Kanye West is like that mysterious old guy that lives at the end of your street. He has a collection of plastic flamingos wearing Santa hats displayed proudly on his unkempt lawn and obsessively orders multiple Chia pets from HSN that show up on his doorstep, never to be brought inside or opened. He has some inexplicably weird pet that sits behind your car when you back out of the driveway, like a peacock maybe. In other words, he’s a human disaster, a train wreck you secretly enjoy watching unfold. In another, realer sense though, he’s also incredibly annoying. Sure, starting a pool with your neighbors to decide what insult he’ll scream at unwitting Girl Scouts who cross his path is pretty entertaining, but sometimes you roll by his house and wish that maybe he owned some slightly longer shorts for doing yard work in. Just like two or three inches below the inner thigh. Please. Children live here.
Fascinating yet infuriating—two adjectives which accurately describe every iteration of Kanye West’s insanity. Naming his daughter North. His continued feud with Taylor Swift. Announcing his bid for the presidency in an award show tirade about as coherent as that one stupid friend trying to express their political views on Syria when they’re not quite sure where Syria is. The point is, you can smell crazy on Kanye West, and that’s exactly why we’ll give him our money, our time, and our rapt attention.
The thing is, Kanye, like many other celebrities who have made a name for themselves simply by leading apparently ridiculous lives, has trolled us all. He has manipulated a great deal of us into caring (or steadfastly pretending not to care) about his antics, about his music, and about his merchandise. His Twitter feed is better than Netflix from an entertainment standpoint. Seriously, if you haven’t seen his call to Mark Zuckerberg for financial assistance and his flowchart for his massive start-up company, DONDA, you haven’t lived. I mean you have. It’s just really funny, is what I’m saying. Kanye is $53 million in debt and yet he’s still a celebrity not in spite of, but because of it—because we’re all sitting around, scratching our heads, wondering against our better judgement, what is he going to pull next?
Mark Zuckerberg invest 1 billion dollars into Kanye West ideas
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 14, 2016
Look at his clothing line, released to the tune of unanimous sticker shock at New York Fashion Week. The average price for a single article of clothing—a hole-ridden black sweater, for instance, or a sweatshirt with anime-length sleeves which hang alluringly limp a few inches off the floor like sad, droopy elephant trunks—runs anywhere from $800 to over $1500 dollars. Even the supposedly “low end” items can run up to $400. The simpler and more cost-effective solution would be to get yourself a loose fitting grey track suit from Target for $12.99, get drunk and take a pair of scissors to the pants, turning them into jagged, uneven cutoffs. The outerwear gets up into the high threes and beyond, but really, if you want to look simultaneously ostentatious and a touch homeless, there is no other clothing option for you. A Kanye creation is what you need, and pairs well with a stolen shopping cart and a lingering smell of old soup.
So yes, the entire clothing line is one extended practical joke set to posh music and ethnically ambiguous models, but the point is, people buy this crap. Photographers at New York Fashion Week photographed this crap. I’m sitting here in stained black sweatpants (Yeezy originals? You decide.) writing about this crap. Even when you’re not actively giving Kanye press coverage or subsidizing his materialized lunacy, you’re falling into the trap of his addictive craziness just by paying attention to the things he does. Is he disconnected from reality? Yes. Is he maybe possibly more than a little bit insane? More than likely. But does he have your attention? Admittedly, yes. Every time you stop on that BuzzFeed article or succumb to clickbait, you’re doing it. You’re using Purell and creating an insane super-germ. Lamborghini have mercy on our souls.
What many people ask is, is it all a persona? An act? A marketing tool based on performative insanity? If so, Kanye is really good at acting. But whether or not the crazy is genuine is sort of beside the point. Whether he is naturally insane and simply being very, very public about his particular affliction or whether it’s all a clever ruse and inside that alarmingly detached-from-reality exterior is a secret genius, we’ll never know. But we want to know, and we’ll keep coming back for it, regardless of the authenticity of his madness. And that’s how Kanye is trolling us all.