My Number One Take Away from Kanye West’s Documentary (+How You Can Use it to be More Confident)
“Jeen-Yuhs” has many valuable life lessons. There is one that stands above the rest.
Today, people don’t often think of Kanye West as the best role model.
His recent breakup with Kim Kardashian has not brought out the best in him. Buying a new home on the same street as she comes off as a bit stalker-ish.
Despite this, one thing can’t be debated. West, by any definition, is successful. He is worth a billion dollars and is one of the best in his field. You can’t obtain this level of wealth without some serious skill, ability, and luck.
He has all three on his side.
It wasn’t always like that for him. Like many of us, he started with next to nothing. Growing up in Chicago, he has seen his fair share of shootings and gang-related violence.
He mentions in the first episode of the documentary how he has seen friends ruin their lives because of the area they grew up in. He has seen friends lose their lives or end up in prison.
He didn’t want to be like that. He had bigger goals in life.
At the time, West was a producer. He was not known for rapping. He was known for making beats. He survived by selling his beats to rappers so they could rap over them.
He had no attention as a rapper. As a producer, he gathered a little bit of attention but was far from the household name he is today.
It wasn’t until he produced beats for the world-renowned artist Jay-Z that things started to take a turn for him. The documentary shows him going from record label to record label pitching his music.
Despite other rappers putting in a good name for him, multiple records labels refused to sign him. They still viewed him as a producer and nothing more. It would have been easy for West to say f*ck it and stick with producing.
If he did, I would most likely not be writing about him today. There would be no Netflix documentary about him. He wouldn’t be the same person that he is today.
So, how did Kanye West become Kanye West and eventually get signed?
Two things set him apart from everyone else.
First, he rapped about different things than what was popular at the time. He mentions this in the documentary.
While all the other rappers were talking about doing drugs, committing murder, and being in gangs, he was rapping about the soul and Jesus. He was rapping about making it out the hood and how that kind of life destroyed many lives.
All the other rappers at the time were rapping about the same stuff. It was difficult for anyone to differentiate them. West understood this. He says the following.
“I don’t give a f–k about the industry, man,” he proclaims. “What you need to understand is when I do this album, it’s going to be the realest s–t you ever heard. Because if I brick, I can still eat and make a way for my family. So when I go in to do my album, I’ma do it the way I wanna f–kin’ do it. With the backing that I got, I’m not gonna say there’s no way that I could fail, but with God’s blessings, the Roc on my side, and I got Chicago on my side, It shouldn’t be no way for me to lose really.”
He is telling the camera that he doesn’t care about what’s “hot” in the industry at the time. He doesn’t care if everyone seeing any success is rapping about one thing and he raps about the opposite.
He wanted to do things his way. He wanted his music to reflect his message and make it the way he wanted to, industry standards be damned.
It sounds nice now, but imagine thinking that at the time. It’s tough to go against the conventional wisdom of success and have that much confidence it’ll work. Most people are incapable of making this decision. They can’t separate themselves from their competition.
This brings me to the second reason he was able to make it despite everyone else telling him he wouldn’t and to stay in his lane.
This is even more important than the first reason. Sometimes going down a different path isn’t good enough.
The main reason Kanye West is successful is because of his belief in himself.
Without this, nothing would've worked. As I was watching the documentary, I can feel the emotion and self believe West has for himself. He gets denied at one record company and goes on to the next without a second thought.
He didn’t care how many times he got rejected. He kept going and working until he finally got the yes. His self-belief kept him going when no one else saw the vision as he did.
He didn’t get discouraged when they got his name wrong. He didn’t care that people only viewed him as a producer and not a rapper. All he cared about was showing the world that he was capable of rapping.
He believed in himself when no one else did. This is the key differential between succeeding and failing.
We’ll have times in our life when nothing seems to work. Friends and family will tell us to quit and do something more “realistic.” If we don’t believe in ourselves, no one else will either.
Don’t follow Kanye West’s dating or relationship advice. Do be like Kanye West when it comes to self-belief. In this area, he’s in a class by himself.
Believe in yourself and you will do great things.