With such dramatic, non-musical stage antics, Kanye West is shaping up to be this generation’s Jim Morrison. Hopefully he doesn’t die in Paris soon…
It takes a certain kind of bravado to show your penis to 12,000 people. If you have the (figurative) balls to do something like that, I’d say you’re pretty invested in whatever consequences follow. For Jim Morrison, the frontman of The Doors, this was apparently no hassle.
On March 1, 1969, he allegedly whipped out his member on stage in Coconut Grove, FL, before cascading into a rant full of repeated calls for a new-age American Revolution. A few months later, Morrison turned himself in on a standing warrant for indecent exposure and public profanity. The trial became a media sensation, with many news outlets ridiculing the rock star. In the grand scheme, it came to symbolize a head-to-head battle that had been brewing for years: Jim Morrison, the free-thinking artist, vs. the restrictive state. Unfortunately for him, the state won, finding him guilty and sentencing him to six-months in lockup. Morrison appealed the case, but a final verdict was never reached, as his untimely death occurred before the appeal trial could take place. Needless to say, “The Miami Incident” has gone down as one of the great unsolved stories of rock ‘n’ roll lore.
Despite Morrison serving as a pretty extreme example, artists before and since have used the stage as their personal soap-boxes to share more than just their music. Kanye West is basically a master at this. In 2016, he’s used his St. Pablo floating stage as an opportunity to air frustrations with the fashion industry, copycat rappers, Kid Cudi, Jay Z, the media, radio stations, the government, and just about anything else that pops into his brain at any given moment. His dick-showing performance didn’t come until he openly voiced his support of president-elect Donald Trump, in what we can and should now refer to as “The San Jose Incident”. It takes a certain kind of bravado for a rap artist to show his support of Trump, and I guess we forgot about two things: Kanye’s black balls. But he flashed them, and the world of hip-hop has been scratching its head ever since.
Of course, if you’re reading this, I’m sure you’ve followed the ensuing news cycle regarding Kanye’s three-song stop in Sacramento and recent hospitalization. And there’s been more than enough words written in support/opposition of his actions. That’s not what I’m here to do. Instead, my goal is to point out the pitfall that we find ourselves in of cementing an artist’s legacy based on their current situation. As a culture, we’ve become so shortsighted that we fail to look forward and see the lasting legacy that the ART will leave, not the little incidents that blur the vision along the way. By calling into question an artist’s entire legacy over these incidents, it reduces them to their lowest value, when in reality, history won’t look back on them so harshly. With that being said, even though the #KanyeIsOverParty resided after it was announced he was in the hospital, it’s mere existence proves how fickle fans can be in times of crisis.
“My idol [is] Jim Morrison, like his approach to shit — When I see, like, a documentary; I’ve seen the movie — I’m like, ‘Yo, that’s really who I am. I am this guy in real life’.” ~West
In 2016, yes, Kanye saying he would vote for Trump is a blow to his fans (myself tremendously included) and his current status. But in 2046, we’ll be talking about how shitty Trump was as a president and more than likely still listening to 808s and Heartbreak. In that moment, we’ll giggle and say “Remember when Kanye said he would’ve voted for Trump? That was so not lit! Forreal though, ‘Love Lockdown’ still bangs”.
A lot of similarities can be drawn between Morrison and Kanye, both of whom never shied away from the chance to voice their sometimes unpopular opinions, earning them the love of some and the hostility of others. Just like we talk more about “Light My Fire” than “The Miami Incident”, so shall our kids talk more about “Devil in a New Dress” than “The San Jose Incident”. Morrison literally allegedly showed his penis to a huge crowd of teenage girls and still went down in rock history as one of the greatest, so we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn Kanye’s legacy for his *wincing as I type this* support of Donald Trump.
“I’m going down as a legend, whether you like me or not. I am the new Jim Morrison.” ~West
After his death (an unsolved mystery in itself), fans and media the world over mourned the loss of Morrison, who has since become one of the most iconic musical figures of the ‘60s, rivaled only by Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles. Though fans old and young can look back on his various antics with a laugh, his true legacy lies in the music, his artistic work, and his larger than life persona that have outlived the man himself. An untimely death is almost always a way to cement an artist’s legacy in stardom, but a long life matched with an exquisite body of work can do just the same if we’re willing to overlook the speed bumps. If we owe Kanye anything, let it not be that we religiously buy his shoes or plaster ourselves in his gender-neutral hoodies. Instead let it be that we have the foresight to realize that 30 years down the line, we’re still gonna dab ferociously when the beat drops in “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2”.