Today’s Slate article “Kanye West Has a Goblet” starts with a contradiction. The reporter begins by mentioning he’s been invited to the rapper’s Manhattan apartment, and can describe even the most trifling details, such as the firmness of the pillows and the angles of the walls, despite the fact that Kanye West has granted very few interviews since his mother’s death in 2007. But with the access Kanye has provided through his prolific Twitter use—which generously details his litany of material possessions, his erratic travel activity, and his constant shifts in mood—Jonah Weiner is able to construct a fully formed profile using almost nothing but Tweets. It’s perhaps the first of its kind.
West has agreed to speak candidly to me on a wide variety of subjects, to run his mouth but remain pithy at the same time, and to grant me virtually round-the-clock access to his life—no publicist popping his head in and telling me there’s five minutes left. As conditions go for writing a profile, these are extremely favorable. No, I don’t get to ask any questions, but I do get a constantly updating record of West’s thoughts, whereabouts, cravings, jokes, meals, flirtations, bon mots, and on and on. In the face of a mountainous info dump like West’s, isn’t the basic work of profiling—building from the raw material of everything someone says and does toward a more focused sense of who they are—as relevant as ever?
There have been meta-profiles before—Tom Junod’s “only half” made-up piece on Michael Stipe comes to mind—but turning the faux-reality of a Twitter feed into the “reporting” for a profile takes that idea to a new level. Don’t you wish you thought of that, David Granger?
Kanye will probably agree to a few actual profiles as the November release date for his new album approaches, but will any of them be better than this one? Can the physical Kanye really live up to his frenetic and charming Twitter persona? And will Kanye, in real life, allow for a moment as sublime as this? It’s three days after Mr. West has returned to New York from Silicon Valley, and Weiner is back in the apartment. In the silence Weiner contemplates Kanye’s pillows, their utter impracticality, and what this says about their owner. Then comes a moment of introspection from the rapper, one that would fit nicely within a 140-character limit: “West tells me, apropos of nothing, ‘I jog in Lanvin.’”