Kanye West gets an epic profile in 'The Atlantic'

April 25, 2012

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In the May issue of The Atlantic David Samuels profiles Kanye West in an article headlined "American Mozart." After recounting his PR fiascos related to Hurricane Katrina and Taylor Swift, Samuels begins to arrive at West's artistic persona:

"So it is worth noting, then, that while Kanye West is a next-level producer and rapper, a high-impact tweeter, a public consumer of chicken fettuccine, and whatever else he might be, he is also something different from a political leader or celebrity pitchman. Kanye’s emotional landscape may be troubled, but it is also a unified whole, which is the mark of any great artist. He is a petulant, adolescent, blanked-out, pained emotional mess who toggles between songs about walking with Jesus and songs about luxury brands and porn stars. Raised by his college-professor mother in Chicago, and spending summers in Atlanta with his father, a former Black Panther turned newspaper photographer turned Christian marriage counselor, Kanye united hard-core rap and the more self-aware and sophisticated inward style that had evolved in the early 1990s."

Samuels draws distinctions between West and his "Big Brother" Jay-Z's more controlled, success-oriented persona. The two have had a mutual attraction and competition for years, ever since West produced Jay-Z's hit single "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)." Their recent collaboration, Watch The Throne, is the climax of Samuels' piece. He followed their tour and gleaned insight into the differences in their approach.

On Wednesday's Afternoon Shift we talk with David Samuels about Kanye West's place in the cultural landscape.