Kanye West, Paul McCartney & the Measurement of a Genius

In a new interview with Rolling Stone magazine, the Beatles legend refused to label Kanye a "genius."
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In his 2013 interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kanye West made it clear he's more than just a celebrity. "I'm a creative genius," he told Kimmel.

West went on to say he knows "you’re not supposed to say that about yourself," but given his track record for making crazy, outlandish, stream-of-consciousness statements, nobody was surprised by the remark.

Almost two years later, in 2015, West and bona fide creative genius Sir Paul McCartney got together for a studio together. Their plan was to write one song together and simply "throw ideas back and forth," but their creative powers melded together and three songs were birthed: "Only One," "FourFiveSeconds" (with Rihanna) and "All Day."

Given their literal track record of work together, McCartney was asked in the latest issue of Rolling Stone if he thinks West, who he compares to famed American artist Andy Warhol, is a genius.

"I don't throw that word around [laughs]. I think he's a great artist," McCartney said. "Take My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I played it when I was cooking, and it was like, 'This is good. There's some really innovative stuff.' When the word came from his people, through my people [laughs], I thought, 'Let's give it a go.'"

Being labeled a "great artist" by one of the greatest, most accomplished artists of all-time would, for most creatives, be the highest form of praise they could possibly receive. But as we know Kanye is not "most creatives." Still, while McCartney wouldn't commit to labeling his collaborator a "genius," his assessment was fair.

While genius can be displayed through IQ or creativity, it's a concept that's nearly impossible to measure beyond a mostly subjective eye—or in this case, ear—test. According to Scientific American, "genius seems to arise from a mosaic of forces that coalesce into a perfect storm of eminence." Simply put: this is a quite involved process that has a lot of moving parts.

Ultimately, in the here and now, overarching status labels don't matter. Over time, many decades from now, Kanye's catalog should speak for itself. And the people, not just past collaborators, and contemporaries, will be the ones who have the final say.

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