On Sunday night’s episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” Kim Kardashian confronted her husband, Kanye West, about announcing his plans to move back to his hometown of Chicago — without consulting her.
Of course, we already knew the Kardashian-Wests weren’t moving to Chicago. But the focus on the couple’s conversations about where to raise their growing family highlights a turning point for the long-running reality show, where West has had a minor and relatively reluctant presence since he began dating Kardashian in 2012. West heralded the shift in last week’s season premiere, which featured the rapper’s first-ever confessional interview (alongside his wife) for the show.
West explained he was inspired by Pixar’s animated film “The Incredibles,” which begins with interviews with Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl and their fellow superhero friend Frozone. His exact reasoning was quintessentially Ye: “The wife got a big butt, and I just see our life becoming more and more and more like ‘The Incredibles’ until we can finally fly,” West said with a grin.
Before this season, the running joke has been that West actively tries to avoid the show’s cameras, a tactic showcased in various supercuts of the rapper’s awkward cameos on the show. In his KUWTK debut, he peers at Kardashian from behind a hotel room wall as she gets ready for Scott Disick’s restaurant opening. “You look great,” he tells her, and that is about the extent of his contribution to the episode.
A few episodes later, West, then a rising fashion designer, would infamously take a Marie Kondo approach to Kardashian’s closet — only in this case, West gets rid of anything that does not spark joy for him. Even as West engages in PDA with his girlfriend and makes playful comments about some of the items she has held on to, he still seems hesitant to be on camera.
The couple would go on to document their engagement, their wedding and the births of several children (one of whom is named for West’s hometown) on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” But West still maintained a comfortable distance from E!' s cameras. “He doesn’t like to film everything. It’s not his show,” Kim told the Hollywood Reporter in 2017. Still, Kardashian allowed that West would sometimes surprise her. “He’ll be like, ‘I’m not filming,’ and then randomly show up,” she told the magazine.
So far, this season has been a drastic change from West’s previous appearances. Sunday’s episode also referenced the headline-making rant West delivered following his performance on “Saturday Night Live” in September. West’s remarks, which focused on his controversial support for President Trump, did not air but were circulated widely on social media.
“I don’t know if they’ll invite us back ever,” Kardashian told her family at a dinner unattended by her husband. Her mom, Kris Jenner, suggested Kardashian give West “a little more attention” amid his SNL outburst, which occurred just weeks before the rapper’s bizarre White House meeting with Trump.
Kardashian balked. “I definitely feel like I’m being pulled in a million directions. The kids are in school, and we have another baby on the way,” she said in her own confessional interview. “So, moving to Chicago would have to be, like, a long conversation. And honestly, it may be my breaking point.”
In a later scene, Kardashian and West agreed they would not permanently relocate their family to Chicago, but would spend more time there.
While West’s on-screen presence has magnified, the rapper has reportedly had a much bigger role behind the scenes throughout his time in the Kardashian-Jenner orbit. Kardashian told THR in 2017 that West had final approval over his appearances on the show. And West also exerted a creative influence usually limited to producers. It was the rapper who insisted E! film his proposal with special cameras, lending a home-video feel to their engagement, which was witnessed by Kardashian’s family and closest friends — and the orchestra West hired as part of an epic surprise for his bride-to-be.
The rapper’s aesthetic can certainly be seen (and heard) in the show’s new opening, which features black-and-white footage of the Kardashian and Jenner sisters and their children in sleek white outfits. The network’s president told the New York Times that West has “had thoughts on marketing, thoughts on presentation of the show, on the opening title sequence.”
While some may write off West’s decision to be more prominently featured on KUWTK as another impulsive decision, it is worth considering he understands well the reach of his wife’s reality show. An exchange between Kardashian and West, in the rapper’s first confessional, was telling.
Kardashian, revealing the couple is expecting their fourth child, a boy, said the couple’s first son, Saint, “happens to be one of my favorite human beings.”
“I don’t think it’s good when parents feel like ‘This is my favorite child,’” West replied. Kardashian said she thought it was natural for a parent to gravitate to a certain child, though she noted it could change: “I was my mom’s favorite for a good decade, and now it’s Kylie.”
West doubled down. “I don’t think you should play favorites with kids.”
“Well, they would never know . . . I’m just saying,” Kim said.
“Oh yeah, they’ll just watch this,” West deadpanned.