Allow Kanye teach you One Lesson to become a Forbes Billionaire
Some people believe the recent Forbes piece declaring Kanye West a billionaire antagonises the rapper. I don’t see it.
FI think Forbes is amused by him and the truth he believes the publication owes him. But they are not alone in thinking Kanye West amusing.
From the start of his music career, he’s been viewed as a bit of an arrogant but talented clown (or a talented but arrogant clown). I recall he said there’s gonna be “a problem” if he doesn’t win a Grammy during a performance at…the Grammys. That was back in 2006. The famously deaf Recording Academy never gave him the big award until he became too angry to even want to say it again.
He’s moved that sense of entitlement to the wider pop culture and design scene. He wanted the Louis Vuitton job but didn’t get it (it went to his friend Virgil Abloh). For some time, he wanted to be allowed to design but nobody wanted to give him the chance. Nike treated him in a way he didn’t like, leaving room for an Adidas seduction. That has paid off for the shoe giant and I wonder how the execs at Nike feel about that.
Kanye understands that you can be great in your house but that isn’t greatness until it’s externally validated. (It’s unrelated but it reminds me of the late writer James Salter saying one has to be widely read to be considered great.) Kanye is lucky he’s American. Imagine the frustration if Kanye was a Nigerian, a country without credible ranking or award systems. How would he cope mentally knowing that whoever praises him is probably doing so for reasons outside of the substance of his work?
As for the Forbes piece itself, I think it’s remarkable. Zack O’Malley Greenburg’s writing is witty and supple. The comparisons to Trump are apt. (I don’t think Forbes dislikes Trump like the news and culture platforms on the American left do.) I find the approach to how they arrive at their figures both insightful and defensible.
The analysis of how they got to 140 million dollars as Kanye’s stake in Yeezy is very well written and argued. It makes you understand how much the business of culture is still in the hands of old white money: The Yeezy sneaker might be generating around 1.3 billion dollars per annum but Kanye has 15 percent of that and because some expenses come from his cut, he really has about 11 percent coming to him. It explains why he is trumpeting 3.3 billion as his worth (although that figure is backed by the Bank of America Corp, which valued the sneaker side of Kanye’s biz, per Bloomberg).
Kanye thinks Yeezy can make that money even if he takes it away from Adidas. But as anyone with a knowledge of big business and finance would tell you, that is not true. For one, he would still be in debt and the infrastructure Adidas has built to be able to sell those amount of shoes in a year was built over decades. That Forbes explains this in fresh prose is remarkable.
Plus there is a link to a masterclass on evaluating the value of a creative catalogue. In fact, this piece might open to eyes to something you might have felt: Nigeria hasn’t scratched the surface of the worth of creativity; we maybe never will.
So yes Kanye is a billionaire in dollars. But that’s only half the story.
The other half is Kanye’s seeming prophetic ability and his mastery of media and communications. He called himself the greatest music artist and suddenly he was in a conversation rappers were never allowed to be in. Some publications even seemed to agree he was. A lot of them declared his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy the best album of the year. Rolling Stone called it the Album of the Decade. That’s not an acclaim rap albums get but, as Nas might have said, Kanye made you look.
The same thing with his obsession at being declared a billionaire. Apparently, he has been hounding Forbes since 2018 for an inclusion into their annual list. Let Kanye teach us one lesson: sometimes you have to shout for people to take you seriously.
If you have listened to the new Brymo album, you’d think he’s deriding the famed hubris of Ozymandias. Kanye is likely to think of King Oz as heroic. Percy Bysshe Shelley be damned, Kanye West has touched the sky.