What You Can Learn From Kanye West in Two Minutes to Become a Better Creative

Love him or hate him, it is hard to ignore the impact that Kanye West has made over the past decade and beyond in the creative world. He has left his fingerprints all over the industry whether it's as a recording artist, songwriter, fashion designer, or an entrepreneur. He has slivered his way into a category that he has actually created; it is hard to define or even completely understand his genre. And that's why it can be very inspiring to listen to him explain what goes on in his mind when the lights are dim and his guard is down. As a creative with your opinions of him aside, this two minute monologue makes you think.

Some people will close this article right away because they dislike Kanye, and that's okay, but it's healthy to listen to people you may not agree with, especially a successful creative like Kanye West. Because let's face it, he's a brilliant artist; it just so happens he knows it and doesn't shy away from it. 

Money Is Not His Definition of Success

Inspiring people is the definition of success. He quotes Buddy from the movie "Elf" saying that he's the toy-maker; he makes the toys so others can enjoy them. He wants to change the status quo.

100 Years From Now, Everyone on This Earth Will Be Dead

What did you do while you were here? What difference did you make as a creative?

The Main Point

The main point driven home from this video and this article is why do you create? Do you create to make money? Do you create to inspire others? Do you create to make a difference in the world? We naturally all became creatives not to make money or be famous, but instead, we started because we were inspired by something or someone. It's important to remember the essence of our own creativity.

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36 Comments

Dan Howell's picture

actually I think it is easy to ignore the impact he has made, especially in fashion. His last show, if you can call it that. was roundly panned and will likely be a financial loss for his backers.

Nick Pecori's picture

His latest tour, which I attended, was very inspirational as an artist; he pushes the limits and thinks outside of the box. It made me re-evaluate how I approach things creatively or how I can become better.

Some readers are going to be closed minded about this, that's on them, I enjoy listening to what others have to say who are successful, even if I may disagree with them. Since when is it only valuable to listen to just the people with we agree with?

ALEXANDER TARDIF's picture

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John Sheehan's picture

No. It's an Honorary degree. He's not supposed to tell people he has a PhD in the arts without mentioning that it's an honorary one (to avoid confusion with people who have worked hard and earned the actual title and degree).

Justin Berrington's picture

He makes some interesting points but they're overshadowed by his huge ego.

Nick Pecori's picture

That's what I'm getting at a little bit ego aside, listen to what he says.

I'd rather have an artist give us his authentic-self opposed to just paying everyone fake lip-service any way.

Anonymous's picture

On an artistic level Kayne is a genius. He's totally made a huge impact on the music scene and probably will go down as one of the most talented and hard working Rappers. on the other hand I think he is a cautionary tale to creatives in any industry. You start out doing something you love, you get a little success and then it goes to your head.

In Kayne's case it went to his head and it's overshadowed some of the amazing talent he has. Kayne is about being Kayne and changing the world rather than someone who loves what he does and just does it, possibly changing the world in the process. All the people he mentioned didn't set out to "change the world" they just did what they did.

I think the lesson I got from this is, do you what you do because you love it but shut the fuck up about it.

"All the people he mentioned didn't set out to "change the world" they just did what they did."

You honestly think that Howard Hughes and Steve Jobs (two of the people he cited) didn't set out to change the world? Of course they did and they were determined at all costs, especially their social connections and whatever perception of normalcy that may have existed before their fame really took off. If you have ever read about Steve Jobs, let alone his biography I'm surprised that you could make this statement. His drive to change the world through his work was sociopathic -- at least as sociopathic as Kanye will ever be. As for Walt Disney, I don't know much about him.

I'll agree with you that Kanye talks about himself a lot, but that doesn't make the people that inspire him (even if they were far more impactful on society) any less egotistical, sociopathic, etc.

Anonymous's picture

At the heart of why jobs did things though wasn't to be impactful on a personal level, it was to change the way people did things(music, computer, communicate)

Kayne just wants to be inspirational, he just wants people to think Kayne is the best and that he's changing the world when in reality he's not.I'm not saying Jobs wasn't a sociopath but at the heart of it he just wanted to create great products that changed the way people do things. I don't consider that the same as Kayne just wanting to "change the world" with no real goal or movement in mind. Jobs had a huge ego but he kind of had a reason to. Kayne has had a couple incredible albums, some mediocre ones and a weird fashion line. Not exactly changing the world for a lot of people. I feel like I maybe didn't get my point across the right way but people like jobs and hughes were more focused on changing things by creating or doing something worthy. where kayne just thinks he'll change the world because he's kayne. if that makes any sense.

Martin Van Londen's picture

I miss the old Kanye

Kevin Batchelor's picture

I miss the sweet Kanye. Chop up the beats Kanye. I gotta say, at that time I'd like to meet Kanye.

John Sheehan's picture

First, and this really annoys me, he has a HONORARY PhD in art. He didn't earn a PhD. That bugs the heck out of me.

I think the problem is he's better known for his ego and being famous than music or creativity. We were talking about him at work because of his fashion show failure, and no one could name more than one song of his (most picked the gold digger song). Michael Jackson made a huge impact on music and everyone, even people like me who didn't care for him, can name multiple songs by him. Every time I hear of him, it's in relation to a news story about him and his wife, or his lame fashion line, or a beef he has with someone. Little in the way of music. So in short term, right at this moment, he might seem like he's making an impact, but not in the long run.

I didn't like the video. It seemed fake to me. Something they put together to make a hallow celebrity look like they're deeper than they are. I've had to make a video like this before on a job, and it follows the same cookie cutter template we used.

If you want to inspire me on this site, don't be showing me something like this form someone like Kayne West. My mind is going to jump to "Click Bait" right away when I see something like this on a photography site, especially when the writer added so little in the way of original thought or commentary on the video.

For the record, it's articles like this that make me stop reading Fstoppers for awhile and go to the other photo news sites.

Nick Pecori's picture

This 100% was not click bait John, I watched this video the other night after a long night of retouching. He said "Inspiring others is the definition of success" and that quote really hit me, which led me to sharing this to others. It made me think, does taking photos of pretty girls and landscapes mean anything when I'm dead and gone? Does my work inspire others?

John Sheehan's picture

When I see a short article that has no meat to it that's off topic for a photography site and has someone controversial, my mind goes to click bait because there's no logical reason for it to be posted.

What you have here is something better suited for a Facebook post to your friends. Not worth being on a Fstopper's article.

Don't worry about inspiring others or whether you'll be remembered in 100 years. Stop thinking that way. That's for egotistical fame mongers.

Do the work. Do the work you love, and do it to the best of your ability. If you concentrate on the work and excel at it, then people will notice and be inspired. If your work is good enough, it will be viewed long after your bones have turned to dust. But that shouldn't be your concern.

Kayne West frets about his fame and legacy, to the point that his music has become forgettable and of a secondary concern to him. If he wanted to he could be known for his music, and not a punchline to a South Park episode.

I don't think legendary Hollywood photographer George Hurrell ever worried about inspiring others, or if he'd be remembered, when he taking photos of movie stars. He just worked hard, improved his technique, and kept his eye on making the best photographs he could. Because of his dedication to his art, he has inspired generations after him and his work has become iconic.

Be George Hurrell.

He "fashion" is a joke, but he's got fuck you money, so people around him wont tell him that. His last album wasnt even listenable. I think this is cautionary tale to stick with what you are good at. Kayne is the example of the photographer that tries to shoot everything.

Nick Pecori's picture

At the end of the day it's art, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and I absolutely loved his last album.

What inspired me to post this article was his "Inspiring others is the definition of success" quote and that really struck a chord with how I view my photography and creative work now. Sure posting portraits of beautiful women and landscapes is cool but...does it really mean anything when we leave this earth? Is it inspiring others to do better in this world? He makes some valid points..ego aside.

Nick,

It's interesting what you're saying about posting portraits of beautiful women and if that inspires others.
I understand after West's video, you started thinking about it. Did you elaborate on that?

Nick Pecori's picture

I touched a bit on that in "The Main Point" section of the article, I didn't want to make the article about myself honestly. I wanted the reader to ask him/herself those questions I asked towards the end of the article which is, "Does my work mean something?" "What is my definition of creative success?" "Am I doing what I'd aspire to be creatively?" etc etc.

I knew there was going to be some backlash with Kanye being the subject, so I'm happy to elaborate further with those who'd like to go more in depth in the comment section!

Well, I think what inspires or triggers the conversation is not that important. If in this case it's been West's video, I don't think that's particularly relevant (at least to me).
In fact, what intrigues me is especially what you said about your thoughts after you watched the video.
It is intriguing for two reasons:
1 - Are you start evaluating what you do from a more considered way? Meaning, not just because you like it or you enjoy it, but also because of a more, let's say, broader value?
2 - It's funny you mentioned beautiful women and landscapes: would you consider these two themes common idealization of beautiful? Hence, if common, what are the chances to leave a mark?

Anonymous's picture

"Sure posting portraits of beautiful women and landscapes is cool but...does it really mean anything when we leave this earth?"

I agree with you about portraits of beautiful women not meaning anything when it comes to message and longevity. But authentic family portraits, travel portraits, documentary portraits all have longevity and a purpose. Maybe you are coming from the fact that the majority of the high ranking images on Fstoppers are of models and while they are beautiful images, they have no real long lasting message.

Landscapes document the changes to our earth, whether it's manmade changes that photographers and scientists are trying to showcase damage humans are doing to the land (for example the Stopper article about Paul Nicklen's new book that was posted right after yours. He is a truly inspiring photographer who works tirelessly to bring the message of our disappearing wildlife and arctic landscape with his work with Sea Legacy) ...or changes that nature makes to the earth with natural disasters. Look at images of a place from today and then one from only 50 years ago. I guarantee they will be different.

As for Kanye, I have no opinion one way or another about him. Celebrities, in general, do not impress me unless the are contributing to the betterment of the future. Just creating music and fashion and controversy isn't doing anything for the betterment of mankind or the world.

Being a big brother/big sister, volunteering time to a cause you feel strongly about, etc., that's a real celebrity. For example, Denzel Washington volunteers his time to the Boys and Girls Club. He is contributing to the betterment of kids so that they will have a successful future. And he does this quietly and without fanfare because it's about the kids, not his ego.

So I agree with Kanye's message to create something that lasts and inspires and brings about change for the better, but I don't see him actually practicing it.

This is a transcript of what is said in this video. Line breaks represent cuts.

---

"I loved, eh, hip hop
and just turning the music up loud and playing it the entire car ride; and I found, you know, when I was in art school
I'd work three weeks on a piece and my friends would come over and just look at it and then leave.

"I always felt like I was a
I don't know, like I wasn't gonna end up being a fine artist one day.

"The opportunity to put moving art against the music was one of the best parts about being a professional recording artist.
Nah, I get tired of making videos now. I barely want to stand in front of the camera at all; I'd rather do things just using my mind.

"Very few people even knew I have a fucking PhD in Art.
And not that that would make any difference; but me saying that makes a difference to the exact people I'm talking to. It's like, shut the fuck up, I will fucking laser you, with alien fucking eyes and explode your fucking head. Shut the fuck - try to write a rap. Ok then. I made this fucking t-shirt. Now, shut up. And it cost me everything I had.

"Another parallel: Elf.
I'm the elf that's Will Ferrell that's too big for his hands to make the toy.
But he wants to make the toys: why? Not just so he can play with them; but he wants to bring joy to the world. I am a creator and it's my responsibility.

"Thirty nine year old Kanye West talking to you right now. Play this shit back in ten years. I build things that mean things to people. I make the christmas presents.

"To this date, they do not understand who I am. They do - they will not understand 'til after I'm gone.

"So, you ask me who I look up to, I'm like: I'm inspired by Walt Disney, I'm inspired by Howard Hughes, I'm inspired by Henry Ford, I'm inspired by Steve Jobs.

"For me, money is not my definition of success.
Inspiring people is a definition of success.
Doing things to the maximum.

"I wanna change the definition of status quo.

"And that's what I want. I want - I want my shoes - I want as many people to be able to have them as possible because in a hundred years from now everyone in this room will be dead; and what did you do while you were here?

"What difference does anything make that I'm saying here? Other than, if there's people who can help with what I'm saying and people who believe in me - come, help now. Call now. Call 1-800-CALLNOW".

---

It makes very little sense. Like he says he wants to 'change the definition of status quo'. To what? I think he means he wants to change the status quo itself - not its definition. This phrase in particular brings to attention the vacuous, superfluous absurdity of his message.

Maybe he's just not the best at articulating himself and he is making an attempt to communicate something truly profound. Or, maybe his success has afforded him a complete disconnect with the reality he is addressing and he is lost in his own image; his reflection in the cult of personality.

Either way, if he inspires people to do great things then that's positive. But without an understanding of why we do the things we do, a world full of Kanyes wouldn't get much done.

As an aside, I find Kanye fascinating. If I could wander around in anyone's head for a day it'd be his.

---

EDIT: here's where it gets interesting. In the phrase "I wanna change the definition of status quo", he's actually inadvertently changed the definition of 'definition'. The new unspecified definition of 'definition' then changes the literal context of 'status quo': so he has changed the definition of 'status quo'.

I take it back. They guy is a genius.

I remember there was a clip circulating social media for a while of Kanye at a music festival covering Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. At one point, while singing along, he just moves his jaw up and down in some uncanny simulation of singing. There was an outcry! He didn't even know the words!

How wrong people were. You see, this was an esoteric popular culture reference to Dana Carvey's part in the Bohemian Rhapsody montage featured in the film Wayne's World. During the filming of the sequence, it transpired that Dana didn't know/forgot the lyrics and so just mouthed the rhythm of the lyrics. It was a convincingly 'Garth' thing to do and so made the final cut.

Kanye is then making a scathing commentary. Garth looks the part, knows all the right bands, has their shirts and is engaged with his respective community. Yet he knows not the soul of that community. He doesn't understand what any of that means.

So when Kanye mouths the words, he is directly criticising the sycophants before him that unduly consecrate his every move - for they do not understand him.

Genius.

good article. Please go back and re-edit. Kanye was spelled wrong twice.

Hans Rosemond's picture

I don't particularly like Kanye as a person (or at least the persona he shows the public) but I do think he's held to a double standard. Kanye West has people writing his raps for him, people designing his clothing, doing the stitching, and producing the beats. Does that make him a fraud? Depends. Do you like Steve Jobs? Jobs didn't "create" any of the innovations he's credited with, yet we hold him up as the savior of Silicon Valley. As they say, Steve Jobs didn't play an instrument. He played the orchestra. So how is that different from Kanye? Apple made some absolute garbage as well. Look at the early iMacs.

If there's one thing Kanye West does well, it's nourishing his own brand. Does he have talent? That's pretty subjective. But has he made a lasting mark? Will he be remembered? Did he take control of his message, whether we agree with it or not? Absolutely.

Changing the world one pair of leather sweatpants at a time.

Martin Van Londen's picture

I feel like all the people who posted a negative comment on this thread are Kanye haters who have not spend any time listening to his music. His creativity is undeniable. But yeah he also has an ego. But honestly I do not know any creatives with out an ego.

Dan Howell's picture

Wait, because we don't appreciate his music we aren't qualified to comment on his impact outside of music? How does that work? I didn't realize that liking Kanye was the toll bridge to voicing an opinion.

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