by DeVon Harris
Let’s put it out there: I’m an Apple fanboy. For good reason. When a company commands 9 percent of a market – but 73% of it’s profits, they’re doing something right. Their products are not only technologically relevant but culturally important. Now, I’ve worked with Kanye West for years and while it may seem absurd to have Yeezy and Steve Jobs in the same sentence, those that know ‘Ye know what I mean when I talk about the parallels in how the two visionaries approach their work and lives. Maybe one day Kanye will have a 600-page book written about him but until then, here are some similarities between 2 of our generation’s greatest creative minds:
1. Neither are trained in the science of their careers (technology or music).
Steve Jobs is not an engineer of any note. ‘Ye can’t play an actual lick on any instrument. But somehow they both became global leaders in the execution of their respective crafts.
2. Both are only children
Jobs was adopted and raised as an only child while Kanye clearly exhibits the standard traits of only child syndrome (also called ‘Little Emperor Syndrome’)
3. Both dropped out of college after short art-focused studies.
Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College after 6 months. Famously, he attended creative courses off and on at Reed for the next 18 months. Kanye attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago and Chicago State for short stints.
4. Both are accused of being arrogant and bombastic.
This study actually talks to the findings that the best leaders are umm… let’s say ‘disagreeable.’ Go figure!
5. Both are obsessed with the level of quality and design inherent in their product – regardless of cost.
I know first-hand the level of necessary attention to detail when it comes to Kanye West’s work. Anyone’s who’s held a Apple product in their hand (or read Walter Isaacson’s Jobs biography) knows of Mr. Job’s legendary temper and care about his products. Both literally look to improve the world through design.
6. Unlike most public personas, both avoid press and shroud their products in secrecy.
From Kanye’s latest hit “Mercy,” “Don’t do no press but I get the most press, kid!” and Jobs was notorious for refusing to do almost all press – outside of his Apple presentation which were moreso opportunities to, as we say, stunt.
7. Both borrow liberally from the inspiration of their forefathers.
Apple is known for borrowing design cues from Braun and Deiter Rams (let’s not even get into Xerox PARC). Kanye openly acknowledges his hip-hop sampling forefathers like J Dilla, No ID and RZA. They both exhibit the best traits of a good remixer – taking the highlights and emotional cues of something familiar and well executed and adding a new twist to them.
8. Both proactively and consistently reinvent their brand and product offering.
Apple (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) transformed from a computer company to a music-focused consumer electronic company and is know in mid-transition to a cloud-based media hub. Listeners wait for Kanye’s next release as having a definitive role in establishing whatever is the new wave in avant-garde pop. He’s went from ‘backpack rapper‘ to Japanese rap conduit to, now, being the king of ‘luxury rap.’
9. Both were motivated by near-death experiences.
I spoke to ‘Ye on the phone the day of his infamous 2002 car accident. There’s no question that the accident pushed Kanye to work harder, touch more people, and take “less bullshit.” Steve Jobs had a very public battle with cancer and in his 2005 Stanford commencement speech says it all: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
DeVon Harris (aka Devo Springsteen) is a Grammy-winning producer, songwriter, entrepreneur, and regular SoundCtrl contributor. DeVon is also a former consultant and founder of interactive video company, Ochre. You can follow him on Twitter @springsteezy