The Genius That Is Kanye West by Russell Simmons

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    I still remember when Damon Dash asked me to put Kanye on Def Poetry Jam. I didn’t really know Kanye as a poet, I just knew him as a producer who was part of the Roc-A-Fella (which was a Def Jam company) crew, making hit records for Jay and ‘em. His appearance on our HBO show blew a lot of people away that night, including me…and from that point on, Kanye soared.

    I recently sat down with Ye in New York and got the chance to hear about his hopes and ambitions, his frustrations and contradictions, his happiness and his anger. But through it all, what I felt from Kanye was an artist who desperately wants to leave his imprint in the history books. What’s often times misunderstood about Kanye is that people believe he wants all of this for himself, in fact, quite the opposite, he wants all of this for the rest of us. He wants to destroy the glass ceiling with 808′s and crack music…so one day WE have the power to see all of the lights. Certainly he wants a piece for himself…everybody would, but at his core, at the bottom of his heart, lies an inner-truth that has led to an external battle to make this world a bit easier for those who have been dealt a hand of struggle, by showing them a glimmer of hope through his art.

    It is his generation that has this power. He knows it. He feels it. He tastes it. And he so badly wants it like mad. So, you may think he’s mad when he goes on his “Yeezy rants,” but it is a different kind of mad. It is a mad that keeps you up at night, knowing that if you fall asleep, you are wasting time. It is a mad that makes you go into the lab and work seven days with no sleep, cause you want to perfect your craft. It is a mad that sees the world still unfair for women and people of color, that makes you want to break down every door that they say is locked and can never be open. It is a mad-scientist kind of mad. One who wants to uplift his people to the top of the mountain, so in unison, they can chant from the top of their lungs, “No One Man Should All That Power!” He is fighting for his generation, his people, his country, his planet earth….like a motherfuckin’ monster!

    We will no longer be lost in the world and we will survive in this America. I believe these truths to be self-evident. That is what Kanye West told me on a cold morning in New York City just seven days ago. It is his genius, his tenacity, his creativity, his relentlessness and his madness, that will allow us all to one day have the ability to touch the sky.

    -Russell Simmons

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