Kanye West has said more memorable things in the last decade than any other pop star alive. Yes, occasionally the things he says are infuriating, reductive and stupid. But, for the most part, Kanye is an endless reservoir of strange knowledge.
Your average musical hypergenius shuts out the world, but between Kanye’s awards show barnstorming, his unpredictable Twitter account and his rare, consistently intense interviews, Yeezy has given us all a small peek into what it’s like to be one of the most talented, passionate and reckless artists of all time.
Kanye’s seventh album, “Swish,” is supposed to come out in early February; chances are it’ll be a lightning rod all year and dominate year-end best of lists. In preparation for that, we decided to look back on Kanye’s discography and pick out 20 lyrics we can learn from. Mr. West might sleep on velvet pillows, party with Daft Punk and flirt with deification, but he’s surprisingly human at his core.
Kanye, you’re among the most iconoclastic people who will ever live, but you also make for a pretty good self-help book. Here’s proof.
1. “Bought more jewelry, more Louis V., my momma couldn’t get through to me”
Song: “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”
Lesson: Listen to your mom or you'll regret it. You always need to stay grounded and take advice from your mother, because if you don’t, you might find yourself spending a stupid amount of money on jewelry.
2. “And I’ll just blame everything on you, at least you know that’s what I’m good at”
Lesson: Kanye knows he’s been a bad boyfriend who refuses to come to terms with his own shortcomings. However, the first step to changing is being honest with yourself. Then you can take accountability for your actions.
3. “Let’s go on a living free, they say the best things in life are free”
Song: “Good Life”
Lesson: Even though Kanye is one of the most commercially successful artists in history, he’s still doing his best to enjoy the simple things.
4. “I know I act a fool but I promise you I’m going back to school”
Song: “Hey Mama”
Lesson: A college degree can go a long way kids, it doesn’t matter who you are.
5. “Hey, do you remember where we first met? Okay, I don’t remember where we first met, but hey, admittin’ is the first step.”
Song: “Bound 2”
Lesson: Complete transparency between you and your partner is the fastest way to happiness.
6. “You got a new friend, well I got homies, but in the end it’s still so lonely”
Lesson: Kanye is doing the right thing by hanging out with his homies, but he knows full well that heartbreak is a difficult beast to tackle, no matter what.
7. “Reach for the stars so if you fall you land on a cloud”
Lesson: Don't be afraid to follow your dreams, even if they seem a bit dangerous.
8. “We at war, we at war with terrorism, racism, but most of all, we at war with ourselves”
Song: “Jesus Walks”
Lesson: The key to finding peace is to be happy and comfortable with yourself as a human being. Once you’ve accomplished that, there’s only so much other people can do.
9. “Everytime I’m in Vegas they screaming like I’m Elvis, but I just want to design hotels and nail it”
Lesson: Kanye is a rich, successful, acclaimed musician, but he still wants to branch out into other fields like interior design. He’s staying hungry!
10. “I’ll never be a picture-perfect Beyoncé”
Song: “Everything I Am”
Lesson: Kanye is absolutely right. Neither him or any of us will ever touch Beyoncé status — and that is OK!
11. “My childlike creativity, purity, and honesty is honestly being crowded by these grown thoughts”
Lesson: Kanye wears his heart on his sleeve and has never abandoned the passion of his youth. You should too!
12. “On the bathroom wall I wrote ‘I’d rather argue with you than be with someone else’”
Song: “Blame Game”
Lesson: Love is a dangerous thing and everyone has their ups and downs. But it’s important to see the forest from the trees when you’re in the middle of an argument.
13. “Back before anybody wanted K. West beats, me and my girl split the bucket at KFC”
Song: “Touch the Sky”
Lesson: Kanye was a struggling producer for a long time before his break into superstardom, but he still doesn’t forget the years before he was famous.
14: “I’ma open up a store for aspiring MCs, won’t sell ‘em no dream but the inspiration is free”
Lesson: Kanye works really hard at his craft, and he’s happy to be an inspiration. However, he also wants us to be sure that getting to his level takes a lot of hustle.
15. “I’m gonna follow my heart and if you follow the charts or the plaques or the stacks, you ain’t gotta guess who’s back”
Song: “Get Em High”
Lesson: Seriously, screw everyone who tells you you’re not capable of achieving all your wildest dreams. Get your success and rub it in their faces.
16: “I am a God, even though I’m a man of God, my whole life in the hand of God”
Song: “I Am a God”
Lesson: If you keep saying you’re a God eventually people will start believing you.
17: “I’m in love with you, but the vibe is wrong, and that haunted me, all the way home”
Song: “Love Lockdown”
Lesson: You might be in love with someone, but you can still sense an underpinning of unhappiness. When you feel that, you’re better off not ignoring it.
18: “Real friends, how many of us? How many jealous?”
Song: “Real Friends”
Lesson: Whether you’re famous like Kanye or just an ordinary person like me, there’s going to be people in your life who are taking advantage of you. Make sure to sniff that out!
19: “No you’re not perfect but you’re not your mistakes”
Song: “Only One”
Lesson: Simple as that. You’re not perfect but you’re not your mistakes. That’s something we forget far too often.
20: “Why you so paranoid? Don’t be so paranoid.”
Lesson: A very simple tip from a complicated man.