What’s the difference between a Creator and a Presenter?

A Creator would only want to create for their own personal satisfaction. I believe true Creators receive a natural pleasure from the act of creating. I think they do not immediately see other uses for their work beyond just its reason for existing. Creators create stuff just because they can and want to.

Meanwhile, a Presenter is someone who will create for the benefit of an audience. I believe a Presenter takes pride in their work connecting with the people it was meant for. Presenters are ones who require, or at least desire, the gratification from others respecting their creative output.

So, is a Creator always a Presenter?

Or is a Presenter always a Creator?

This has been an ongoing debate in my mind, and I am not quite certain which one I am. Especially when it comes to the content I would like to publish here on Kicks & Keychains.

I want to be more of a Creator, taking pride in my work created and unconcerned with what value others perceive it to carry. In simple words, I want to be comfortable forsaking all fucks to give when I hear someone else’s opinion about what I make.

On the other hand, I find it really difficult to create just for the sake of creation anymore. My past experiences blogging had me leaning towards Presenter; someone whose best work was created to serve an audience and had a consumer-friendly structure to it. There was intent behind it, whether it was publishing content I knew people enjoyed or producing a side income which my personal life benefited from.

This may sound odd, but I started to think about these two personas after listening to Kanye West’s new album, ye.

After a few listens and seeing reactions to the album, I started to think back to his prior album, The Life of Pablo.

At some point after West began creating more personal music and the perceived quality control of his work varied in range, people began to miss the older work Kanye built his name on: pristine production, imaginative concepts, memorable lyrics, and an overall fun tone.

It’s funny because on The Life of Pablo, Kanye actually admits that there is an ‘Old Kanye’. Throughout the silly freestyle “I Love Kanye”, he poked fun at the public’s perception of his personality. But as one of the great creative minds in music today, I think Kanye has been acutely aware of who the ‘Old Kanye’ was — and why that’s not his name right now.

With his newer albums (especially ye), I feel he is creating for his own sake — not to sell the most albums against the modern 50 Cent equal. He no longer seems concerned with being the ultimate Presenter / the ultimate mainstream artist / the popular stud always in step with the greater opinion. Kanye always wants to be The Best, but what he considers the standard for The Best seems to have changed.

Kanye is the most influential artist of my interests and lifetime, but the ‘Old Kanye’ is extremely different from the current one. The very existence of these personas illustrates to me how difficult it is to have a successful creative career. It’s practically impossible to keep producing content for the same audience repeatedly without changing it up once in a while. Without change, you risk dying on the vine and just becoming boring.

Without change, you risk dying on the vine and just becoming boring.

I think Kanye is transitioning towards (or has already become) a true Creator, one opting to release a project built within 14 days instead of an album he likely worked on for years. Personally, I understand why he may have come to that decision.

Perhaps in the moment, he realized he wanted to create something strong — something powerful that came to him with urgency, with immediacy relevant to the now.

I do not feel Kanye is trying to be a philosopher or a politician. Rather, I think in times of conflict and struggle, Creators produce powerful work. I believe Kanye found a spark in the present and wanted to explore it. Whether the ultimate result is his best work or not (most believe the latter), is irrelevant.

Just look at ye on its surface — when is the last time an artist known for conceptual perfectionism would settle on a self-title for his project? When is the last time you saw him opt for an iPhone picture with scribbled text over it instead of fully-realized artwork from respected names like Takashi MurakamiKAWSGeorge Condo or Peter De Potter? The entire nature of ye is an outlier, one that cuts deeper into Kanye the Creator’s mind than any other project when looked at more closely.

The entire nature of ye is an outlier, one that cuts deeper into Kanye the Creator’s mind than any other project when looked at more closely.

The album resonated with me more than I expected, especially because my initial impression was similar to most: I thought it was rushed, incomplete, and full of missed opportunities.

One day discussing the album with a friend, we both came to the conclusion the album was “really personal” and because of that, I claimed it was an album people likely wouldn’t listen to as much as his other works. When I made that tone-deaf claim aloud, everything about the album suddenly clicked: ye was not created for an audience.

Although Kanye is known for his ego, I felt the majority of his “Old Kanye” music pre-808s & Heartbreak did little to allude to who Kanye the person actually was. He originally crafted his music with the hand of a producer, winning an audience with its sleek fit and finish. He was Superman on the surface, a do-no-wrong superhero achieving great heights on universal platforms. But what about the man, mind and heart filling in the suit?

Home alone and looking in the mirror, who is staring back: Clark Kent or Superman?

Kanye’s most interesting work in his discography are the projects that are the most personal and revealing.

Among such a wide portfolio of work, the one-off song release “Only One” charts high as one of my favorites. Written for his daughter North, the song is one of the most unique concepts I have personally ever heard. A lullaby transcending time and generations, Kanye’s voice is inhabited by the spirit of his passed mother Donda.

From a Reddit comment I wrote sometime ago:

I really think [Only One] is one of the best songs in [Kanye West’s] entire collection. It’s definitely one of his best songwriting efforts ever.

The instrumentation, the vocal delivery, the pure passion in his songwriting — writing from multiple perspectives, talking about his insecurities, talking about his family (past and present). It’s a simple song on first listen but has so many layers and complexities, emotionally and structurally.

It really is a small, intimate masterpiece from an artist so often known for bombastic, stadium-sized anthems. 808s was vulnerability, but still on a grand scale. The fact that this really feels like a lullaby he wrote just for his daughter is what makes this stand out — it feels truly personal and private, for a guy who doesn’t usually let the public in that way. It really is phenomenal.

Over my lifetime, Kanye has been a source of major inspiration. Although I do not make music (I failed hard attempting to learn it in high school), I find his work across all mediums — music, fashion, art, publishing — completely compelling.

Even in his later work now, I relate with his desire to create something relevant to the immediate; high-quality but also a little scrappy. Work that is raw with rough edges, but with a purpose and bulletproof to others’ opinions.

I want my work to compel people, but I do not want my work created with the purpose of compelling people. Any success or audience I find should be a beautiful byproduct of a creation I was already happy with before others noticed it.

To conclude this debate of Creator vs Presenter, ultimately I think most creative minds favor one — most will frequently bounce between both. But neither label should take precedent over the present nature of your will. Otherwise you become a prisoner to something assigned, and others will relegate you to the actions and emotions expected from that label. Creators should value an “Old Kanye” to look back on and continue moving further away from.

I also have an “Old Kanye”, one who wrote Windows Phone Daily targeted towards a niche community of smartphone enthusiasts I participated in. Whether it’s out of familiarity or a lack of skills, I have tried approaching this blog the same way — but it’s just not working.

I recently looked back at the notes leading to the inception of this blog, and rediscovered my intent with this project. How I originally described this blog:

Kicks & Keychains is a personal moonshot, an attempt to do what I did not think was possible until recently: to share with the world exactly what I like and why I like it. […]

In the end, I hope I can look back on this project and be proud of my effort to better express myself. That’s what this is all about. I hope the journey is worth your while, and you find your own ‘kicks and keychains’ to geek out over and share with the world.

Sometimes my ‘kicks and keychains’ won’t literally be sneakers and collectibles. Sometimes it will be J. Cole albums. Other times it will be visits to L.A. art installations. Occasionally, they will be internal explorations of what inspires me (like this post).

Don’t get lost in the labels, in the ‘Old Kanye’. Express yourself as you are now, without limits.

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July 2, 2018

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