This Halloween, Phish paid tribute to the late great David Bowie with a musical costume for the ages, delivering an excellent execution of his seminal album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. When the band passed out their traditional Phishbills, the album’s iconic cover art was front and center, with fans curiously noticing a prominently placed sign that reads “K. West” almost directly about Bowie/Ziggy’s head. While this isn’t necessarily new information, the distribution of thousands of Phishbills with the album cover on it got fans thinking about the connection between the beloved David Bowie and the controversial Kanye West. That was also fueled by John Mayer’s post, as the guitarist claimed he was planning to see Phish on Halloween and Kanye West the following night.
Fans of both Bowie and West have been making this “K. West” connection since Kanye emerged as a powerhouse of pop music and culture in the 2000s. It turns out that the connection is a lot deeper than meets the eye (if you’re willing to go down the proverbial rabbit hole with us).
When Ziggy Stardust was first released, fans had all sorts of theories as to what “K. West” stood for. Bowie told Rolling Stone in a 1993 interview that “People read so much into it, they thought K. West must be some sort of code for ‘quest.’ It took on all these sort of mystical overtones.” It turns out that “K. West” was the name of a furrier that has long-since closed, located at 23 Heddon St. in London. Upon Kanye’s ascendence (love him or hate him) to the top of the mountain of pop culture, fans started to put some pieces together.
When David Bowie died in January, an old conspiracy theory from 2007 re-surfaced that linked the two artists together. The theory claimed that, while Bowie had predicted the rise of Kanye West via the Ziggy Stardust album cover, several of the album’s songs also referenced the rise of the mercurial hip hop superstar with eerie accuracy. In this hypothetical scenario, Bowie himself is Ziggy Stardust and Kanye West the album’s famous Starman. Starman takes over Ziggy’s mantel after his meteoric plummet from grace at the end of the record. On Ziggy‘s first track, “Five Years”, the end of the world is proclaimed, barring the arrival of the previously mentioned Starman to save humanity. Exactly five years and two days after the release of Ziggy Stardust, Kanye West was born in Atlanta, Georgia.
On David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, released just two days before his death, he pronounces the arrival of a “Black Star” replacing the leader of a group after his death.
“Something happened on the day he died / Spirit rose a meter and stepped aside/ Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried/ ‘I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar!'”
The third track from Blackstar, “Lazarus”, is named after the biblical character that Jesus Christ himself resurrects. On Kanye’s album Yeezus, his third track is titled “I Am A God”. Also, Kanye has appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone dressed in Jesus garb. On Blackstar, the Blackstar’s first words on the album have him proclaiming that he isn’t a “gangstar”, which aligns with Kanye’s position as the ultimate alternative to gangsta rap, which was popular in the mainstream until his soulful, introspective, socially conscious style took over the genre.
While all of these connections could be mere happenstance, it’s no question that West is heavily influenced by Bowie. Two hours after Bowie’s death, West was one of the first artists to speak out about the unique and creative superstar, announcing his love and inspiration that he drew from Bowie’s impressive body of work.
David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 11, 2016
So, is Kanye Ziggy‘s Starman? Did David Bowie predict Kanye West as the next great and iconic musical superstar? Probably not. But the parallels between the two make for an interesting comparison. Kanye seems to currently be trapped in a Ziggy-like obsession with fame, rock ‘n’ roll, and the search for power. If you look back at Kanye’s first album, and consider where he is now, he seems to have become lost in a character that he created for himself in the public eye. What started out as a humble career based on unique production and hard work is now a celebrity behemoth that incorporates fame, money, power, and delusions of grandeur, all while pushing music as an art form into new and unexpected places…These are also the general themes of The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars.
So what do you think? Did David Bowie predict Kanye five years before he was even born? Is David Bowie the John The Baptist to Kanye’s Jesus Christ? Is Kanye West the Starman…or is he just an overblown idiot that’s a star? We’ll let you be the judge!