Label Kanye West. Go ahead, he wants you to. The 28-year-old lyrical genius, often credited with breathing fresh air into the hip-hop industry, has dealt with his critics before.
And West should be prepared to do so, again and again.
Featured on the cover of the Feb. 9 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, West is depicted as Jesus Christ. He dons a crown of thorns and a ragged orange cloth, draped over his right shoulder.
The headline that accompanies West’s photograph is similarly contentious: ‘The Passion of Kanye West,’ purposefully similar to the 2004 movie The Passion of Christ that chronicled the death of Jesus.
West’s albums – 2004’s College Dropout and 2005’s Late Registration – have sold a combined 4 million copies. Clearly, the Chicago-born West has solidified himself as one of hip-hop’s mainstays.
But record sales do not legitimize someone’s iconic status. West couldn’t have imagined a quiet escape from public or media criticism that stem from his appearance on Rolling Stone’s cover.
Aside from the magazine’s cover, there are no elaborate comparisons of West to Jesus. He isn’t quoted as saying anything religious or spiritual.
So why did Rolling Stone run this photo of West on its cover?
It could be that the article’s author, Lola Ogunnaike, wanted to paint a picture of West that no one else could see. It might have had something to do with what West said during the interview process that somehow found its way out of the finished product.
Whatever it was, West thinks highly of himself. This is true. Why else would the incessantly combated West have agreed to pose for the shot?
West is no stranger to controversy. Since his emergence as a solo artist in 2004, he has called attention upon himself for his often politically-charged lyrics, which almost beg for social change.
Last September, West called out President Bush during a live telethon in support of raising money for Hurricane Katrina victims.
Further illustration of West’s need for the spotlight is in the magazine’s interior, which portrays West in boxing legend Muhammad Ali’s most famous pose. Ali wanted the world to know he was ‘The Greatest.’ West wants to be the same.
West questions American logic in relation to financial success.
“They want you to accomplish these great feats, to pull off these David Copperfield-like stunts,” he says. “You want me to be great but you don’t ever want me to say I’m great?”
Like Ali, West wants to be the greatest at what he does. It’s safe to assume that Jesus never commanded as much attention as either the provocative rapper or champion boxer.
But there is no room for comparison between a musician and the lord and savior of some 2.3 billion people worldwide.