Kanye West may be the most polarizing figure in pop music.
Just the rumor of the rapper-turned pop-icon’s tour stopping at Fresno’s Save Mart Center caused heated online debate, with some fans swearing West would never come to Fresno. That was until the rumor was officially confirmed. West’s Saint Pablo tour stops at the arena on Tuesday.
Put aside his marriage to Kim Kardashian, the (maybe) superfeud with Taylor Swift, West’s penchant for odd, erratic behavior and his overstatements, and West is one of the most awarded hip-hop artists of all time. He has 21 Grammy awards. Three of his albums are on Rolling Stone’s list of “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
His latest, “The Life of Pablo,” debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 album chart based solely on streaming services.
Never miss a local story.
For more on West’s appeal (or lack thereof), we reached out to the community for insight.
The radio guy
From the moment Rewind 105.5 announced West, 39, would be stopping in Fresno there was an explosion of excitement on the station’s social media, says David Caudillo, the director of programming and marketing.
“The anticipation hasn’t settled or slowed down,” he says.
West has definitely elevated the prominence of hip-hop in the mainstream, Caudillo says, though he had help from others, who, like West, have collaborated with artists outside the genre.
“Consequently you can hear not only Kanye West, but Lil Wayne, Ty Dollar Sign, Nicki Minaj and others on pop radio stations and even rock and alternative radio stations,” he says.
West is one of few hip-hop artists – alongside Jay-Z, perhaps – who could stage a mega-arena tour like he’s done with Saint Pablo, Caudillo says. As for whether Kanye is the GOAT (greatest of all time), Caudillo says, no, not even with all the Grammys.
“That being said, Kanye’s first three albums shook up hip-hop and you couldn’t deny his creativity lyrically and production-wise,” he says.
Christine Brown has seen 10 concerts in 2016, including West’s stop at The Forum in Los Angeles in October. While the show doesn’t rank best for the year – that would be Boyz II Men in Las Vegas – it was good enough for Brown to consider seeing the concert for a second time in Fresno.
This time, she hopes to be down with the mass of fans on the floor.
“We were in the nosebleeds at The Forum,” she says, adding that it didn’t matter. “I’ve never been to a show like that.”
It also didn’t matter that West came out an hour and half late and seemed to play through shortened versions of some of the tracks. In fact, the anticipation may have raised the excitement from the crowd, she says.
“You know when you’re really hungry and you finally get food and it’s like the flipping best thing ever?”
Brown doesn’t want to give too much of the spectacle away, but she says the set list for the night pulled heavily from “Saint Pablo.”
“If people haven’t heard the new album, they should study up.”
OK, Art Silva doesn’t really hate Kanye West.
“Who? Never heard of her. Isn’t that the villain from ‘Mortal Kombat’ or that website for cheap hotels?” says Silva, who runs the local promotions company Artourage.
He’s just poking fun. Of course, he knows West, even if he can’t name one Kanye song and isn’t sure when the rapper is playing Fresno. He does know the “Fishsticks” episode of South Park, which lampooned the singer and his ego.
That’s the reason Silva doesn’t care about West.
“He has zero respect for people and other artists,” Silva says.
So, no, Silva won’t be voting Kanye in 2020. And he won’t be seeing the tour, either.
Could he be convinced? That’s a no.
“Is that really a question?” he says.
Kanye West Saint Pablo tour
- 9 p.m. Tuesday
- Save Mart Center
- 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com