Dad Kanye isn’t new Kanye
Allie Tollaksen | Thursday, January 29, 2015
Kanye West is a genius.
That’s why the rapper/artist/mogul premiered his new music video for the song “Only One” on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” yesterday. The video, directed by Spike Jonze and co-starring daughter North West, is an adorable accompaniment to Kanye’s collaboration with Paul McCartney. What’s more, Kanye’s accompanying interview with Ellen showed the artist’s new style for 2015: fatherhood.
In order to get a better idea of why it was brilliant of Kanye to premiere his new video on daytime television, just look back on his appearance on the talk show last year.
When he premiered his music video for “Bound 2” on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” last year, the video was laughed off, parodied or rejected by the mainstream (and especially Ellen’s audience). But Kanye’s choice to debut the video on daytime television with one of America’s most beloved celebrities was by no means a mistake. Kanye knows Ellen’s audience, and the video appropriated the very American culture that tunes into the show every day, making it his own. The move represented the message of “Yeezus” as a whole: a commentary on race and culture in America, and Kanye wanted not just the attention of his fans, but of the whole country (I should note that I’m not the first person to make this claim. There has been plenty of online discussion about and analysis of the video, critics like Jerry Saltz and Ayesha Siddiqi have written about this at great length).
What’s most interesting about the interview, though, is that despite the video being mocked and dismissed, Kanye’s appearance on the show was still wildly successful. Unlike his appearance with Jimmy Kimmel, West expertly released the “Bound 2” video and embraced Ellen and all of her viewers’ reactions with open arms. Whether people “got it” or not, West walked away laughing with the audience (and maybe at them, too).
It makes sense then that Kanye would premiere his newest video with Ellen at his side. He knows, like last time, he can reach a far and wide audience with the help of his friend and host. This time, however, Kanye’s message was clear: he’s a family man. A lovable, charming family man.
The video opens on Kanye standing outside and alone, with a shooting style like that of amateur home footage (albeit beautiful amateur home footage). He is soon joined by daughter, North, as the pair walk hand-in-hand, intercut with shots of Kanye holding and singing to the two-year-old. It’s a beautiful video that accompanies an emotional song — Ellen explains that “Only One” is written in the voice of Kanye’s mother singing to him.
Along with sharing the video, Kanye opened up about his joys, fears and experiences as a new father. He says that being married and having a family has made him a “better human being” and gives the classic husband lines about compromise and doing whatever his wife, Kim Kardashian (West), wants.
It’s clear that while Kanye shares that he “hasn’t found the vibe” for his new album, his vibe is 100 percent dad. The video and interview introduces a new Kanye with a full-fledged family man image. I mean, the song is in collaboration with Paul McCartney — can you get more dad than him?
When I talk about Kanye’s new persona or image, however, I’m not suggesting he is being disingenuous by any means. There’s no reason to doubt that the experience of fatherhood has impacted the artist, or that he’s excited to share it. Kanye is a loving father and husband — and I love hearing about it — but I also think his appearance with Ellen is just as intelligently calculated as his last one was.
Kanye deliberately and perfectly introduces his image as a family man, but the best part of the interview is his response when Ellen follows up a question by describing Kanye as “calmer” and “less angry.” He half-agrees, but never apologizes for being angry in the first place. He responds, “There’s things I’ve done in the past that were considered negative, but I was really jumping in front of the tank for other people, or for culture, in a way. So now, I always have to have that in my mind that I have a family that I have to protect, too.”
Kanye’s rhetoric is perfect. He never backs down from anything he has said and instead redirects the conversation back to his family. He also directs the conversation to his collaboration with Adidas, opening up about being an artist and trying to gain acceptance and creative opportunities when the rest of the world thinks of him as only a rapper.
“My daughter, she wants to express herself but she just doesn’t have the words for it,” Kanye said. “For me, there’s so many things I want to do with film and clothing, and I just didn’t have the words or the resources or the backing or the perception that I could do it, being a rapper.”
This is the same message Kanye has delivered for years in interviews that were mocked and parodied by people like Kimmel. Now, squeezed in with his jokes about being a father and husband, this self-disclosure is just an easier, sugarcoated pill for his audience to swallow.
Again, I don’t think Kanye is being anything but honest in sharing his feelings about fatherhood. Kanye’s new video is representative of the person he is today: a dad, a husband and an artist. He’s also a mastermind — promoting his music and Adidas line on national daytime television with a smile. He artfully talks about his growth without ever saying sorry or dismissing the person he has been. Instead, he basically says to Ellen, “I’ve been here the whole time.”
It’s not that Kanye is a new man or a “calmer” man, or that he ever really needed to be — it’s just that he knows that now people are finally willing to listen.
Now that he is finally getting America’s ear, I can’t wait to hear what else he has to say.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
Contact Allie Tollaksen at [email protected]