Why is it even plausible that Kanye West is a genius? His music’s great, sure, but there’s always something better, someone more consistent out there. Maybe it’s that Kanye is the complete package for the modern star system; it’s not just that his live show, videos, and packaging are artistic triumphs, it’s that he’s so ahead of the curve that he can export his style to the masses. Most prominent case in point: Shutter shades.
West’s stylistic explorations would be meaningless if they didn’t show up in his music, and while the Daft Punk sample on “Stronger” may have seemed like hipster-baiting, he made clear with 808s and Heartbreak that his visual considerations actually led him to new musical horizons. He’s taken the idea of shining to a whole new level, explicitly making style into a vehicle for creative growth. This is pop now: outfits and mixtapes as advance campaigns for new sounds, laying the groundwork for innovation by placing it preemptively in the proper context, tweaking the zeitgeist till it matches your own interests.