on public display, our minds overcompensate to fill in the gaps with our fantasies and our nightmares creating a sense that we know and can judge the person completely. I still have no idea how to formulate my thoughts on Kanye. I imagine him as a person who considers himself a deity, not unlike Zeus, capable of producing children. But even Zeus had to come down off Mount Olympus to deal with his demanding kids. Trade lightning bolts for lyrical beats.

Some of the things Kanye said definitely stoked my imagination about being a dad. He talked about being the son of an artist and an english major, about striving for innovation and how the loss of his mother profoundly impacted him, “After I lost my mother, there were times I put my life at risk. I felt at times like I didn’t have something to live for. Now I have two really special people to live for. A whole family to live for. A whole world to live for.”

So, it’s no accident he has found himself part of a family with one of the most well-known matriarchs around today. Kanye’s mother was his manager, his momager. Kris Jenner has created a tight-knit gaggle, as she puts it, and a house that is always bustling with family.

The trouble with egocentric people is not their arrogance but their belief in their own imperviousness and devaluing of others. Today, Kanye reveals that he’s made mistakes. I wonder if pre-North Kanye West would’ve said, “The last thing I would want to happen to my daughter is some crazy, drunk black guy in a leather shirt to come up and cut her off at an awards show.”

Parenting is a humbling experience. Daily. I don’t have a daughter but I imagine it would bring me to my knees. My son challenges me and continues to demonstrate how vulnerable I am. While Kanye West still remains somewhat enigmatic to me, I can now see him as a father pushing a stroller down the block. I feel I understand him more. I don’t want to go to bat for him.

Whether we like it or not, fatherhood changes us all. Perhaps even Yeezuses.

Follow us on Facebook. Fatherhood changes you. And so does our Facebook page…

Instructional Diagram Vacation
Need a laugh? These could be why Kanye smiles so much. Who knows?


23 Responses to “I Met a Father Named Kanye West”

  1. I love the car seat segment (except for the fact that he keeps referring to himself as a genius). I can only imagine the pressure of caring so much about being a good dad and doing things “correctly” just because you love your child, exponentially multiplied by having people photograph and millions of people comment on everything you do as a new father. It’s hard to comprehend how someone wouldn’t be crushed completely flat by that. I’d be out there at 3am practicing too …

  2. Miranda says:

    What a thoughtful and well-written examination of not just fatherhood but parenthood in general. The act of becoming a parent DOES change us, in some ways instantly but in more ways over time.

    I really enjoyed this, Charlie.

  3. I have to admit to being really fascinated by this interview. We don’t often get to see a ‘human’ side to Kanye West – just a media caricature (and the infamous interruption of Taylor Swift). I admit that after seeing clips of this show, I want to know more about him as a father – he seems like an odd contradiction. A part of me wants to figure it out!

  4. cassie says:

    Did you mean to say “I want to go to bat for him” at the end??? I’m not a big fan of Kanye West, but I really appreciate your perspective and enjoyed reading this post!

  5. cassie says:

    Also – did he actually say “The last thing I would want to happen to my daughter is some crazy, drunk black guy in a leather shirt to come up and cut her off at an awards show” ?

  6. Parenting is a humbling experience. My daughter brings me to my knees at every turn. Great post Charlie.

  7. Angus says:

    Well written, Charlie. You captured not only Kanye’s humanity, but your own. Deep on both accounts sir. Nice work!

  8. Seeing anyone famous, or with a certain personality attached to them, being humbled by a child is always kind of a cool thing. It’s why I love the documentary “the other F word” about punk rock dads. Here are these guys who did lots of crazy stuff in their youth suddenly dealing with going to the park and making rules for their kids that 15 years ago would have told you to “F off”.

    • charlie says:

      Absolutely loved that documentary. For the same reasons you said, and I just like people breaking ridiculous conventions. Kanye talks about that concept a bit in the interview. Branding and categories, etc. They can hinder what’s possible.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Very Well written. I happened to see a clip of this show on “Extra.” What struck me the most was how different his eyes looked! Both my husband and I REALLY don’t like him, as in, every time he is on TV we flip the channel and go on a tirade how much we don’t like him,but we both had to agree we saw a changed guy sitting on that stage. The other thing I noticed though was his body language. He seemed uncomfortable with his arms crossed most of the time, but not really in a defensive way if that makes sense, kind of like the facade was gone. I would have to agree with what you said about him playing an extrovert.
    My daughter lives in London and works in the fashion world. She once had to run a errand to retrieve some patterns for the designer that she was working for, and when the elevator opened into the small studio, there sat Kanye. My daughter didn’t give him the time of day, and she said he seemed really annoyed with that. He was there to start his new clothing line. He made sure to comment that no one should know he was there. She said the arrogance was overwhelming!!!
    I also think having a daughter and not a son is a good thing for this guy!!!

  10. Laura says:

    Great post, Charlie. I liked that he mentioned struggling with a car seat with the camera in his face, people yelling knowing that 20 million people will see he can’t work a car seat. So glad I’m not in that situation when my kids are having meltdowns in Target.

  11. get smart says:

    seriously? that ****ing jerkoff pap deserved it. let’s be real. if someone hounded me like that, i’d have flung that camera across the room- particularly if i had kanye’s money and could just buy the guy a new one w/out caring. i also wouldn’t go anywhere without about three people deep of security detail to keep these ****ing schmucks out of my business. the guy just told you to stop talking to him, and you’re going to keep running after him and talking to him? yah, you’re hoping to get a snap on camera- and, you’re garbage tmz.

  12. Scary Mommy says:

    I can’t believe I actually want to watch a Kayne interview. Didn’t think that was possible!

  13. Selfish Mom says:

    Thank you for this. When I see people I think of as stupid (and let’s face it, he’s brought it on himself) having children, I automatically feel sorry for the children. It never occurred to me that the children could change them so significantly, which is making ME feel stupid.

  14. Scott and I had a great conversation over coffee this morning about all this. Neither of us are huge Kardashian or Kanye fans, but we also truly believe that everyone (even celebrities and reality stars) can change at any moment, and that parenthood is a great equalizer in this world. Leave behind the argument that, yes, Kim and Kanye likely have a great deal more (hired) help than most people, and many more resources to parent with. At the heart of it, they are still faced with a lot of the same emotions, concerns and conflicts parents all over the world are.

    This was a beautifully written post, Charlie.

  15. this is a great post, thankx for sharing – is good to see the other side of celebrities and especially when they have an epiphony or pause moment that seems to bring change – i guess we will see more clearly in the long run just how lasting or effective it is but there were some great observations here…

    speaking of parenting i am running a series on my blog dealing with raising Children as World Changers so looking for stories of parents who do life with their children in such a way as to see them grow and learn and hopefully live well – – have some really great stories so far with more on the way…

    keep on
    love brett fish

  16. christina says:

    well, I won’t watch the interview. Not because I want to believe my predisposed thoughts , but because I just don’t care enough. The fact that so many are amused at his car seat struggles only points out the fact that we as a society think he’s a super human.
    He’s a media whore. I believe the entire kim=ye dynasty is a very carefully crafted move by Kris Jenner.
    I very much respect your honest and careful sharing of this experience, I think you have an amazing job, but I can’t give the kardashian-wests anymore of my attention. They haven’t earned it.

  17. This is such a great post. We tend to only get one side to celebrities, and this is usually the side shown to us in the tabloids, which is far from reality.

  18. I’m surprised that he is concerned about these things. He comes off so cocky and perfect, as well as arrogant, you would think that if there were all kinds of articles and pictures about “Kanye doesn’t know how to work the carseat” he would just put it in a song and say I don’t care, and then make fun of other people who haven’t done it right or don’t even have kids. lol. But he seems to be very self-conscious. Agreed… introvert playing the extrovert’s game. Interesting.

  19. Kenny says:

    I don’t know anything about any of the people you mentioned or the lady for whom you’re working but you wrote an excellent piece that really humanized this singer.

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