Features | Awards

The “HAAOW, SWAY!?!?” Award for Theatricality in Crybabying

By Eric Sams | 17 December 2013

When Kanye West reeled back, tensed his muscles, and straight up lit into Sway Calloway midway through the pair’s radio interview last month, it was like watching a python strike. I was mesmerized. I hadn’t known what I was in for. All I knew about the clip was that ‘Ye flipped out somewhere during his rambling, 34-minute “Sway in the Morning” interview. But “flip out” is not what he did. No, what Kanye did, in just the split-second it took him to scream “HAAOW, SWAY?!?!” into his mic, was give birth to a seething avatar of self-regard as wonderful and breathtaking as the inky monstrosity that clawed its way out of the fire priestess in Game of Thrones.

No man in modern history—maybe no man ever—has ever disappeared up his own asshole so totally, so quickly, and with such a wrathful vigor as Kanye did in that moment. “HAAOW, SWAY?I?I” Even as it hung there in the air between the two men it became his synecdoche. It wasn’t shocking because he did it, it was shocking because he meant it. It was shocking because he was it. Does this seem harsh? If so, consider exactly what topic of discussion caused the eruption in the first place. To what meek suggestion came this rejoinder of pure id: “HAAOW, SWAY?!?!”

You probably already know that, by this point in the interview, Yeezy had already compared himself in one way or another to Steve Jobs, Shakespeare, Andy Warhol, Walt Disney, Leonardo DaVinci, and Will Ferrell’s character from Semi-Pro, so it’s not surprising that his actual point got lost somewhere in there. His real goal in that interview was to shine a light on the injustice that kept him from being both the most famous hip-hop artist in the world and the most famous fashion designer in the world. Well, Sway asked, why couldn’t he be? ‘Ye began by positing that fashion executives were so blinded by his mic skills and production genius, they couldn’t see that he was a fashion genius as well. As he went further, though, it became clear that he didn’t buy that premise himself. That’s when he started to make demands on the very fabric of spacetime. He bemoaned that every time he took a break from music to devote himself to fashion, people forgot that he Was (and Is, and Will Be) Yeezus, and they did wack ass things like put him on “the list” behind some wack motherfucker like Big Sean.

That’s when it became apparent that Kanye didn’t just want to be the ne plus ultra of the hip-hop and fashion worlds, he wanted to be able to rule over both of these domains at the same time and always. But, because being the best in the world at anything requires just…a stupid amount of work, and because staying the best may be even harder than being the best, it may very well be impossible to do it in two unrelated fields simultaneously. After all, even Yeezus can’t collapse the temporal paradox that stops him from literally do two things at once.

Don’t tell ‘Ye that though, not if you want to keep that hand. Because a thing’s being impossible in the abstract isn’t nearly as important or meaningful as that thing being unobtainable for Kanye. And if he can’t figure out how to do it, he sure as fuck isn’t about to take advice from a dude in a knit stovepipe cap. “HAAOW, SWAY?!?!” This attitude is the essence of Kanye. This attitude is also, of course, solipsism approaching clinical delusion, and to see it expressed so concretely, so forcefully, and so quickly was a true. Christmas miracle. “HAAOW, SWAY?!?!?” It was like watching someone’s leg jerk when the doctor hits their knee with his little rubber hammer. “HAAOW, SWAY?!?!”

This is the part where I was going to try to draw some parallel to my own life, and be all there’s-a-little-Kanye-in-all-of-us. But that’s not true. There isn’t. Most of us can’t fathom being flummoxed when faced with a literal impossibility, because, for us, keeping up with our e-mail is a task beyond reckoning. So when we use it as a catch phrase—and, to be clear, I’m going to be saying this a lot—we won’t mean it like Kanye meant it. It’s Kanye’s world. Like, literally. You, me, and Sway just wouldn’t understand.