Donald Trump may recently have been anointed as Time magazine’s Man of the Year, but if it weren’t for his unexpected presidential election win then Kanye West surely would have had the strongest shout for that title.
2016 has been such a controversy-packed year for the outspoken rapper that it’s hard to know where to begin, so let’s just try to do this chronologically.
Kanye West performing on stage
January saw Kanye get involved in one of many of his trademark Twitter rants, on this occasion with rap rival Wiz Khalifa and his partner (and Kanye’s ex) Amber Rose. In a string of 17 rage-tweets, he ridiculed Khalifa for “letting a stripper trap you”. This entertaining beef was later settled when Kanye’s wife Kim Kardashian made up with Rose in a selfie.
He’s since been in the headlines so often that it’s easy to forget that Kanye actually released a new album in 2016. After a number of title changes (working titles included Swish and Waves) his seventh studio album The Life of Pablo came out on February 14th – on Tidal only.
Then, he began tinkering with the tracklisting on a number of occasions, opening the interesting possibility that TLOP would be the first ever ‘living album’, which would constantly evolve and never be a permanent work of art. However, he eventually relented and made the record available on Apple Music and Tidal, as well as being able to digitally purchase – despite him saying that the record would “never be for sale”.
From this point, Kanye’s behaviour started to veer between the alarmingly entertaining and the downright alarming. He claimed at one point that he was $53 million in debt, reaching out to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for financial help. Later, more controversially, he declared his support for the disgraced comedian Bill Cosby, who is accused of multiple incidents of sexual assault in the past.
Arguably the most lucrative part of 2016 for Kanye came when he signed an extension of his Yeezy fashion deal with Adidas, in which special retail outlets to sell trainers and other items designed by Kanye were approved. It was widely reported that deal, an expansion of an existing deal, could make the rapper a billionaire.
Then everything blew up in the summer with the release of the now notorious music video for ‘Famous’. Featuring extraordinarily life-like wax figures of celebrities ranging from Donald Trump to Taylor Swift, it re-ignited a previous debate concerning misogyny around the lyric about Swift (“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b***h famous”).
Kanye signed a large deal with Adidas
Swift insisted once again that she had not given her permission for Kanye to refer to her in such a way in the lyrics, despite Kanye maintaining they had had a phone conversation about it. Kim Kardashian waded in with a sensational audio clip of the conversation, but despite the lyric itself not being mentioned, social media weighed in to declare this particular celeb feud for Kanye.
In this context, the rapper then launched his Saint Pablo tour of North America at the end of August. Featuring a suspended platform on which Kanye would perform and, increasingly, from which he would conduct his various bizarre celeb beefs.
Kid Cudi was the first to receive both barrels from him. “I birthed you! We all dealing with that emo sh*t all the time… Don’t ever mention ‘Ye name” he ranted from his stage. Soon after, when Kim Kardashian was the target of a violent armed robbery in her Paris apartment in October, he had a dig at his former mentor and collaborator Jay Z for not visiting the family or showing any concern.
It seemed as Kanye’s mental state and hectic professional life was hitting some kind of critical mass in November, and it eventually it hit him hard. On November 21st, he was taken to hospital in L.A. suffering from “temporary psychosis” brought on by sleep deprivation, exhaustion and dehydration.
He was released nine days later, with Kim looking after him and reports that they were going to take the rest of 2016 off as a break.
However, in true Kanye style, he was up and about again in under a fortnight, going to visit the president-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York in mid-December, where the two “discussed life”. Rumours that Kanye and Kim’s marriage was under pressure following her post-robbery trauma, his mental health and seeming refusal to rest went through the roof again.
Given the action-packed year he’s had, it seems inconceivable that 2017 could generate as many Kanye-based headlines as this. But we’re sure he’ll try.
Kim and Kanye at the MTV Video Awards
Kanye smiling at LAX
Kanye West has to cancel a number of his gigs