Celebrity is a bit of a chicken/egg situation. One way to look at it is seeing the celebrity being created as a result of the society itself, the other is that society will get the celebrity it deserves. Whichever way you look at it, we have the current West/Kardashian/Jenner phenomenon. A three ring circus. In this modern, reality TV fed world, the three families have combined to create the ultimate prime time buffet. You never have to change from their channel. Family drama? Check. Celebrity sex tape leak? Runway Model? Mouthy Rapper? Check, check, check. Trans-gender Dad? Check. Sports star husband with a salacious sex and drug scandal? Check. It's a ridiculous list. The guys at the tabloids must be on their knees every day, thanking the heavens for Kris Jenner and her reproductive system.
A week ago I found myself under the same roof as the above roll call. I was sent to cover the launch of Kanye's "Yeezy Season Three" launch at Madison Square garden. I figured every photographer in the city would be there but at check in time was one of maybe ten photographers permitted to enter.
We were led through numerous halls beneath the stands and out in to the dark arena to our media perch. Once in our positions, we were instructed not to move at all. I unpacked and took in what lay before me. In the center of the arena, a giant gold sheet covered a large, undulating mound. Several spotlights swirled as the smoke machines were seemingly cranked to eleven in an attempt to fill the massive space with atmosphere. We stood for 30 minutes as the seats around us filled. Then they arrived. The Jenner/Kasrdashians. All of them, all in white. The mom, the seemingly cloned sisters, the grandchild, the dad in her dress; lit by spotlight until they found their seats. Next, Kanye. Again spotlit, followed closely by his brother-in-law, Lamar Odom, still seemingly in a daze from his crash of epic proportions at the Love Ranch.
Mr West walked down to the floor, was greeted by a mass of well wishers and plugged in his laptop introduced himself and his album. The music started and crowds cheered and danced in their seats as they first laid ears on the sound that Kanye had promised was the greatest album ever. After the first track, the gigantic sheet covering the mountain was pulled back to reveal about a thousand people decked out in Kanye's Yeezy brand, stood totally still on a hodge-podge multi-layered stage.
Kanye would introduce each tune, but also take time to rant for sometimes minutes on end, mainly about how hard his life was. Meanwhile the models continued to stand, mostly still, with maybe one here or there raising a fist or perhaps taking a seat.
It was mentioned that Kanye would be streaming his album through Tidal live at the event. Right from the laptop he brought along and straight to MSG's massive speakers. There was something I admired about this. For such a huge event it had a lo-fi house party delivery. It was very root element. What humanized the whole thing even further was the sound of email alerts crashing the music. At first I thought it was a sample. But again and again, my heart would leap as the shrill sound of landing emails kept blasting through the PA, louder than the pounding hip hop could ever be.
Kanye's rants continued to the point that I couldn't tell if he was trying to be a parody of himself. I looked around to see if anybody else was laughing. As if testing us further, he introduced his new video game based on his mom going to heaven and gave a sample on the Jumbotron. It didn't seem real and again I couldn't work out if this was part of a joke. Applause was lacking. Scolding the audience he played the teaser again and demanded higher praise. My guess is that people clapped with more vigor so he wouldn't play it a third time and make us feel even more confused and uncomfortable. It worked. Kanye moved on and took requests from past albums then thanked us all and left. I packed my gear and exited with the masses on to seventh avenue, wondering what the hell had just happened.