"Don't talk about style," Kanye West orders on "Cold," the emphatic single from his G.O.O.D. Music album "Cruel Summer." "I'll motherfuckin' embarrass you." It's a bold statement. Still, it hasn't stopped many from making West the butt off their jokes lately.
Last Friday Kanye performed at Atlantic City resort Revel's Ovation Hall for the first of a three-night showing (we all know what happened on night two -- congrats Kimye!). However, instead of bringing along a fleet of ballet dancers like he did during his first trip to Revel over the summer, he used seven digital screens for a wintry display of snow and ice. Season's greetings from Mr. West. But what really got the crowd, then social media, and blogs talking is the outfits Kanye wore -- particularly the masks.
Looking like a cross between some blizzard Bigfoot and maybe the North Pole monsters that try to thwart Santa Claus and his reindeer in holiday movies, Kanye stomped onto the stage in white shoes, matching pants, a knee-length coat, and hairy beast mask.
Admittedly, I wasn't at Revel to witness the costume live. I found out about it through Twitter. On what should have been a quiet evening, my timeline was littered with slights -- both hilarious and lame -- thrashing Kanye's 'fit. They ranged from quiet displeasure ("SMH at Kanye") to Photoshopped comparisons to Falkor the Luckdragon from "The Neverending Story."
This weekend is the second time in as many weeks that the producer and rapper turned designer has caught flack for his choice of stage attire. At the 12-12-12 Hurricane Sandy relief concert in New York City's Madison Square Garden, millions tuned in, then hopped on their computers and phones with wisecracks to tweet and Instagram about Kanye's black Givenchy kilt worn over leather pants (guess they didn't catch him at his Watch the Throne tour with Jay-Z in 2011. He wore it the entire time. )
Really though, what's the big deal? Kanye West is an artist. Let the man have some fun up there on the stage. If Nicki Minaj is hip-hop's Lady Gaga, Kanye is its chic, straight Elton John. Rap fans are far from liberal and borderline homophobic when it comes to fashion and quick to turn into schoolyard bullies and comedians when an artist's pants fit a little snug or their color choices are too loud.
Kanye's been an easy punching bag for the community since he released his debut album "The College Dropout" in 2004 and often performed early on in Ralph Lauren sweaters and designer shoes. As he's grown in stature, venturing overseas to sit front row at luxury brand runway shows, so has his costume choice.
Later that evening in Ovation Hall, the once self-proclaimed Louis Vuitton Don swapped the animal mask for a crystal Maison Martin Margiela one -- bringing a piece unveiled at a Paris couture show in July to the masses. I'm not exactly rushing to find out how I can buy one for myself, but I enjoyed seeing him in it.
It seems like critics would prefer West scaled it back a notch with the fashion statements, maybe sport a jersey, a leather jacket, jeans, some sneakers, and baseball cap. Zzzzzzzzzz. Sorry, fell into a boredom coma.
This weekend's outfits, the Riccardo Tisci Givenchy kilts, the silk Phoebe Philo Céline shirt (blouse?) he wore as a 2011 Coachella festival headliner and others that have caused a ruckus -- they should all be appreciated. If not for the amount of style they bring to the table, then for the balls it takes for a rapper to wear them.
Want to see an unexceptionally-dressed person rock out? Go perform in front of the bathroom mirror. I like my Gagas adorned in slabs of uncooked beef and towering over fans in heel-less nine-inch platforms. I like my Princes permed and purpled, and, for sure, my Kanyes kilted. Loosen up.