Say what you want about Kanye West, but the man knows how to make an impression. Indeed, the rapper, fashion designer, entrepreneur and notorious narcissist is perhaps one of the most recognisable people on the face of the earth, and that kind of fame doesn't happen by accident. His is the kind of fame that builds its own momentum due to sheer force of will. Of course he's not without talent, but the truth is there are MANY more talented producers, rappers and fashion designers in the world, but few, if any, with the same grasp of modern culture, and the same effortless self-promotional drive.
West was honoured for his efforts at this week’s 20th Annual Webby Awards, which took place earlier this month (presented by none other than Ron Swanson himself, Nick Offerman), with the “Artist Of The Year” award, in recognition of the social media monopolisers pioneering use of the internet and his impact on the musical landscape. Which can't be denied, like it or not.
The ceremony’s rules limit the winners’ acceptance speeches to five words, presenting West, who’s known for his lengthy orations, with a challenge, but he just about managed it. Did he deserve it though? For the record, in my humble opinion, his last few albums have been pretty great, and surprisingly weird given their commercial acumen, so, from a musical perspective at least, yes, his win was deserved. I am well aware, however, that there are just as many people out there who would rather see the man publicly hung than celebrated. These people should probably spend less time worrying about the people they hate, and more time worrying about the people they love.
Kanye West is the 2016 Artist of the Year
Created to play during the artist's win, Houses in Motion, the Brooklyn-based animation and production studio, crafted an animation-driven retrospective of West's tumultuous year, with a video montage that includes abstract design elements, graphics, skewed images, and samplings of the artist’s tweets. West’s ambitious mission and signature bluster come through in the stream of consciousness style of the visual story, which closes with his judicious choice of the five-words allotted to him, “I can’t stand short speeches,” making clear his feelings about brevity. The piece is a visualisation of West’s past year using a mix of elements and samplings of bold imagery. Taking their cues from West’s powerful use of the internet, and its disruptive impact on the status quo the music scene, Houses used glitches and distortion techniques to texture the images and create the look of an environment that’s deconstructing and evolving.
Houses in Motion had just a week to take the project from concept to delivery. Helmed by the studio’s partners, executive producers/creative directors, John Earle and Dan DeGloria, the Houses’ team designed, directed, animated and edited the video, and even curated the tweets, with the guidance of Webby’s Director of Creative Content, Jeff Zemetis. The custom sound design created by Explosion Robinson, meanwhile, blew the top off the frenetic montage, setting the pace of the video with a conglomeration of hip-hop, electronica, and experimental music styles.
Sound designers Stephen Hermann and Mauricio Escamilla sampled West’s latest album, “The Life of Pablo,” (the first album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts based primarily on streaming,) grabbing melodic and instrumental elements and remixed them to create an original sound. Live drumming was added to the track to drive fast tempo. It's a dizzyingly surreal and exhaustingly creative piece that definitely does justice to the man's singular personality.
Kanye West's 5-Word Acceptance Speech
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.