Kanye West is perhaps the most provocative and controversial pop culture icon of the day. The public perceptions of West are all over the map. Many fans praise his genius for creating challenging and outside-the-box art. Others find his unwavering self-assuredness unappealing and insultingly egomaniacal. In the midst of his recent political proclamations that run counter to much of the accepted thinking in the African American community, some critics have voiced concerns that he suffers from an unregulated mental disorder. Is what we're witnessing all an act - an elaborate and manufactured performance piece designed to enhance his notoriety - or a genuine meltdown? "Searching for... Kanye" is a probing portrait that attempts to distinguish the man from the outrageous public persona.
The film opens at the beginning of West's journey on the streets of Chicago. Described by a childhood friend as "energetic and confident" at a young age, West always knew music was his destiny. An only child born into a family steeped within civil rights movement, he was firmly supported by his mother every step of the way. Her death in 2007 robbed West of an essential guiding influence.
Strictly focused on his art, he never intended to be the torch bearing representative of his race or for the issues that most concern their communities. But that all changed following his recent high-profile embrace of conservatism. Whether characterizing slavery as a choice or offering his full-throated support to President Donald Trump, his actions have confounding and enraged many members of his once-loyal fan base.
But there's another segment of fans and social critics who validate West's most bellicose insights. In their view, West is attempting to empower his community and awaken them from the mindset of slavery. They believe the real travesty exists in the belief that all people of color should follow the same political line.
Reinforced by intimate home movie footage and insightful interviews with many of West's closest confidants, "Searching for... Kanye" doesn't settle for simple answers, but it does touch upon revealing truths. Its central subject is a complicated figure with conflicting instincts and a thirst for higher awareness. These qualities also define his greatness as an artist.