Kanye West, rap superstar and aspiring messiah, has been under fire for his remarks on Trump (they share dragon energy) and slavery (it was a choice). But recently Kanye made remarks to a paparazzo in Calabasas, California, that showed the shape-shifting superstar in his purest and least controversial form: sweet dad.
After being confronted on the sidewalk by the young celeb hunter, Yeezy asked, apropos of seemingly nothing, if the young man had kids. Upon learning the guy is a father of two, Kanye launched into some deep empathy.
“When I first came out to LA I didn’t have a family,” he told the paparazzi. “So, having a family gave me a whole new respect for dads, bro. Cause you out here feeding your family. You don’t feel like being in Calabasas shooting somebody and asking questions like that and stuff. But you know, you actually have a very important role, and I feel like your role is not respected and everybody’s role in society is important.”
While it can sometimes sound like Kanye is disconnected with the world when he’s giving broad interviews about his role as an artist, it’s clear in this brief conversation that he’s very familiar with the realities of fatherhood. In this moment on the street, with a man he’s never met, he finds the thread that ties all dads together: What we do for our family is not necessarily what we’d like to be doing for ourselves.
It’s true. The responsibility a man has before kids is largely to himself and his partner, if he happens to have one. If a job is personally edifying, allows him to afford a place to live, food to eat, and a little leisure time, then everything is right with the world. But that’s not a given. Lots of us work to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. And there’s nothing wrong with that either.
Maybe you, reasonable and responsible father, find yourself in Calabasas on day, pointing a camera at Kanye West and hoping he says something so you get paid. Maybe that’s fine. Maybe you’re doing it for the right reasons and maybe — shocking as it might be — West gets it.
How does this histrionic, grandiose pop cultural monolith manage to empathize with you, struggling photo dude? Well, he goes home. Fatherhood is the equalizer. Kanye is Kanye to everyone except his kids. To his kids, he’s dad so that becomes identity number one. He’s a father and an iconoclast in the same way that you, reluctant paparazzo, are a father and a celebrity photographer. You share an avocation.
And that’s where Kanye and the paparazzi come together. It’s kind of extraordinary, really. Despite that one makes a living as a powerful musician, and the other makes a living trying to capture the exploits of said powerful musician, there is common ground. They can look each other in the eyes and say, “I feel you.”
In this era of seemingly ceaseless confrontation and seemingly endless Kanye scandal, it’s refreshing to see Yeezus trying to bond with another man over their shared responsibility for their children. It’s a bit weird. It’s a bit unexpected. It’s a bit awkward. But it’s nice. For a moment, Kanye is the best sort of Kanye. Dad Kanye is a sweet dude.
And that hug? Well, it’s a hell of a hug. It’s like some sort of armistice. It’s like Tom and Jerry finding comfort in each others’ animated arms. It is a beautiful moment. Then it’s over and Calabasas goes back to being a cultural war zone. Kanye leaves to go find his kids — or whatever.