The Big Issue : Edition 457
THEBIGISSUE2–8MAY2014 15 WHEN COUNTRY SINGER Gretchen Wilson snared the Best New Artist gong at the 2004 American Music Awards, fellow nominee Kanye West stormed out. “Robbed,” he barked at the assembled press. “I was the best new artist this year, so get that other bullshit out of here!” Putting aside the fact that some-hits wonder Wilson winning over West and his incredible debut album, The College Dropout (2004), will go down in history as being on par with Crash winning the 2006 Best Picture Oscar, West’s reaction to the loss was the world’s first experience of what appeared to be the biggest ego in popular music. It certainly wasn’t the last. More than anyone else working within popular culture today, West is top of the list whenever features are written about outrageous celebrity outbursts: he has bum-rushed the stage at numerous awards shows, run his mouth off on live television, given self- aggrandising interviews, and smashed the cameras of paparazzi. And, as that 2004 AMA storm-out illustrates, he hit the ground running. Most celebrities turn to outspokenness in the twilight of their career in a desperate grab for relevance; West has made total honesty his personal brand. Speaking on a 2005 telethon raising funds for Hurricane Katrina victims, he went off-script and decried the relief TO MANY, THE NAME KANYE WEST IS SYNONYMOUS WITH EGO-DRIVEN OUTBURSTS AND OUTRAGEOUS PROCLAMATIONS, SO MUCH SO THAT THE RAPPER-SINGER-PRODUCER- DIRECTOR’S LEGITIMATE TALENTS ARE OFTEN IGNORED.