He’s been ridiculed, laughed at and shunned by bloggers, talk-show hosts and fellow pop stars for his outrageous behavior. He’s an emotionally out of control, passionate lyrical genius, and he is a poster child for how not to act, at certain times.
And somehow, Kanye West remains one of the most interesting, influential, talked about, successful humans on the face of the planet. How does he do it? And what the hell can you possibly learn from someone like Mr. West. Well let me explain:
Kanye West Lesson #1: Be Yourself
I like hip-hop. Heck I’ll even go as far as saying that I freakin love hip-hop, which is why I’m writing a blog post about a hip-hop artist. I’m a huge music fan in general and am always analyzing how artists are using social media and promoting themselves. From Kayne’s intimate twitter feed, to his style of clothing, he hasn’t compromised himself even a little bit. He’s made it by being himself; by rapping about his mom and Jesus, by dressing like a preppy when most rappers were still wearing XXL everything, and by risking it all to express what he felt was the truth.
“When I did things like [the Taylor Swift episode] or the ‘George Bush doesn’t care about black people’ moment, it wasn’t a matter of being selfish. It’s more like I was being selfless—that I would risk everything to express what I felt was the truth.” – Kanye West
Just like Kanye puts himself into everything he does, bloggers should also put more of themselves into their writing. For starters, you’ll enjoy blogging more about the things you like. An added bonus is that if you maintain a consistent personality, you’ll likely build a relationship with your readers and they’ll continue to come back. Content without personality is like skin blisters that are peeling. People can see it but no one wants to look at it because it’s dry and unappealing.
Don’t be like that. Be the amazing, weird, smart, quirky person that you are in real life, but also do it when you write.
Kanye West Lesson #2: Be Controversial
You need to have an opinion, dammit! There are millions of blogs out there today, millions! The blogosphere is too competitive to expect that your lackluster, (yet informative) blog will actually be read. There’s a reason why the Huffington Post averages 20-40 million page views a day, and it’s greatly due to sniffing out controversial, “viral” subject matters, like this, this and this.
There’s no need to rehash Kanye’s most controversial moments, but the guy gets people talking about him. The point isn’t to make people hate you, but being too safe with your ideas and subject matter will force your readers to bounce (or never come in the first place). Don’t be afraid of pushing the envelope a little bit, just as long as you can stand behind them. A big part of the reason why people don’t write about their opinions is because it requires additional work. Do the extra work, add your opinions and back your content up.
“… Everything is an opinion. The way you dress is an expression of your opinion. Your religious beliefs are your opinion. The music you turn up loud is your opinion. For most people it’s easier to just agree. For me the hardest thing is to ‘just’ agree and that is what sparks creativity. The feeling that something can be better, the feeling that something’s missing, the feeling that something’s needed.” – Kanye West
Kanye West Lesson #3: Stay Passionate
Writing, blogging— whatever you want to call it — is a marriage. Being a writer isn’t “till I make my boss happy do we part,” it’s “till death do we part.” It’s a full time commitment, and becoming exceptional doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes you’ll feel insecure about what you write and hate every single word, and sometimes *gasp* no one will even read it. But it’s all part of the game.
Despite all of Kanye’s mess ups his ability to remain passionate is what has made him a successful hip-hop star. The guy spit raps through a jaw that was shut with wires in 2002 after a brutal car crash, for crying out loud. If you’re not passionate about blogging, read Kanye West Lesson #1 and #2.
Kanye West Lesson #4: Be a Rockstar
My favorite Kanye quote is about how “underground” rappers with great amounts of talent are the only ones holding themselves back. “Everyone who could be a real rock star is just too scared,” he said. Kanye loves himself, and isn’t afraid to let you know. He’s his own number 1 fan and believes there’s no limit to who he can be in the world (producer, rapper, fashionista, record-label owner). It’s this, “the world is mine!” attitude that will help bloggers reach online stardom. Share your content, push your content and promote yourself!
It should also be said that Kanye couldn’t have reached rock-star status by himself. He collaborates with the biggest names in hip-hop including, Jay-Z, Common, Alicia Keys, Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Kid Cudi and the list goes on. On his latest album, “Cruel Summer,” Kanye collaborated with 22 other artists. It’s a two way street, and both parties benefit from the collaboration. Find the influencers in your industry, and share, promote and comment on their content. Heck, you could even collaborate on projects, like SEO.com’s Bryan Phelps did when he wrote, “Local Search Dream Team.”
Kanye West Lesson #5: Be Consistently Creative
Kanye’s ability to be consistently creative in every aspect of his life has been the main key to success. In additions to selling more than 10 million albums and receiving countless producer credits, there’s a reason why brands like Nike and Louis Vuitton have signature fashion lines. The guy is creative. How does Kanye stay creative? I like to think it’s because gets inspiration from his own life (in his latest song he talked about feeling suicidal after his mom died).
Bloggers can learn from Kanye West by staying creative by just being themselves, adding personality to their posts, staying passionate and learning from others in their industry.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a bit of a Kanye fan. I don’t think he’s the paragon of brand management. I think he’s anything less than a “jackass,” like President Obama once said. But Kanye brings an immense amount of passion, controversy and creativity into the world, something I wish bloggers would create a little more of.
Bloggers: Please start being a little more like Kanye and little less like a saltine cracker.