In “Champion”, Kanye West poses the self-referential question, “Did you realize that you are a champion in their eyes?”
By the final verse, West decisively answers the query: “Yes I did”.
West, often derided for his blinding hubris, certainly suffers (or benefits) from a case of acute bravado. However, West has cunningly co-opted this haughty bombast into his brand. With five platinum albums, fourteen Grammys, and a massive hip hop empire, West often flaunts his success in almost satirically extreme fashion (see tweet: “Just looking at my closet, wool suits, fedoras, trenches and furs…I’m bout to put fall in the hospital…Ima hurt the season”) (Kanye West Twitter).
With this strategic bombast, why is West so often critiqued as someone who consistently slips into a winning for the sake of winning ego trap? West descends into this Charlie Sheen-esque “Winning” ego trap when he shifts his attention to petty fights.
First, famously, at the VMAs, West leapt onto stage during Taylor Swift’s acceptance of the Best Female Video award. Bleeding credibility and career momentum, West seized the microphone and announced that Beyoncé deserved the prize instead. Soon after, West apologized in characteristic, bombastic West fashion:
“I’m in the wrong for going on stage…[but] Beyoncé’s video was the best of this decade!!!!” (Entertainment Weekly, 9/13/09).
Similarly, West was arrested twice in 2008 for clashing with paparazzi. In the first incident, West smashed a photographer’s camera in Los Angeles International Airport. Later in November, he was again arrested for scraping a paparazzo’s nose in a scuffle. He responded to these arrests with a blog post asking: “Who’s winning, me or the media” (Guardian, 11/17/08).
These incidents join similar situations where West has initiated fights with President Bush, Matt Lauer, and 50 Cent. While these fights may sustain West’s brand in some fashion, they ultimately detract from his sales and sink his hip-hop agenda. Therefore, while West can embrace a bombastic ego, he must avoid winning for the sake of winning if he wants to preserve his empire.