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2011: The Year In Kanye

Does Kanye West exist because the world gives him so much attention? Or does the world exist because he gives it something to pay attention to? Heavy stuff, man. Whatever the answer is, the rapper-cum-producer has both dominated critics' best-ofs and been a celebrity-news staple—and he hasn't taken a year off to chill hard on his gold-threaded Versace leopard-fur mattress since the 2004 release of The College Dropout. Last year, the self-proclaimed Louis Vuitton Don worked harder than ever; let's celebrate that by taking a stroll through Kanye West Memory Lane, where the houses are pricey and the shrubbery is exquisitely manicured.

Note: In the past, Kanye has compared himself to God, Jesus, Elvis, Michael Jordan, Pharaoh, and Hitler. This piece will rate the merit of Kanye's grandest 2011 moments in that order, with "God" being the highest form of praise, and "Hitler" being the lowest.

The Date: January 11. The Event: Kanye West and Jay-Z debut their first collaboration from the Watch the Throne sessions, "H.A.M." The Merit: Jesus.

Batman and Robin. Laurel and Hardy. Gunnar and Matthew. Of all the duos in history, Kanye and Jay-Z is very much up there amongst the worthy. But while the collaboration behind Watch the Throne is epic in of itself, the track "H.A.M." isn't quite godly, and was only included on the album as a bonus track. That said, there's an operatic breakdown two-thirds into the track, and nothing says "Son of God" like opera.

The Date: February 19. The Event: Kanye West unveils the video for "All of the Lights," from his Pazz And Jop-demolishing 2010 release My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The Merit: Michael Jordan.

Despite the opening warning it could "potentially trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy," the Hype Williams-directed clip for this track basically unfolds like a fancy karaoke video. I mean, it's always helpful to read the lyrics to a song, but wasn't there anything more high concept than inter-splicing the verses with footage of West standing on top of a police car? Nothing out of the ordinary here. Kind of like watching Jordan slam dunk.

The Date: March. The Event: Kanye gets turned away at Paris Fashion Week. The Merit: Hitler. The fashion industry will accept anyone—except those who proclaim in a drunken stupor an appreciation for Hitler, like John Galliano did. Months before West would debut a line of his own in Paris, Page Six reported that the rapper got turned away from shows by Alexander McQueen, Balmain and Louis Vuitton. I still find this incredibly hard to believe, especially coming from a source like the New York Post, but the story was good for at least two minutes of schadenfreude.

The Date: April 17. The Event: Kanye West closes out Coachella. The Merit: God.

Kanye does his best work on stage, thanks to his home-brewed amalgamation of bombast, swagger, and pretentiousness—and even his detractors can admit that as they argue his relative merits with the passion of a theologian.

The Date: May 10. The Event: Kanye gets moody at MOMA. http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/11/kanye-west-moma-show-review/ The Merit: Pharaoh. Kanye also does his worst work on stage. Not since his rant-heavy Bowery Ballroom show last November had he been this grumpy and moody. At one point, during this special performance for rich people, he even Auto-tuned "I'm sorry about anybody out there that had to fight for me. Do you know what it feels like to be hated; do you know what it feels like to be degraded?" like a bi-polar T-Pain. For the rest of the night he carried on half-heartedly, like a king forced to entertain his subjects.

 

The Date: June 8. The Event: Kanye West's birthday. The Merit: In between God and Jesus. Jesus died at age 33, according to scholars. West lived to be 34, which makes him slightly better than Jesus but not as great as the immortal and ageless God.

The Date: August 6. The Event: Kanye compares himself to Hitler at a show in the UK. The Merit: Well, Hitler. Oy, Yeezy.

The Date: August 8. The Event: Kanye and Jay release Watch the Throne after months of teasing. The Merit: God.

The Jay-Z/Kanye collaboration sold 436,000 copies in its first week and even evaded the leakers, thus proving that with some divine intervention—and expensive security—the record industry's favorite parts of the CD era, like six-figure opening weeks and albums being absent from the Web weeks before their release, could return.

The Date: October 1. The Event: Kanye debuts his DW fashion line. The Merit: Hitler. No one liked it. No one understood it—not even Jeremy Scott, the guy who designed a collection inspired by the Flintstones.

 

The Date: October 10. The Event: Kanye visits Occupy Wall Street. The Merit: Jesus (intentions); Pharaoh (results).

West wanted to show his support to the thousands of protesters at Zuccotti Park so he showed up with Russell Simmons and... didn't say a word. Instead, he looked around and listened to his hip-hop mogul buddy blather on about how Kanye wants to give the power back to the people, a message that was hard to hear over Kanye's chain.

The Date: November 29. The Event: Kanye performs at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. The Merit: Michael Jordan.

Dude's a baller. Especially in his Versace for H&M bomber jacket.

The Date: December 27. The Event: Kanye might move to London. The Merit: Jesus. Is it news? Probably not. But it does prove that there's a need to talk about Kanye, even when the subject is as mundane as his future real estate plans.

The Date: December 31. The Event: Kanye makes his DJ debut under the name Yeezy World Peace. Yes, Yeezy World Peace. The Merit: God. Step down, Ron Artest. There are only two entities capable of ushering harmony throughout the globe: The Good Lord and Yeezy. And so Kanye rang in 2012 with a DJ set at at a Fergie-hosted party in the Las Vegas outpost of 1Oak, where he proved that he has a respectable iPod equipped with the Jackson 5, Guns 'N' Roses, and, of course, his own music.

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