I began by saying that 2016 was, personally, the longest year of my life—aside from the obvious, family members died, friends overdosed, job was … weird!—yet reading your meditation on faith and Kanye West, Jack, really helped focus the way West and his work are emblematic of this fractured, terrible, and beautiful (OK, mostly terrible) epoch. He’s the embodiment of the meme about never having faves, the latest manifestation of that age-old question about how to square an artist’s actions with his or her art. In the last few weeks, we’ve had to reconcile that while we may love (most) of his music, he’s been telling us exactly who he is for years and we should believe him. I can’t stop thinking about this line from Justin Charity’s brilliant piece for the Ringer on the characteristics Kanye shares with Donald Trump: “I hope Assata Shakur eggs his house.”
As we all know, in February, West debuted The Life of Pablo at Madison Square Garden, a combination fashion week presentation–album listening session and spectacle that would foreshadow the performance-art mosh pits of his thrilling Pablo tour. I was in the nosebleeds with some other fashion writers—the funny thing about attending fashion shows is that you have to be able to see the clothes—but the experience was perspective-shifting. (Not the clothes, nor the concept; let’s all resolve to leave Vanessa Beecroft in the dark ages where she belongs.) “Ultralight Beam” and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” were meant to be blasted in a cavernous arena, and the joy and uplifting love from them was meant to be unmitigated—“Anyone can be saved,” gospel paragon Kirk Franklin told our colleague Doreen St. Félix, “even Kanye.” And so while I haven’t much use for Kanye at the moment—with his unbecoming thirst for acceptance and fame blinding him to the real threat from those he loves for their branding acumen—it’s worth it to find inspiration in lines from his own album: “You persecute the weak because it makes you feel so strong,” sings Kelly Price, a force. “Don’t have much strength to fight, so I look to the light to make these wrongs turn right.”
Towards the end of Ye’s MSG listening session, he also debuted forthcoming video game Only One, which features angels in ascension by their own wings and on the backs of pegai through a sky of Rose Quartz and Serenity, Pantone’s 2016 colors of the year. By way of emphasizing his accomplishment in getting the game made, he repeatedly yelped what would become my mantra and, I suppose, a good one for the year: “This shit is not regular!”
This shit is not regular, you guys. I don’t want to end on a downward note, because we’re all clearly feeling the vice grip, and so I want to emphasize the hope in that exclamation going into 2017. This shit is not regular! In a time where, as Jack iterated, none of this is normal, let’s all be at our most exceptional and shine too bright for it to overtake us. Let’s be the sun in our own mornings and remember to lift each other up, and to look to the light. Happy New Year, friends.