Kanye West: Diva, Annoyance, Genius, Producer of Kid Cudi

Kanye West is the biggest diva hip-hop has ever known. Arrogant, petulant, obsessed with self-image, he’s thrown tantrums at award shows, kept fans waiting hours for concerts and smashed cameras in rage. Lots of people don’t like him. He knows this. The “international asshole,” he’s called himself, and has often detailed his faults in song, while rarely sounding anything but proud of himself. And, hip-hop owes him a huge thank you.

Because over the past few years, with business tanking and much of the music stagnating stylistically, he has brought avant garde experimentation and unabashed artistry to the forefront of a field that has so often sneered at anything even hinting at highbrow.

Check the colors in the video for “Make Her Say” (above), a song Kanye produced for his protege, Cleveland’s Kid Cudi. Check the beat-and the main sample, a chilly bit of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” AKA that song that you cannot get away from. And the rhymes, so soft-voiced and melodic (Kanye raps in it too, as does his longtime Chicago cohort, Common.) The aesthetic is more cosmopolitan, European even, and, yes, feminine, way more than hip-hop usually allows itself to get-all, of course, while detailing the joys of getting a blowjob.