Getting wasted with Kanye West fans in Notting Hill
To celebrate the release of The Life of Pablo
I saw the first pair of Yeezys at 9.22pm.
It was outside the club and it made me think about places you wouldn’t be allowed in if you wore trainers. That whole joke in The Inbetweeners when Simon swaps box fresh Air Max for squelchy pissy tramp shoes so he can get into a hellish West End club. It’s not for real anymore. Nobody fucks with trainers anymore. Not here, not tonight, not at the Notting Hill Arts Club, where over 200 of Kanye West’s biggest fans are gathering to celebrate the release of The Life of Pablo, his seventh studio album.
The guy with the expensive shoes was Louis, who’s been running this night once a month for the last two years. They have a strictly Kanye only music policy, which makes a change to the usual student events he runs. “This is a passion project for me. It’s for the purists. You’ll see later that everyone in the room knows the words to every lyric. We could make it bigger, have more people here, but it just wouldn’t be the same.”
This was what I saw when I arrived: Kanye’s dystopian Madison Square House party being projected onto a wall. At this moment he’s mumbling something about turning his deceased mother into a video game, but even Kanye mumbling about turning his deceased mother into a video game is box office. When he plays some of The Life of Pablo, the room here in Notting Hill, which smells very strongly of salted popcorn, starts to bounce. It completely loses its shit – heads back, drink in the air, back slapping laughter – when he drops this:
I bet me and Ray J would be friends
If we ain’t love the same bitch
He might have hit it first
Only problem is I’m rich
There’s a lot of chains, a lot of distressed clothing for a distressed world. The attention to detail is on point throughout: Kanye’s face, glowing and glowering covers surfaces, the tracklist for Pablo is plastered to the walls, where some of his dumber quotes are hanging as well. For once, I find myself grateful and relieved to have spent £35 on the Yeezus tour tee I’m wearing.
Kanye quotes are a 21st-century trial by water for dickheads. If someone finds the above funny, they’re alright, they’re floating, they have a sense of humour – like the people in this club, they get it. If they look at the above and launch some kinda tirade about Kanye being a “narcissistic douchebag” then they don’t get it. They’re invariably white, invariably male and invariably douchey themselves. They signed a change dot org petition when he headlined Glastonbury and shared it on Facebook, along with a tirade about the death of “real music”.
Luckily, and as Louis had promised, there were only Kanye fans here. These three were pretty young and got into Ye when MBDTF dropped. Zack (far left) said: “Kanye never stands still. Something about his music really resonates with me. I wasn’t sure about the moves into fashion at first but it is growing on me.”
At this point I started trying very hard to be cynical about everything that was happening. The club was beginning to fill up. Surely there’d be something off, maybe a couple of white people doing the kind of awkward, autistic Taylor Swift squirrel dancing we saw when Kanye dropped All Day at the Brits last year?
There were no Taylor Swifts though, and very little to be cynical about. Just a lot of bad bitches and guys in bomber jackets with arm zippers who knew their Kanye. It’s weird to be in a venue where 90 per cent of the crowd know 90 per cent of the lyrics to every single song. And it’s not like DJ Semtex was playing Gold Digger all night; here was Samples Kanye, Big Drums Kanye, Heavy Bass Line Kanye, Controversial Punchline Kanye, Melodic Kanye, here were remixes and obscure cuts that you’d assume only the heads would know.
But everyone did know. They weren’t enthusiasts, they were obsessives. They weren’t fans, they were in love.
“Wait until Homecoming comes on later” this guy said. “I will be on that D-floor, screaming the words.” Eighteen, from the suburbs, about to take a gap year in Costa Rica, Kanye was his “absolute favourite”.
His friends said they liked “clothes and music”. They might go to Sussex Uni or they might stay in London and try and get jobs. This wasn’t the first time they’d been here for this night. They had nothing bad to say about Kanye West.
James (right) spent the “the best part of a week” trying to buy Yeezys online. His flatmate got them and he didn’t. “I can’t remember ever not liking Kanye, the man is a genius.”
Interestingly, nobody I spoke to made a distinction between the “old” and “new” Kanye. They have followed him from the pink-ass polos with a fuckin’ backpack, through the shutter glasses to the Hermès factory floor, leather jogging pants and dinner with Anna Wintour. Kanye has changed and they’ve changed with him. He ignited them, he awakened them.
By this point, all the love in the room had made me feel weirdly emotional. Even the bar man was a gushing Kanye superfan. It was all too much. I started drunkenly writing things in my phone like:
Ye’s genius is to be aligned with art and emotion as well as business and material success. He is about status but he is also about soul.
It was a good time to get out of there.
Tickets and info for Dedicated to Kanye nights can be found here.