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 …
3. Just say, “OK” or “You’re right.” It’s a condescending approach that’s likely to send a stan toward a conniption, but the truth is, stans leave you no options. You’re in an argument you don’t care about against your will, usually because the stan asked you a question and you answered it honestly, not expecting to be met with the Kraken. Fact is—and this holds true for all arguments with anybody who is overzealous—there’s no way to come to a conclusion about this argument unless you coalesce or give him or her the proverbial finger with “OK” or “You’re right” and nothing else. Kanye stans will tell you that Kanye single-handedly elevates the creativity of every person he comes in contact with. You might disagree with this, and you’ll be asked for possible examples of another person who brings in as much creativity.
You can say Stevie Wonder.
You will be wrong. Just know that up front. You will be rebuffed because, again, no stan is just going to let you have your opinion. True standom requires that everybody’s opinion on the chosen subject be the same: that the artist is the greatest to ever do it.
So, all you can do when the stan rebuffs you is say “OK” and hope the stan tires him- or herself out.
4. Constantly change the subject. “Kanye is the greatest human being who ever lived, right?”
“Mariah Carey sang ‘We Belong Together.’”
“I know, but what does that have to do with Kanye?”
“Do you remember the time?”
“What time? What are you talking about? How does this relate to Kanye?”
“Peanut butter jelly time.”
Keep this up long enough and the stan will just quit. Of course, you seem nuts, but sometimes you win and lose a battle at the same time.
5. Say, “What about Kim, though?” This will send your stan into either hyper-Kanye defense mode or the opposite and likely “I hate the Kardashians” territory, which will allow you to branch off into a conversation you are likely more interested in and is less fueled. An alternative is to redirect by saying, “Well, The College Dropout or Late Registration,” at which point the stan may talk for an hour, by him- or herself, and you can watch your favorite shows on the DVR … or hang up and the stan will never know.
The only successful way to talk to a Kanye stan about Kanye is not to talk to a Kanye stan about Kanye unless you’re ranking albums or saying how great he is. The minute you veer into criticism, the stan goes into Defcon 5 mode, and from there it’s every man for himself.
Go forth and prosper, and listen to the kids, bro!
* You can replace Kanye with any number of artists, most notably Beyoncé.
Panama Jackson is the co-founder and senior editor of VerySmartBrothas.com. He lives in Washington, D.C., and believes the children are our future.