Festivals

“Oh Kanye”: Is A Rapper Really The World’s Biggest Rock Star?

Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

In a performance that was divisive to say the least, Kanye West’s Glastonbury headliner featured as many controversial moments as one might expect from the man who twice stormed the Grammy stage and got called a ‘jackass’ by the President of the United States. But we might finally have a word for him with more than four letters; a bonafide rockstar. Typically, it was Kanye who adored the title on himself, but is he right or wrong? In the aftermath of Worthy Farm,  we asked a fan of the rapper and a rock ‘n’ roll devote their opinions.

“Freddie Mercury Is Turning In His Grave”

Oh Kanye. What a big mouth you have.

“You are now watching the greatest living rock star on the planet”, the notorious rapper proclaimed to the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury on Saturday night. I emphasise the word rapper, as everyone who watched him attempt to sing along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody will be well aware that Kanye West is not a rock star. As well as the legendary Freddie Mercury undoubtedly turning in his grave, he caused several million people’s stomachs to churn. Perhaps Kanye could learn a thing or two from a real rock star like Freddie.

It might be that we need a re-evaluation of what a rock star really is. Do we consider a rock star to be the plastic, commercial and mechanical puppet of an industry dominated by profit and product, that which the likes of Kanye West and Nickelback belong? Or do we consider it to be a Dave Grohl, who finishes a set despite having broken a leg onstage, a Kurt Cobain, a Corey Taylor, whose music comes from the heart, music that inspires people everywhere to fight against the evils of the world rather than conform? This is the kind of rock star we should look up to, and I have not yet given up hope that we will see more in the future if their voices will be heard above the stagnant insipidness of the charts.

If Kanye West considers himself the greatest living rock star on the planet, we might ponder what planet he is referring to, and if it is Earth we must ask ourselves what has become of our music icons if he’s right? Kanye may well have the confidence and notoriety of a rock star, but his arrogance and egotism give the wrong example entirely. From a true star, a little humility surely wouldn’t go amiss.

Rich Raithby

“For Better or For Worse… He Has A Point”

He entered the stage flanked by a biblical platform of light. He stopped the gig for 5 minutes to scale a cherry picker. At the farm, most people seem to go away disappointed or straight pissed off. He played for 2 hours and every single song was a hit. And because of all these things: yes, Kanye West is the biggest rock star on the planet.

People seem to be confusing being a rockstar with being liked. They might be icons now but the true rockstars in the alums of music history were a sloppy mess of controversy, ego and gloriously unattainable talent. Jagger was a notorious lothario, Bowie lived off cocaine and called for a benign dictatorship, Kurt Cobain was tainted by a fatal streak of self-destruction and Lou Reed acted like an asshole in every recorded encounter, ever. West falls mostly into the latter category, but by god what a rockstar history Kanye has behind him. Keith Moon threw a television into a hotel swimming pool, Kanye stepped on stage in front of Taylor Swift…

And for those who may dispute his conviction simply because they don’t like it: they only have the rest of music to blame. That he can claim the symbolic mantle despite not even making rock music is the fault of the genre today and not him. Who can rock music put forward now that is as in keeping with those legends of the past as Kanye West is? There are some ballsy musicians out there, Sleaford Mods and The Swans to name two… But their music is infinitely too niche. Dave Grohl? Does anybody actually listen to Foo Fighters? Muse might slay the charts but are remarkable affable in person. And indie rock just won’t cut it: the Arctic Monkeys remain fantastic but their new slicked back chíc hardly gets blood pumping in quite the same way as a Jimmy Hendrix, setting his guitar alight.

Then there are those like Corey Taylor or Josh Homme or Jehnny Beth or Nick Cave who might deserve the title but the industry or the fans have failed them somehow, and many may never have heard of them. Just about every damned person in the Western Hemisphere must know of Kanye West, for better or for worse. Besides, many Kanye bashers who know him only for his actions might be surprised to hear… His music is rather well respected. Incredibly so actually. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is considered one of the best albums of all time. He’s probably the most influential rapper there’s ever been. He’s had 6 albums and every one has been lauded to the nth by music bods, and the listening public alike.

Kanye isn’t the planet’s biggest rockstar in spite of his flamboyance and failings, nor the increasingly propulsive backlash against him, nor even because he’s willing to say it aloud… He’s the planet’s biggest rockstar because of all those things. After all, one of the world’s most iconic music festivals is still in progress, but since Kanye West stepped off stage; people have been talking about little else.

So, Rock Music, if you don’t like it: your move.

Liam Inscoe – Jones

Kanye’s Saturday headliner performance featuring the infamous pronouncement (and 89 other minutes of music) is available to watch at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/group/b007r6vx

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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham’s IMPACT Magazine.

2 Comments on this post.
  • Joe
    29 June 2015 at 00:36
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    Kanye is the biggest rockstar on the planet. That top piece is laughable – Kanye has put out 6 of the best albums of the 21st century. It’s not a commercial cashgrab – he could put a rehash of Graduation out every year and make trillions of dollars, instead he came out with MBDTF and then Yeezus. To put him in the same sentence as Nickelback is embarrasing.

    Can we also stop the Dave Grohl worship. I like the guy and the Foos have some big tunes but putting out middle of the road rock albums and being humble does not make you the biggest rock star on the planet. He hasn’t put out a genuinely good, interesting record since 1993 – how does any Foo Fighters output make you want to change the fucking world? At least Kanye’s records are interesting sonically and he does tackle some thorny political issues (less so on Yeezus, maybe Black Skinhead and New Slaves but he’s not trying to make blood on the tracks with it).

    If you don’t get hip hop (or Kanye) then fair enough but having a guitar does not elevate you to some higher plane as some would like to think.

    If it’s not Kanye, who is it? And like it or not, there’s another record coming soon so you aren’t going to be able to escape it.

  • Adam
    5 July 2015 at 01:10
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    Apparently the argument against Kanye being the ‘greatest living rock star on the planet’ contains…two dead rock stars? Something tells me we wont get much of a show if either of them headline the Saturday at Glasto next year.

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