Image from Kim Erlandsen / Flickr
Kanye West has finally said the kind of thing he was always going to end up saying eventually… that he is the ‘greatest artist that God has ever created’. This confidence, or hubris, offers an interesting insight into Kanye’s personal brand. Does he really believe the things he says, or are they clever marketing designed to grab people’s attention?
As reported by UniLad, Kanye was speaking at Pastor Joel Osteen’s congregation in Houston when he made his claim. Kanye’s conversion to Christianity informs his work such as his 2013 album Yeezus which features the song ‘I Am a God’. During his speech in Houston, Kanye told the congregation that after he was hospitalised for mental health reasons, ‘there’s documentation of me drawing a church, and [wanting] to start a church the middle of Calabasas’. He also said that he plans to write a ‘gospel album’. Kanye’s art is clearly being guided by his faith, as is his self-image.
At one point he admonished a congregation member for speaking during his speech, saying ‘I get onto these streams of consciousness when I’m talking and when you’re speaking in the middle of it it distracts me. I really appreciate the support but I would like for everybody to be completely silent so I can let God flow through me as I speak to you guys today’, which was received with enthusiasm by the congregation.
Kanye delivered his speech earnestly, apparently guided strongly by his faith. His demand for silence to ‘let God flow through’ him shows either a clever way of referencing God to explain his diva tendencies, or he really does see himself as an enlightened prophet delivering God’s message. Either way, he certainly knows how to play to his audience…
Is Kanye self-aware?
At one point Kanye acknowledged his ‘arrogance and cockiness’, revealing his self-awareness of how others perceive him. Immediately afterwards Kanye claimed that he, ‘the greatest artist that God ever exist – uh, created, is now working for Him.’ This was greeted by rapturous applause and a wry smile from Kanye. It is difficult to tell how much he believes what he is saying. His wry smile when he paused for applause shows he is perhaps not being completely serious when making these claims. Yet, his unquestioning conviction about himself suggests otherwise.
Kanye went on to say that ‘all of that arrogance and confidence and cockiness that y’all see me use before God, [I’m] now using for Him.’ It is interesting that Kanye is not trying to tone down his public image but rather keep on as he has in the past, but claim that it is in service of God. This looks like a very creative excuse for his continued ‘arrogance and cockiness’, but the audience loved it.
What does the ‘greatest’ actually mean?
Kanye’s claim to be ‘the greatest artist that God ever created’ is bold. Some might say delusional. ‘Artist’ is a term that covers everything from painting, to music, to sculpture. Rightly or wrongly, Kanye is bold to compare himself to the likes of DaVinci, The Beatles or Michelangelo, without any qualification about what he actually means. Given his track record, he probably does mean he is the best artist of all artists, ever. It’s a boldness that gets him noticed.
Who knows, however, if in two hundred years’ time people will look at Kanye as a consummate genius. Many ‘great’ artists were not fully appreciated in their era. Beethoven had his own less-than-well-recieved moments and seen as rude and difficult to work with, while Van Gogh was famously under-appreciated in his lifetime. Kanye may not be the ‘greatest’ artist in public opinion yet, but the future may tell a different story. It is, however, probably wise to let other people decide whether you are the best artist the world has ever seen. They are probably less biased, at least.
If you enjoyed this article, why not read about some more of Kanye’s eventful public appearances…