The Evolution of Kanye West

*Disclaimer: this post may be a little longer than normal*

After a year of being M.I.A. from the Twitterverse, Kanye West has finally made his return. In honor of this momentous occasion, I decided to take a look back at the evolution of Kanye West on Twitter, as I think he is the perfect example to showcase how music artists have increasingly used Twitter to build their brand.

2010-2011: Trying to be relatable but not actually relatable Kanye

Kanye joins Twitter and tweets random thoughts. His use of Twitter was pretty interesting if you ask me, and you have to admit he was pretty funny to follow. I have decided that he was trying to be relatable to his loyal followers in order to connect with us, even though that is pretty difficult for someone with his fame and fortune.

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#relatable am I right?

Artists often attempt to be relatable on their social media accounts as a better way to connect with their fans. The ability to communicate with your favorite artists directly on the platform provides the opportunity to spark conversations that might otherwise not occur.

Early 2012: Kanye loves Kanye

I would say that the tweets from this era are the most Kanye tweets of all time. You hear the phrase “Nobody loves Kanye like Kanye” and he wasn’t afraid to show it. He wasn’t the most humble celebrity on social media, but that’s what made Kanye who he is. He is known for his arrogance. Maybe he was just trying to be a role model and teach us about confidence?

 

 

 

And let’s not forget the 86-tweet monologue addressing all sorts of different topics. This was the first of a few long Twitter threads by the celebrity, as I will discuss.

This version of Kanye on Twitter is an example of how some celebrities try to build their brand by being known for something. Kanye is known for being self-centered and never smiling, which gets people talking about him. Another example of this is DJ Khaled, who is known for using phrases like “major key” and “bless up” via Snapchat.

Late 2012: Kanye the Disappearing Act

So, Kanye tweets about random things, tweets about how great he is, tweets 86 times in a row, then…deletes everything? Interesting timeline, Kanye. On October 4, 2012, he tweeted “BE BACK SOON,” which also happened to be around the time when he and Kim Kardashian started dating. We never truly found out if this was actually the reason he deleted everything, but I found it to be the most logical explanation. We’ve seen several celebrities go dark on social media and it always grabs our attention. It’s an interesting tactic and has happened a lot in the past five years for a variety of reasons. Examples range from the case of Taylor Swift and the announcement of Reputation to the case of Rihanna when she went dark just because she “felt like it.” Overall, in most cases, going dark allows celebrities the opportunity to begin a new era of their brand or take a break from the craziness of social media. That may be why Kanye has done it a few times.

2013: Jimmy Kimmel vs. Kanye

In 2013, Kanye had an interview on BBC where – surprise surprise – he was very confident in his own image. Not soon after, Jimmy Kimmel spoofed the interview with two children, causing Kanye to go off on another rant, in all caps, aimed towards Kimmel. The entire rant is even on Genius, completely annotated. I would recommend checking it out here.

We all know that Twitter fights are huge for publicity. It gets people talking and turns everyone’s attention to the people involved. Kanye has been in a few fights, and the annotation of this one just proves that people love to talk about it.

2014: Kim and Kanye say “I do”

Have you ever noticed that Kim Kardashian is the only person Kanye follows on Twitter? That’s pretty much all you need to know.

There are actually several celebrities that only follow one person. I think that usually, the one person is the person that best embodies their brand. An example is Conan O’Brien, who only follows a random girl named Sarah Killen. He decided to pick one random follower to follow back and he picked this girl who mostly tweeted about peanut butter and gummy dinosaurs, making her semi-famous. Conan is known for his ability to be random and funny, so I think this makes sense.

2015: Kimye

Kim and Kanye are married and Kanye talks less praise about himself and more about his lovely wife. He does so in a unique way, posting…intimate photos of his wife with captions like “I’m so lucky” and “SWISH.” The Kanye loves Kanye vibes still underlie, but now it mostly involves bragging about the beauty of his lady. Kim has turned out to be not only a wife but a partner in business for him. So yes, it makes sense that she is the only one Kanye follows.

2016: TLOP and West vs. Wiz

Kanye teases his new album with the following tweet:

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He offered free tickets and Yeezy’s to anyone who guessed what the album name was, which sparked a long few days of fan speculation on what the letters could possibly stand for. This builds up the excitement for the album’s release and gets people talking about it before it even exists to them. We’ve also seen this recently with the announcement of J Cole’s new album K.O.D., which turned out to have three different meanings.

Also in 2016, Kanye got into yet another Twitter fight involving the naming of the aforementioned album, The Life of Pablo. If you didn’t know, before the release of this album he changed the name three times. It started as So Help Me God, then changed to Swish, then Waves. Wiz Khalifa subtweeted Kanye about how the Waves title was disrespectful toward Max B, who refers to himself as the Silver Surfer and is known for changing the meaning of the word “wavy” to mean “cool” in hip-hop. Kanye struck back and subtweeted in the same way. This fight built up even more discussion about the album itself. Also, if you haven’t gotten the lesson yet, here it is: don’t publicly talk bad about Kanye.

2017: Kanye goes dark, again

If there any fans out there reading this blog, you know that Kanye has been laying low since around May 2017, when he deleted his social media once again. This happened right before Kimye released their toddler clothing line, which seemed odd to his fans. He also didn’t show up to the Met Gala with Kim shortly after. My guess was that Kanye had been taking the hiatus to work on his music and relax without the distraction that Twitter can bring. It could also have to do with the fact that he was hospitalized for exhaustion in late 2016. As I mentioned before, artists often do this before a big announcement or as an indication of rebranding.

2018: Kanye’s Return

He’s back! After almost a year of little to no activity on social media Kanye returned to Twitter a few days ago and was greeted by the CEO of Twitter himself.

Kanye returned by posting a few photos of tattoo mock-ups, followed by a series of tweets which he ended up explaining was him live-tweeting his book.

It’s safe to say that Kanye has had a lot on his mind and is now willing to share it with the world. I’m going to go ahead guess the hiatus could have to do with the fact that he has been posting tons of pictures of shoes and just announced not one but several new albums coming this summer. Ye’s been busy and his disappearance built up to these announcements, which I think fans really appreciate.

And beyond

Kanye West’s use of social media has changed a lot over the years, and people have taken notice. He certainly is a huge personality both in real life and on Twitter and that’s part of the reason why people continue to follow him. There’s no telling how long his return will last, so I’d recommend following and reading his tweets before they are deleted.

Artists’ release of new brands and music are taking shape on Twitter now more than ever, which is why fans feel so connected to their favorite artists and vice versa. I’m sure many of you have felt that Twitter has connected them to celebrities and their fanbase in this way, and I’d love to hear what you think about it.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2018/04/18/kanye-wests-6-ridiculous-twitter-eras-from-water-bottle-hate-to-stop-playing-chess-with-life/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1aa411e9adb8

8 comments

  1. Great post, Katherine!! Always entertaining to hear what Kayne is up to.

    I really enjoyed how you used the different “periods” throughout his social media use to explain what Kanye could be doing to promote or shape his brand. Similar to how he first started out, I think a lot of celebrities and artists try to use social media to connect with and relate to their fans. Despite the good intentions, this isn’t always the best approach as some celebrities aren’t super friendly or relatable. Simple put, this tactic doesn’t mesh with their brands.

    You discussion of Kayne’s strong social media brand reminded me of Chrissy Teigen and her very well-known Twitter account. When you google her name, the first suggestion that pops up is “Chrissy Teigen twitter.” She posts whatever she wants, whatever she’s thinking, whenever she deems it appropriate. She’s famous for both calling people out (in a retweet with comment) and tweeting pictures of food she’s making. Altogether, this creates her own unique image and brand. At first glance, though, it’s not exactly what one might think of when we envision a celebrity promoting him or herself through social media.

  2. Hey Katherine, love your post. Kanye’s tweets the past week has become one of the more interesting things in my life. It’s interesting how his enigmatic personality and Tweets draws so much attention to him. For a lot of celebrities, their social media persona is meticulously calculated in order to show off a “brand” as you put it. I theorized that Kanye doesn’t really think too much about his brand and just says whatever the heck he wants. It just so happens that he’s a little arrogant, a little emotional, and can’t take a joke very well.

    His social media activity had definitely evolved a lot; 8 years is a fairly long period of time. I think a lot of us can relate. 8 years ago, some of us probably tweeted nonsensical things that might embarrass us today. We all grow up together. Kanye is 40, has three kids, and now thinks himself as a sage-like character. He probably learned a lot in his years and just wants to share what he has learned.

    I agree with @wilsonlucia18 with the connection with Chrissy Teigen’s Twitter. Both seem to come off as more like “normal people” Twitter. If Kanye wasn’t famous, he really would just be a normal guy.

  3. I’m a huge Kanye fan, and this Twitter renaissance has been quite the rollercoaster. It’s become a super common thing for artists to post these release dates on Twitter, and I have to say it feels like 90% of the time they are getting ahead of themselves and the release date ends up getting pushed back. Add in the fact that this is Kanye, one of the most unpredictable and impulsive artists out there, and I honestly have no idea if any of the 5 (!) announced albums are actually going to come out – who knows if they even exist! The rollout of The Life of Pablo was certainly memorable, and not always for the right reasons. It certainly changed how I feel about albums in the streaming era, like the first release was a beta test while Kanye fine tuned things he wasn’t satisfied with (“Ima fix wolves”, etc.) The age of the Twitter rant provides a whole lot of comedy and entertainment, but it can also provide a lot of frustration. There’s really no repercussions if an artist goes back on his word, and this can be annoying for loyal fans.

  4. This was really an interesting post for me because, even though I enjoy Kanye from afar, I don’t really follow his music, his life, and definitely not his twitter. That said, I do skim the headlines and click in if anything noteworthy is happening with Kanye or the Kardashians or anyone – people will be talking about it so at least I’ll sort of know what’s up! I appreciated this post because I think it’s interesting to compare his online habits over time especially in relation to his brand. I think it’s pretty normal for people to take an online hiatus every now and then, but it was interesting to see his shift from normal and sort of relatable to arrogant and somewhat distant. Clearly it’s something that’s worked pretty well for him, even if it is an act put on for the sake of standing out. I’ll certainly continue to keep a passive eye out for Kanye’s online habit shifts and try to build on this timeline just out of curiosity going forward!

  5. This post really shows Kanye’s social media habits well! I think a lot of celebrities utilize their social media to connect with their fans while also informing them about their personal lives. Honestly, I have never been a huge fan of Kanye or the Kardashians, but for the past year they have quite literally been blowing up my news feed. It is very difficult to go a day without seeing some kind of news about their family. That being said, his so called “book” he is writing on Twitter, I sincerely just do not understand.
    In my opinion, books are not just bulleted sentences, which is what his “book” currently sounds like since none of his Tweets actually make sense together. In addition to these disjointed thoughts, Kanye is back promoting his new music or clothing line. I think there is a fine line between being normal and Kanye West. Despite what @jamessenwei said about if Kanye was not famous then he would just be a normal guy, but I would not look at his Twitter page and regardless of whether or not Kanye’s fame comes into question, I just do not see it as normal to publish a book on Twitter.

  6. It’s been interesting to follow the evolution of several big SM celebrities over the years, thanks to this class. Thanks for keeping me up to date!

  7. Really enjoyed reading the post! Kanye has been a issue maker (or others may say TROUBLEMAKER) for so long. His active usage of social media obviously contributed to various public perceptions of Kanye. Being so expressive and spontaneous, Kanye does not hesitate to call out people on the internet. Some people enjoy watching him and supports his wild online characteristics while others hate his guts with all their hearts. In the end, Kanye is a celebrity so the endless attention is needed, which makes his strong online presence beneficial in a some way.

  8. Personally I favored Kanye West since long time ago. Just like @jjaeh0ng mentioned, he is a issue maker indeed. He managed to make himself an influential icon with thousands of followers. Social media provides platforms where he made his impact. One can hardly how crazy it is to buy one pair of his designed shoes YEEZY BOOST. His business with Adidas is truly a success. Kanye is a good example who best utilized social media platform. Great post!

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