Let Kanye Be Kanye

17 Nov

Today’s post is part II of a two-part series. Yesterday, I shared my opinion on this situation and today, PR professional Brandon Vaughan is sharing a guest post with his opinion (which is slightly different than mine).

I would first like to say that this post is not a rebuttal to Kion’s. I, too am a big fan of Kanye (or “Yeezy” as most fans call him) and I was also taken aback after seeing his interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show. However, I can’t say that I was very surprised by his reactions during the interview. This isn’t the first time that he has ill-expressed himself in front of millions, and I think it’s easy for many to say Kanye will be Kanye. That said, a controversial response from Kanye is not something new, but specifically this time, rather than being disgusted at his actions, I empathized with him.

Empathy and sympathy are two similar, but fundamentally different things (during the interview Kanye also mentioned that he ‘empathized’ with George Bush), and to truly empathize is to show compassion for. I find compassion in the emotional verity of Kanye’s response.This is not the first time we have seen Kanye react so emotionally, in fact his facial expressions and obvious emotional discontent are very similar to those seen in his original, infamous ‘Hurricane Katrina Response’.

“Now all I need is y'all to pronounce my name / It's Kanye - But some of my plaques - they still sayKayne”

As PR professionals, it is our job to make sure our clients represent themselves in the most positive (or appropriate) manner, however it is also our job to make sure that their representation is indicative of their reality.  Based on what we can glean from reported information, I think that Susie Arons from Rubenstein Communications did everything she was supposed to do as a professional PR practitioner. As hired counsel, she successfully recommended to Kanye that he cancel his interview (perhaps because she felt that he was unprepared), and there was probably not much that she could do when he decided to change his mind hours later.

As a client, Kanye was well within his right to abstain from Ms. Aron’s advice, but  I think that proper and complete media training would have helped him to express his thoughts more effectively. Pain and frustration are seldom simple to express. The purpose behind media training isn’t to ‘coach answers’, rather it exists to give clients the skills they need to express themselves clearly and concisely.  Beyond the controversy of the statements themselves, I think Kanye came to the Today Show with a lot of things that he wanted to say, but he came without the tools that he needed. I do think Lauer’s purpose was to elicit a reaction, and subsequent apology from Kanye for his past reactions, but I also don’t think that Kanye was ready, or willing to give him those.

“Yeezy taught me.”

Fans of George Bush or Taylor Swift might not like Kanye very much based on his comments, but frankly, they probably didn’t like him much before his outbursts. In the days since his Today Show appearance, Kanye’s friends like JayZ, Selita Ebanks, Common and even Hip-Hop guru Russell Simmons have expressed their support for Kanye, with Simmons saying in “An Open Letter to Kanye West, “there is no need to apologize, Kanye. You spoke from your heart and that is all we will ever ask from you.”

He’s outlandish. He’s uncontrollable. He’s an interviewer’s nightmare, and yet, through his perfect imperfections, he remains truthful to himself.

I am not excusing any of Kanye’s actions, rather I’m saying : Let Kanye be Kanye.

Do you think Kanye should give media training another go?

6 Responses to “Let Kanye Be Kanye”

  1. Jordan Hall November 18, 2010 at 1:41 am #

    Kanye is allowed to be Kanye, and we are allowed to criticize his rude behavior. He shouldn’t complain via Twitter about being ambushed by Matt Lauer and expect us to be sympathetic, especially when the unedited interview demonstrates an irritable and curt guest at best.

    His demeanor has no doubt had some impact on his livelihood, however minimal. I guess that he really doesn’t care could be seen as admirable, that he’d rather be true to himself than change purely for economic gain. That said, is it ever really admirable to be an a**hole? I think not.

    • Brandon Vaughan November 23, 2010 at 12:42 am #

      Thanks for the comment Jordan.

      I agree with most of your sentiments, I merely hope to say that “none of us is perfect”. Kanye can and should learn from all of his previous outbursts. He’s still a young guy, he has plenty of time to improve.

  2. Kerry @ YUMMommy November 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    Just let this man be himself. It’s why we love him. A person can only hold so much in and regardless of how much coaching a person has when you feel backed into a corner you’re going to come out swinging. Emotionally this man has been through a lot in the past few years and I don’t really think anyone has stopped to think about all the hurt he may still be carrying around. As humans, we tend to do some not so smart things when we’re still hurting.

    Let this man be himself and move on.

    • Brandon Vaughan November 23, 2010 at 12:52 am #

      Hi Kerry, thanks for your comment!

      Kanye knows he’s not perfect, we know he’s not perfect and I agree, that’s why we love him.

      Complex Magazine just published amazing interview with Kanye where he discusses some of his trials and tribulations (and of course, the infamous Taylor Swift incident)

      You can read it in entirety here: http://www.complex.com/CELEBRITIES/Cover-Story/kanye-west-project-runaway/

  3. Jay November 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    A long time ago, in an era of my life that seems so distant, I was at a photo shoot for Kanye as part of my PR duties for a magazine. I got two minutes to talk to Kanye and it changed the way I view him forever (and thanks to his mgr at the time, Gabe, for even letting me say hello).

    Kanye was very pleasant and he had just produced a track on the 213 album. I mentioned that I thought it was one of the best songs on the disc and – here it is – he looks at me and goes “Really? Why?”

    Not questioning my tastes, mind you. He really wanted to know. Some nobody brings this up and he wanted to know that nobody’s opinion… because, I can only deduce he cares that much. To him, we are all stakeholders and he wants us all to like his music and, likely, him.

    Like he says on his first album, he’s wearing his insecurities. I don’t know why we all put his behavior under the microscope. I don’t think his actions are any worse than anything Mick Jagger or Keith Richards ever did. His music is five years ahead of anyone else. I say let’s judge him by his music.

    Colorful rock and rap stars have been part of the way of life since the 1950s… Chuck Berry, Jim Morrison, Dr. Dre, Jack White… all of them have had their moments. Why we tsk tsk Kanye is beyond me. I’m not holding him up to be anything other than a good musician.

    • Brandon Vaughan November 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm #


      I’m jealous! That’s the allure of Kanye’s “perfect imperfections” – he seems like a real guy, infallible like all of us but also infinitely curious and hyper aware of his actions. I am also positive that Kanye felt worse than Taylor Swift and George Bush combined after his outbursts.

      And I agree, you can’t judge everyone on the same playing field. He’s no Sister Theresa, but as an artist, he’s simply the best.

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