Is it time for rappers to stop having a public identity crisis?

Ashley Manning /
Oct 17, 2018 / Opinion

After Kanye recently announced he was changing his name to ‘Ye’, most people catalogued his apparent publicity stunt under ‘more-fruitless-shit-from-the-West-Kardashian-family’.

Having admitted to being a Trump supporter and making controversial comments about the 13th Amendment (you know… the one that abolished slavery…) he now claims that his name change means that he represents everyone; “I’m you, I’m us, it’s us,” he told radio host, Big Boy. For the avid hip-hop fan amongst us, the artist’s name change hasn’t come as much of a surprise. Unlike other genres, the success of rappers relies heavily on their identity, as fans buy into not just the tracks released, but also the life they lead, the preconceived worlds they create.

An identity crisis often signals a new creative direction marking the beginning of international recognition, or the dramatic implosion of an artist’s career. Tupac most famously changed his name after struggling to sell his records under the alias of MC New York and Diddy has undergone a string of identity changes settling on the (quite creepy) name ‘Brother Love’.

For most, though, the ever-changing names of rappers just makes good small talk fodder at parties; “Snoop Dog? Don’t you mean Snoop Lion…” And the cynic amongst us views these changes as a desperate plea to reinvigorate a failing media presence- or a simpler way of putting it, somebody has a hefty credit card bill coming up that they need to find the money to pay off.

According to the man himself, though, Kanye… sorry… Ye’s name change has a deeper meaning. He believes that ‘Ye’ which means ‘you’, is the most common word used in the Bible. He claims that it’s “a reflection of our good, our bad, our confused, everything.” But what does this actually mean?

Is he suggesting that he is no longer the ‘Steve Jobs of fashion and culture…’ but is, instead, just like the rest of us 9-5 working folk? Or is he subtly alluding to not knowing who the real Ye is himself? In a way he is correct; ‘Ye’ does represent a collective confusion. A confusion about how we are expected to react towards this change. Shocked? Excited? Indifferent?

Despite this, it does seem like his name change is a clumsy attempt at resonating with an audience who probably lost interest in Ye some time ago. The artist has spent the past few years slowing taking a shit on the reputation he’d made for himself showing his true colours as a narcissist with a glaringly obvious messiah complex. Unfortunately, unlike his predecessors, it’s unlikely that this identity overhaul will do anything more than fund the work of gossip magazines, not just because of its insincerity, but because after years of publicly obscure behaviour, nothing can really shock us about the artist anymore.

So actually Ye, mate, rather than spending your days shaving letters off your name, please work on that album you promised so you can give hip-hop fans what they truly want and deserve; decent music.

Words by Ashley Manning

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