I am a fan of Kanye West.* I love his music and like to have discussions about his cultural relevance, and I look forward to hearing new music from the Louis Vuitton Don with the best of them. Aside from the many leather-bound books that adorn my home, I have physical copies of all his albums, save for The Life of Pablo, which is either not in stores yet or never will be. I have no clue. Point is, I’m a fan; I like Kanye West’s music. He’s cool and s–t.
I, however, am not a stan.
I know this because I’m friends with many Kanye stans. I’m a fan; I like his music. A stan, on the other hand, believes that Kanye is the most relevant musician since Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder or Bob Dylan. Nobody comes close to his artistry. As Jay Z said on Outkast’s “Flip Flop Rock,” Kanye is on “a whole ’nother plane.”
Stans also believe that Kanye’s contributions to music and society at large (minus the fashion; I think we’re all in agreement on his less-than-stellar fashion line) loom larger than those of any other hip-hop artist who ever lived and might put him in the running for being the most significant pop-culture figure of forever. Here’s the thing: There are definitely arguments to be made about just how significant Kanye West is to music as a whole that place him in the upper echelon of where he belongs—the music 1 percenters, so to speak. But that’s what stans do—they overstate. And in an attempt to balance the universe with logic and reason, you have to understate some things in order to provide order among chaos.
None of this would be a problem if it weren’t for one little problem that zealots have: They must always engage you in conversations and debate about how great their leader is. Conversations and debates that they start, mind you. So, since you will undoubtedly end up in a conversation you didn’t ask for, which will turn into a debate you don’t care to have, here’s a short manual of how to talk about Kanye with Kanye stans.
1. Don’t. This is becoming easier and easier to do because Kanye seems hell-bent on forcing people to really discern whether or not they care enough about his music at this point to stomach the rest of his mess. Which is a shame because his music is still, and likely always will be, really good. It’s just that people are afraid that one day, Kanye will give an interview like R. Kelly’s GQ interview, in which case you really will have to make a choice about how much stock you put in the words of a clearly insane person.
Since there’s a better than 50 percent chance that you are already friends with a Kanye stan, let’s focus on more likely goals.
2. Constantly request that you both agree to disagree. Have you ever been in an argument about something innocuous, like, say, toilet tissue? Let’s say you were arguing about Charmin toilet tissue and the merits of ultra soft versus ultra strong. Now, this all comes down to personal preference, right? Maybe the ultra strong chafes you. Maybe ultra soft rips in your Edward Scissorhands-like fingers, causing you to wipe your ass with your fingertips way too often. While you both agree that people who buy no-ply tissue are evil, you diverge on soft vs. strong.
You know what? That’s OK. Unless one of you is a stan. The stan will not rest until you understand that you are wrong. There’s no crying in baseball and no preferences when it comes to standom. While you will not be changing your opinion, the stan will continue to explain to you why your chosen option is wrong. Your only recourse—again, we’re talking about a preference—is to agree to disagree so that you both can move on with your life. Of course, no stan worth his or her salt is going to just agree to disagree, especially not a Kanye stan who has determined that if you think anybody other than Kanye is significant, you are smoking rocks. Read carefully: I didn’t say more significant than Kanye, just “significant.”
Which leads to …