Kanye West at the Forum: between celebration and farce

Kanye West at the Forum: between celebration and farce

There’s a scene of “Blow Up”Michelangelo Antonioni’s cinematic masterpiece, which perfectly tells, from a visual and conceptual point of view, what it is a current Kanye West listening party, like the one staged with Ty Dolla $ign at the Forum in Milan and which will be repeated in Bologna: in the epilogue of the visionary film we see a tennis match played by a company of mimes without balls or rackets. The protagonist, together with the audience, follows the trajectory of the invisible ball with their eyes while the typical noise of the ball being hit by the non-existent rackets is heard. It is the image that wins over reality, it is the overcoming of form over content. It is the performance that, in a farcical and surreal wayin the case of the duo Y$, bypasses the truth of the music.

A Kanye listening party today is the only celebration of a brand, of an icon.

Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign, to present in full “Vultures 1”, without any chapter 2 spoilersdressed strictly in black, hooded and faces covered like marauders of a desert and dystopian world like Dune, they arrive at the center of the Forum, transformed into what appears to be a gladiator arena. The faint, ghostly headlights illuminate them and follow them everywhere. The stands fill up at the last minute, in the afternoon the presale map had many empty spaces, due to the high price of the tickets.

Depending on the location, the cost of the tickets varied from 115 euros to 207 euros, money effectively spent for “not a concert”, but for a “launch party”a “collective and shared listening” lasting an hour, a method that Ye has exploited several times throughout his career without ever creating false expectations. But this time, on a scenographic level, it is particularly sparse. A real Kanye West concert, in the hope that he will return to do a full onein fact, on paper it is something different: the only one he did in our country, to which he has been increasingly linked for some time, dates back to 2006, it was at Alcatraz in Milan.

On this occasion the concept of the listening party, the first in Europe, It’s skeletal compared to the spectacular one staged for the final stages of the launch of “Donda”, and draws strength from the first song of the joint album, “Stars”, with the fans who, with the lights of their smartphones, become an illuminated sky around the two protagonists. There is no parterre, the audience is in sectors and stands, the songs are shot out by an imposing sound system which at the beginning scratches and returns a distorted sound, there is no presence of a DJ on stage as in the case of Travis Scott shows. The two artists don’t rap, they don’t sing, they don’t hold a microphone, they have no reason to pretend to use their voice, they incite the audience, the real show of the evening. The lights become flashes, the stage smoke rises like fog: Ye and Ty Dolla $ign move in a plastic way as the songs flow, presented one by one with the foray of several guests in some of the collaborative pieces: Playboi Carti, Rich The Kid, Lil Durk, Quavo, Freddie Gibbs.

A parade of artists, all gathered for the occasion by Kanye, who come in and out, but they too don’t perform on the singing front. Never in Italy has there been such a concentration of names of this caliber on the same stage. It feels like being in America. And this illustrates the status that Kanye still holds today, despite the toxicity of many of his statements and some of his behaviors.

Net of the performative comedy, this is his resultthe result of a pioneering story that makes it an icon. Travis Scottthe rapper most listened to by young hip hop lovers, right in Italy, in his world premiere concert in Rome in 2023, said: “There is no ‘Utopia’ without Kanye, there is no Travis without Kanye”, effectively crowning Ye once again as a sort of father in terms of sound and imagination for an entire generation of artists. The girls and boys present at the Forum exude passion. For some, they readily admit, it is more important to be there than to be truly satisfied with what they witness. Y$’s magnetic music pervades them, possesses them.

There’s also room to listen to “Everybody” with an unauthorized Backstreet Boys interpolation: this is why the track was never officially released. Fans warm up and sway to pieces like “Burn”they rap, yes, they make videos, photos, they let themselves be inspired by Ye’s vision, they jump overexcited on discharges like “Carnival”, which contains a sampled chorus sung by the ultras of Inter’s Curva Nord, repeated several times. A song with sexist lyrics, but still at the top of the charts.

“Kanye seems to be forgiven for everything”, wrote an indignant American press which, despite boycotting “Vultures 1”, finds it at the top of the Billboard 200 ranking. Between lights and shadows, between farce and rap champions around him, between egomania, empty seats and fans of all ages who still cling to his music today, a faceless Kanye leaves the Forum like a ghost and, like it or not, you can never seem to catch it. The music continues, people stay in their seats and sing “Runaway” even though there is no one left in the arena.