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Kanye West’s Cult of Ubiquity

Kanye blesses his people at Brooklyn Bowl.

Last Saturday, those of you who get cable could have turned on your TVs at eight and watched Kanye West’s lavish short film, Runaway — on MTV, on BET, on MTV2. (I was half-surprised they weren’t interrupting C-SPAN2 and Book TV for it, too.) You could have stuck around afterward for various interviews with West about what you’d just seen. You could have logged on to Twitter and followed the countless reactions there. And if you lived around New York, you could have headed over to Brooklyn Bowl for Pitchfork’s #Offline Festival, which culminated in a surprise appearance by West. If you were even remotely interested in the guy, the world more than had you covered.

Possibly overcovered, if the photos that hit the Internet today are indeed Kanye's penis.

Kanye's appearance in Brooklyn sort of overshadowed the actual festival segment he was a special guest at — a third-anniversary showcase for Fool’s Gold Records. The label was started by two D.J.'s, Nick Catchdubs and A-Trak. (The latter has worked with Kanye in the past.) Over those three years in operation, Fool’s Gold has released twelve-inch singles with a pretty timely vibe — neon-colored, eclectic, and easy to like, slipping between hip-hop, electro, pop, disco, and house. They tend to make immediate sense on a dance floor, and they’re also highly “bloggable,” in that colorful-and-diverting way. Over the past month, Vulture’s featured the terrific cameo-filled video for “Barbra Streisand,” a song by A-Trak and Armand van Helden under the name Duck Sauce — plus another label single, “Ray Ban Vision,” featuring new Kanye protégé CyHi da Prynce.

This week, the label released its first full-length records. One’s from an all-female Japanese band called the Suzan, whose new LP, Golden Week for the PocoPoco Beat, is awfully appealing — a cheerful, surprisingly danceable variety of post-punk. The other is Fool’s Gold Vol. 1, a collection of tracks from the label’s associates. “Ray Ban Vision” is on there; so is a surprising track from bizarro cult rapper Lil B, who’s gearing up for a release on the label. Most everything included has some immediate charms: a laid-back, Pet Shop Boys–referencing rap single from Trackademics, a hectic dance track from Flosstradamus, a great minimal closer from Nacho Lovers. It tends to shoot for the pleasure centers marked “fun,” and it manages to keep poking them without feeling grating or lightweight.

Listening to Fools Gold Vol. 1 keeps reminding me why we enjoy hearing about Kanye all the time. The collection is a good example of the way a lot of people experience music now — there’s a certain jumble, a turnover of different styles and artists that the label is curating to create some kind of aesthetic. Their roster runs from the Chicago rapper Kid Sister (who appears here) to a contribution from old-school Italian disco legend Alexander Robotnick (who doesn’t). Meanwhile, there are days when it feels like one of the things people enjoy most about Kanye — maybe even more than the music he’s offering — is his ability to run the conversation. To be big and central enough to take over multiple TV channels for an hour, or show up at just about any concert (short of a Taylor Swift show) and be considered an amazing treat to see. To be the kind of musician you can still talk to strangers about and, for the most part, have them know who you mean.

Photo: Brook Bobbins