On Saturday (July 5) Kanye West played the second of his only London dates this year as part of Wireless Festival. Over two shows he played hits from across a glittering 10-year career to around 100,000 people collectively, and yet the majority of the coverage around the world has been about the fact he was also booed vigorously on both nights. On the first night (Friday) the jeers were infrequent and mainly coming from the back of the audience, on the second night they were far more widespread and began as soon as Kanye began his customary “rant” during ‘Runaway’.
When the boos began on Saturday night, almost as soon as Kanye began to talk about a paparazzi photographer he says targeted him the day his grandfather was going to die, it seemed that people were responding as much to the headlines they had read about the previous night’s performance as they were critiquing the content of his speech. Having seen the headlines, news reports and tweets they knew what was coming and made their disapproval known instantly.
Personally, I don’t mind the speeches. If nothing else, surely at this point they don’t come as a surprise. Check back over any live show from West over the past few years and you can catch him talking at length about the subjects on his mind that day – chiefly how people want to stop him being awesome. A Google search for “Kanye West rant” elicits 17.2m results.
Having spent about 40 minutes of this weekend listen to Kanye talk about everything from how he is like a cross animal (“They only talk about me when I’m angry. What does a blowfish when they’re angry? They go ‘Aaargh!”) to how he told Kim Kardashian he would marry her seven years ago, it is just another idiosyncratic part of the man’s psyche. Plus, as he argued on Saturday night, he’s actually a very timid person. “Most of y’all won’t believe this but I’m actually very shy in real life,” he said to thousands of people from behind an elaborate mask. “I work one year on 12 songs. If you’re really shy then what kind of song would you need to get on stage? You’d need a Kanye West song.”
Ranting Kanye and hip-hop genius Kanye are one and the same. The mind that created ‘New Slaves’ and ‘Black Skinhead’ also wants to talk at length about racism in the fashion industry and, ultimately, you have to accept one if you want the other. Like rap’s answer to Luis Suarez, if you’re willing to bask in the magnificent goals he scores you also have to acknowledge that sometimes he might also take a bite out of your shoulder.
The boos are perhaps inevitable. No fan really wants to hear a 10 minute speech about the problems with the fashion industry over songs like ‘Gold Digger’, ‘Monster’ or ‘Through The Wire’ (all of which were absent at Wireless) but it’s part and parcel of the Kanye West experience right now. The Zane Lowe interview from 2013 was amazing and this is an extension of that. West plays the Birmingham leg of Wireless on Sunday (July 6) and will surely repeat the trick once more. By all means boo him, indulge his self-centred tendencies, but don’t think there is a version of Kanye that exists without this behaviour.