The Art of Notoriety in Kanye West's Persona


  • Brandy Monk-Payton



Race, Art, Fashion, Celebrity Persona, Affect, Notoriety, Kanye West


Persona can be understood as a form of art that highlights different styles of fashioning the self for various media platforms and audiences. This paper explores what I term the “art of notoriety” through the creative pursuits of the notorious hip hop artist, Kanye “Ye” West. I argue that West’s public embrace of antagonism in American media propels not only his fame but also his increasing notoriety, which is predicated on negative affect made manifest through his persona and artworks. Teasing out the complex role that polarising media personas can play in current popular culture; this paper specifically emphasises the negative affect of irritation that orients public response to the figure of the ‘asshole’. I suggest that West’s notoriety is not only due to his attitude and behaviour, the latter of which cannot be separated from his mental health, but is also connected to his penchant for ‘bad’ design at the level of aesthetic form in his artistic endeavours, and especially with his career in fashion. This paper provides a close reading of West’s persona and aestheticized conduct that incites public discomfort. I link the U.S. public’s peculiar relationality to West to issues concerning race and racial difference that amplify his status as a notorious black celebrity subject. Ultimately, West’s creativity emanates from an oppositional space and his infamous mediated confrontations with the public confirm his artistic skill as a perennial provocateur.


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How to Cite

The Art of Notoriety in Kanye West’s Persona. (2023). Persona Studies, 9(3), 21-37.