Will Kanye West and Twitter bury music mags for good?
Once in a while, an uncommon genius changes the world with a single good idea—conventions evolve, society advances. As we already know, Kanye West is the oracle of our age.
The lyrical poetry on his blog and Twitter draws people like the lamentations of Orpheus, attracting well over 800,000 followers. Those 140 character-long windows into the rapper’s life vibrate with personality and subtle dimensions of acute insight into an enigmatic character, destroying the requisite need for a conventional music-mag interview. Without conventional media as a filter, Kanye lays it all out on the table.
Until his mother’s death in 2007, Kanye West existed everywhere in print. His puggish face and venetian shades graced numerous magazine covers, because the man, the “genius,” simply loves to talk. But that all changed when his quotes began to run away from him, with popular media turning his outward persona into that of a jabbering, self-referential fool.
Kanye turned instead to his blog, which blends caps-locked diatribes with unexplained expositions of sweaters and nude models. For example, can we forget the expressive rant he uttered in 2008, regarding the Bonnaroo debacle?
It verges on the brink of drunk. Artists never outpour with so much candor to journalists they’ve known for an hour. Eschewing print interviews lets the musician reach fans without intermediaries that paraphrase and paint the subject in damaging light.
More than the blog, Twitter has streamed Kanye’s consciousness and let us in on the delicacies of what makes him tic as a stylish dude. He’s quick to inform what he’s purchased—from suits to persian rugs—and what passions keep him awake past dark: “Yall make all the hard work worth it…. We been up to 5 am every night working on everything Pusha, Rakwon, Mos, Swizz, Skateboard etc.”
As he redefines publicity over his Twitter account, journalists are left wondering if there’s any use in trying to snag the foppish rapper for an interview, because, are there even any private gems left to pilfer from Kanye’s brain?
One writer has already gone and stepped beyond this question, writing for Slate an all-access interview based solely on twitter updates. Music journalist Jonah Weiner explains:
“No, I don’t get to ask any questions, but I do get a constantly updating record of West’s thoughts, whereabouts, cravings, jokes, meals, flirtations, bon mots, and on and on. In the face of a mountainous info dump like West’s, isn’t the basic work of profiling—building from the raw material of everything someone says and does toward a more focused sense of who they are—as relevant as ever?”
We think so. In the clever concept story, Weiner provides a fictitious narrative of an encounter with Kanye that elucidates a world that was drawn up by none other than the subject himself. And, because all the facts are verifiable online, the cooked story oddly isn’t false testimony.
If more musicians let their own medium be the message, then perhaps the music magazine industry will receive its deathblow not from advertising dollars, but from enterprising artists using the internet to put it out to pasture.