Split Decision: Kanye West, young man. Or not.

Categories: Commentary

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Kanye West is about as polarizing a figure as there is these days. The mere mention of his name inspires a variety of reactions, everything from exasperated eye rolls to passionate rants or equally passionate raves girded with an apologetic undertone for all of his often inexplicably brazen behavior. Discussing the impending release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy sparked a heated debate at Backbeat HQ last week, which made another installment of Split Decision seem only natural.

Love him or hate him, Kanye can't be ignored

Kanye West has the biggest mouth in the music business right now. He is often cited as the most annoying, egocentric entertainer currently making music. That said, there's nothing wrong with what he's doing. In the new world, where making money off music requires a certain, ahem, attitude, Kanye is doing what he needs to do to stay relevant and alive.

Being a loud mouth has consequences, of course. It's alienating. The problem is, Kanye's voice only echoes in a chamber filled with folks who are already fans. Nobody else is listening. If you've survived all of the Twitter rants, random retweets and self-aggrandizing, you're a fan. You would have unfollowed Kanye on Twitter long ago if he bothered you. Hell, you would have unfollowed him in real life. He's easy to ignore if you choose.

One interesting fact came up in a recent New York Times piece. Before going on the Today show, Kanye hired Rubenstein Communications to coach him and help him handle the questions that would be thrown at him. Clearly, even though he's well known for saying what's on his mind, he cares enough about his image to tread carefully in certain dealings -- at least when it comes to comments by a former president.

He knows he needs to handle and caress his image into a specific shape, and to do so, he needed a little help. Amazingly, Matt Lauer tried tossing some curveballs at him, and Mr. West certainly squirmed a bit, but he got through it. And canceled his subsequent appearance on the show. Regardless of what the folks think of him, his fans still adore him. People are still interested in him. (See universal raves for his new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.)

The problem with Kanye is that he's loud. It's rare anyone complains about anything except that. The thing is, he's been cocky since he first hit the scene, so if you're still stuck on the fact that he's a loud mouth, you're clearly obsessed with him. Everyone else in the country has learned to ignore or enjoy him.

If you ignore the persona, the self-righteousness, the loudmouth antics, you can appreciate what he does musically. It's not always easy, the media loves Kanye and talking about everything he does (see this post). But all you need to do is stop caring, listen to the music and enjoy. All Kanye wants is a little respect, a little love from his fans and a little hot-air to fill up his head. Is that too much to ask? -- Thorin Klosowski

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