From the time his works were released in the mid-nineteenth century to present day, Friedrich Nietzsche has been deified, debated, defiled, and discussed. The philosopher is best known for his controversial ideas, uncensored opinions, and unwavering self-love.
Aside from his status as the new Mr. Kim Kardashian, Kanye West is one of the most awarded artists of all time. West's fame and infamy stem not only from his revolutionary rap music, but also from his egocentric personality and forthright thoughts.
Though West is considered a trailblazer in the music world, he has obviously taken more than a few cues from Nietzsche to get there.
Nietzsche is famous for his proclamation "God is dead," meaning that, in his mind, people need to realize themselves as individuals who can control their own lives. Ideology and religion dictate what is "right" and "wrong" without one's consent or approval. To undo this, one needs to achieve the status of "overman" or "ubermensch," someone who speaks his personal truth and abhors lies. So, in a sense, each man is his own god figure, because his decisions are purely self-determined.
In the song, "No Church in the Wild," West and featured artists distinctively point out some of these concepts. Frank Ocean sings, "Human beings in a mob/What's a mob to a king/What's a king to a God/What's a God to a nonbeliever who don't believe in anything?" examining the idea of power as relative and ending with the notion that God is more powerful than even a king if one believes, but a person who believes in nothing is ultimately more powerful because he has nothing to answer to.
In the same song, Jay-Z raps, "Lies on the lips of a priest/Thanksgiving disguised as a feast," also as a way of disillusioning religion and political myth as superior. Then Kanye adds, "Deception is the only felony," reflecting upon Nietzsche's idea that anything obscuring the truth is inexcusable.
As far as each man being his own god figure, West clearly takes Nietzsche's idea to heart, proclaiming himself "Yeezus" and posing as Jesus Christ for the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. Also in "No Church in the Wild," West makes the comparison, "Jesus was a carpenter/Yeezy laid his beats," and, most explicitly, says, "I am a God" in a song with the same title.
The pair also embraces the idea of self-centeredness. Nietzsche calls selfishness "the masterpiece of the art of self-preservation" and clearly follows this idea himself. He writes, "I honor, I distinguish by associating my name with that of a cause or a person: pro or con," bringing West's escapades of interrupting Taylor Swift onstage at the VMAs and announcing on national television "George Bush doesn't care about black people" to mind.
Nietzsche and West also share a favorite city between them. Nietzsche expresses his admiration in his writing, stating, "As an artist one has no home in Europe, except Paris." And the 21st century artist does, in fact, own a home in and often visits "The City of Love."
Nietzsche says, "A well-turned out person pleases our senses... He has a taste only for what is good for him...what does not kill him makes him stronger." As a man who only drapes himself in Louis Vuitton and Dior, West certainly has a knack for the finest and connects to many on an auditory sensory level, rapping, "That that don't kill me can only make me stronger."
Friedrich Nietzsche certainly would be proud of his 21st century protégé.
Kanye West probably wouldn't care.