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