In February, Kanye West released his latest album ‘The Life of Pablo’ on the Jay-Z owned streaming service Tidal. This new release got me thinking back to his sixth studio album ‘Yeezus’ released in 2013, where he compared himself to Jesus in the album title, and labelled himself a deity in the record ‘I Am a God’.
In the lyrics to the hip hop record, West states: ‘I am a God/ Even though I’m a man of God/ My whole life in the hand of God/ So y’all better quit playin’ with God’.
West has gone on to proclaim himself to be a God and God greatest gift to the world in many Twitter rants and in a Radio One interview with Zane Lowe in 2013.
It is clear that West has a God complex, he has a unshakable belief that he is worthy, characterised by consistently inflated feelings of personal ability, privilege and entitlement. West claims that he is more influential that God due to the amount of followers and fans he has, he believes he is a trendsetter.
This is true to a point, as when he first started rapping he did change the course of the genre and he has recently been influential in the fashion world with his trainer collaboration with Adidas which saw his ‘Yezzys’ trainers sell out within minutes, as well as hosting a sold out fashion show at Madison Square Garden, New York.
This is not the first time that an icon in popular culture has claimed themselves to be a deity or a Godly-being. In the 1980s, Madonna – whose real name is Madonna Louise Ciccone, affectionately known as ‘Little Nonni’- came to light. Although not a stage name, a Madonna is a reference to the many images of Mary the Mother of Jesus and her child Jesus. This instantly puts Madonna in connection with the God complex but so do the visuals of her many music videos, in particular the religious symbolism and god like connotations in her video for ‘Like a Prayer’ which explicitly shows Madonna helping a Jesus figure within a church. While she never proclaimed herself to be a God there are many suggestions through her iconography and in the way she affiliates herself with religion and being worshipped as the ‘Queen of Pop’. This was recently highlighted in her music video ‘Bitch, I’m Madonna’ where the theme was if you don’t know Madonna your a nobody.
The self-titled God status that West has proclaimed himself to be and Madonna’s explicit imagery, is arguably due to the idea that celebrities are the new social Gods. This is inflated by the fandomania surrounding celebrity culture with adoring fans and fan groups, which in turn gives the celebrity – regardless of talent or ability – the belief that they are worthy and entitled to the title of a God/Goddess due to there fans putting them on a pedestal and worshipping them from a far.
This has happened to West, to the point where a fan in now selling ‘The Book of Yeezus: The Bible for the Modern Day’ which sees all mentions of Jesus and God replaced with the term Yeezus.
Similarly, Beyonce claims herself to be ‘Queen Bey’ and reigning Queen of the Beyhive – the collective name that her fans have labelled themselves. Fans groups have become increasingly popular within recent years with fans going onto label themselves into categories such as; Biebliers, Directioners, Swiftes, KatyKats, Lovataics, Little Monsters, Little Mixers, Soilders etc. However these groups are often at war with one another on social media and use insulting and sometimes genuinely terrifying language against one another. It appears to be an unwritten rule, that if you claim to be part of one fandom you cannot be part of another. It’s almost like these groups are a religion and you can only follow one deity, you cannot be both!
I truly believe it is the fandemonium that follows these now major stars that gives them beliefs of being Godly creatures and above the rest of society. If you look at West’s past, before he became an independently successful rapper, he came from a poor background in the US and in turn produced and wrote a lot of music for then-successful rappers and star. This gives the impression that at one point in time, West was happy to stay in the background and let other reap the successes of his work. Clearly now, that is not the case.
This due to the major advances in the internet, paparazzi and 24 hour news which allows us to keep tabs on our favourite stars at all hours of the day as well as allow said stars to post on social media to interact and have instantaneous response with there fans. These social media fanbase followers become almost like Jesus’ disciples as they live and breathe every word of whoever they are following. If there favourite star says jump, they ask how high?
Kanye West takes this following and fandom to the next level and directly embodies fan excess and allows this excess to grant him personal success. He believes he is a God, so in the eyes of the beholder (his fans) he is a God.