Westworld

Kayne West adidas Yeezy

WESTWORLD

If you need proof that life is indeed stranger than fiction, simply compare current news headlines to anything written in a supermarket tabloid.

It could be argued that the antics of Donald Trump and rapper Kayne West aren’t stranger than aliens abducting and performing sexual experiments on an Iowa farmer, but there are times when such accounts are a dead heat.

What can’t be argued is that Mr. Trump and Mr. West are among the more controversial headline makers of our time, in part because of their well-deserved reputations for outlandish behavior and noxious viewpoints.

From the outside it appears that these unlikely bedfellows couldn’t possibly have anything in common, and yet, a parasitical attraction exists between them; and there’s more, as evidenced by his actions, Mr. West is experiencing a full-fledged bromance with Mr. Trump.

It’s not until you examine their personality traits that it becomes obvious they’re practically clones, two apparently diametrically opposed individuals who are bound at the hip by similar sociopathic tendencies.

For example, both suffer a fragility of ego that drives them to remain in the spotlight, no matter what it takes, and in the process constantly seek the validation of those who possess greater celebrity, power, or status than them. Nothing bothers these men more than being shunned by those who outshine them.

That’s just scratching the surface. Both display textbook narcissism, and as pathological liars they rely on a hyperbolic vocabulary and the self-preservation of living in worlds of their own making, worlds that are continually drifting further and further away from reality.

Those two fantasy worlds recently collided in what could have been the made-for-TV comedy, Mr. West goes to Washington.

The sound bites from Mr. West’s White House visit were predictably surreal, a virtual trove of bizarre and incomprehensible comments. As if addled by the Kool-Aid served to the fanatics who attend Mr. Trump’s self-promotional rallies, the sycophant rapper, overwhelmed at finding himself in his deity’s palace, rambled on about his intelligence, welfare, Trump merchandise – and of course – alternate universes.

Finding Mr. West’s name in the headlines has practically become a weekly thing. Notorious for his belief that slavery was a choice – for the slaves – Mr. West can’t seem to go any length of time without firmly planting his Yeezys in his mouth. It had only been a couple of weeks prior to his tryst with Trump that he had publically embarrassed himself during the season premiere of Saturday Night Live. His performance on the show was actually an ill-advised, last-minute replacement act for another artist. Having concluded his final song for the evening, he launched into a juvenile pro-Trump rant that was met with boos from the live audience as the show’s cast, standing in the background, rolled their eyes.

It’s all become quite predictable.

This is the same Mr. West who, with his vapid wife in tow, met with the President of Uganda and turned the event into a gong show. The bewildered president, who understandably had no idea who Kim Kardashian was, must have thought aliens had landed on earth. During the visit he was gifted a pair of autographed Yeezys, and the musician’s senseless advice that to increase tourism in Uganda the African leader should give his country a “Jurassic Park” vibe.

This is the same Mr. West who crashed the stage at an awards show to proclaim the artist who was receiving an award was undeserving of it. It was such a ludicrous act that it led then-president Barack Obama to call him a “jackass”. 

And this is the same Mr. West who acted like a petulant child throwing a tantrum when his collaboration with Nike came to end. Nike must, in hindsight, be counting its blessings for having rid itself of the Yeezy mess, and perhaps more importantly, for that mess to have landed in the lap of its closest competitor, adidas.

The Kanye West freak show seems to be gaining momentum, but at what cost to those around him? A growing number of his associates are turning their backs on him as it becomes increasingly difficult to shrug off or simply ignore his bizarre behavior. It also brings into question the ethics of those who continue to underpin him, and the turpitude of companies such as adidas that maintain his prize collaborator status.

One can’t help but imagine how the company’s legendary founder would have reacted to all of this? Adi Dassler didn’t tolerate the antics of his own brother, whose blustery and complicated personality would have paled in comparison to what Mr. West regularly demonstrates.

It is perhaps unfair to recall a time when adidas embodied a more altruistic persona. Today’s company is far removed from its fairy tale like pre-Nike era, and is now a massive corporation beholden to profit and its shareholders.

Like most corporations, adidas employs the tactics of total war to increase its market share, and part of that approach is to leverage the fame of cult-like personalities in order to sell its products – ethics-sensitive practices be damned.

Still, adidas must be finding it increasingly difficult to maintain its balance when Mr. West is constantly tightening the public relations tightrope.

The time for adidas to cut its ties with Kayne West has come. And if not now, when? What will it take before adidas finally says ‘enough’? At what point does it become impossible for a stereotypically faceless corporation to ignore the negative associations that are being made between it and its politically-charged collaborator?

At the conclusion of his meeting with the United States president, Mr. West claimed that he would continue to push the Trump agenda on adidas. “When I went in [with adidas], in 2015, we were a $14 billion company losing $2 billion a year,” he told the president. “Now we have a $38 billion market cap. It’s called the ‘Yeezy effect.’”

This delusional viewpoint was also evident during a meeting with adidas’ CEO in Chicago when Mr. West suggested that adidas should manufacture its products locally. “Chicago is the core of Middle America. And we have to make Middle America strong.”

The naivety of such statements is staggering, and it proves that in his world – Westworld – Mr. West believes that he plays a major role in the company’s future. The reality is that Yeezy shoes are produced in China for a good reason, the same reason – and only reason – that adidas associates with him in the first place, to increase profits. It’s certainly not the company’s responsibility or mandate to make America great again; if a native manufacturer such as Nike refuses to produce shoes in its own country, why would Mr. West expect a European company to open factories in the United States?

For consumers who still believe that people should be held accountable for their actions, the Yeezy brand has been toxic for some time now. Voting with their wallet, discerning sneaker buyers won’t touch a pair of Yeezys because they care about who receives their hard-earned money, and what it says about them by association.

The good news for adidas, and what it continues to bank on, is that those customers are in the minority. Most sneaker buyers don’t pay attention to such things, and in a time when mega corporations and cult-like personalities can do no wrong, and seemingly get away with almost anything, why would adidas even consider severing its ties with problematic personalities?

One reason would be that the manufacturer has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership qualities and good ethics in a world that is lacking in both. And that it has the opportunity to prove cynics wrong by acting in a manner that proves there are things more important than money, but it won’t.

The company’s response to Mr. West’s exploits has so far been an anaemic, characterless distancing of itself from the problem, a typical attempt at disassociation in order to remove culpability.

The face of today’s adidas is undoubtedly talented at enriching a company’s bank account, but also less adept at principled leadership, CEO Kasper Rørsted has publically stated the predictable, that adidas doesn’t support the comments and viewpoints of Mr. West.

Mr. Rørsted also recognized the importance of the company’s relationship with its collaborators such as Stella McCartney and Pharrell Williams, who can be seen as positive connections, and perhaps to counter Mr. West’s Trump-like claims that he alone was responsible for the company’s success, Mr. Rørsted pointed out that the Yeezy brand represented just “a small part” of the $25 billion adidas empire.

It’s obvious that Mr. West works at his notoriety and creates controversy because he believes that any news is good news. No one can argue that he’s musically talented, but that he abuses that success in the worst possible way by using his celebrity to push a very dark and misguided agenda is condemnable.

Success has gone to his head, and unfortunately given him the confidence to apply himself in other fields such as political theory and fashion. He should stick to his day job. The Yeezy 350 was an evolutionary design, but that doesn’t mean Mr. West is a great sneaker designer; anyone who disagrees with that doesn’t understand how shoe collaborations work.

“Let’s stop worrying about the future, all we have is today,” Kayne West stated during his White House visit, It’s easy to see why Mr. West would suggest that. At some level he must be aware of his impending doom. The Trump train is destined to derail, and now that the Yeezy wagon has hitched itself to that upcoming train wreck, the end is nigh. The question is, how long will adidas continue on as a paying passenger on that ride?

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