Kanye West is My New Neighbor

Downtown Cody, Wyoming. Source:  Cody Country Chamber of Commerce

Downtown Cody, Wyoming. Source: Cody Country Chamber of Commerce

Can you picture Kanye West in weathered leather boots and a wide brim cowboy hat?

I know I can’t, but Yeezus may be kicking off his Yeezys sooner than we think. The hip-hop tycoon has declared that the small western town of Cody, Wyoming will be his new part-time home. Yes, you read that right—America’s royal family has found a new safe haven. 

If you’ve already heard the peculiar news, then you may be wondering what sort of magic is lurking in Cody that has Kanye so entranced. Well, I am going to try to relay the spell to you best I can. 

Why should you consider me a trustworthy source on this topic? Two and a half years ago, my family journeyed West (hehe, get it?) and settled in the very same town that Ye now calls home. In fact, the West family’s newly-acquired ranch is only 8 minutes away from my parents’ house. Now, sure, I have only spent a handful of months in Cody, but I feel as though my first impression still counts for something.

So, in an effort to share my perspective with you, allow me to set the scene. *ahem*

A jaunt through Cody is like a shock to the system if you have spent most of your life living on the East Coast as I have. Some of the folks who make up the population of 9,885 walk around in taupe cowboy hats and blue jeans fastened with massive silver buckles. Everywhere you look, you’ll see guns in hip holsters and taxidermy bison. 

Mind you, before this move, I had lived in all sorts of different places and traveled plenty. Plus, back then I already had my heart set on New York City, and I had my college acceptance letters to solidify my plans. In my dreams, I was living out my Carrie Bradshaw fantasy, so I figured a few months in Wyoming was not going to scuff my imaginary Manolos. But even with those experiences under my belt and my New York state of mind, Cody still hit different. When I first arrived, I felt like I had walked onto the set of one of those old westerns that my dad grew up watching.

You see, Cody, Wyoming is situated 52 miles away from the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park. The natural beauty draws a startling number of tourists each summer, and many of them hit up Cody before driving into the park. As a result, these dog days are when the town turns on. During the Fourth of July weekend in particular, the eight quaint blocks that constitute downtown Cody liven up enough to rival a state fair. And boy oh boy, when Cody’s world famous rodeo revs up, some locals even make sure to avoid downtown entirely until the crowd heads home. 

The tourists in question generally fit a very particular sort of mold. You know those hotel chain commercials that feature perfect families jumping on plush beds and giggling over scrambled eggs? That is Cody’s summer demographic—sweet little families off to look for America. 

Do you have a certain image in your head now? Maybe one cast in sepia tone?

So imagine my surprise when I heard that Kanye West had fallen head-over-heels in love with this place. Not to say that Cody doesn’t have a certain charm, because in my opinion, it’s a lovely little town. But when you think of Ye, don’t you also think of private jets, luxe fashion shows, his stark white Calabasas mansion, an unapologetic pomposity, lyrics like, “Her man in the store tryna try his best, but he just can't seem to get Kanye fresh…” and the like? 

Perhaps I’ve mentally compartmentalized his vibe all too hastily…

I am far from being a native, so I couldn’t help but wonder what the real locals thought about all this. So, I used the few Cody connections I have to get some answers.

“I was shocked when I heard the news about Kanye buying Monster Lake Ranch, and I think so was the rest of Cody,” said Northwest College sophomore Genevieve Sauers. “I was definitely excited, but there are quite a few Cody people who weren’t really thrilled about him moving here because he’s a big famous rapper. A lot of older couples in Cody aren’t too fond of him. The younger generation, however, is stoked.”

I found this intriguing. So, off to a Gen Xer I went. 

“I’m glad that he wants to get out of the big cities and see how rural life in Cody is, and raise his children in a smaller community,” said Cody resident Nick Schmidt. “I’m hoping that he will positively impact the town, making it a better place to want to be.” 

Kanye West. Source:  NME

Kanye West. Source: NME

Cody’s premier wedding planner, Melissa Donald, moved to Cody from St. Paul two and a half years ago. Given that her timeline was identical to my parents’, I was interested in hearing what she had to say.

“Honestly, I think it is going to energize the town,” said Donald. “It has created rather colorful chatter amongst the locals, making for some interesting reads on the local Facebook scene. Regardless of how people feel about him and his family, his political and religious views complement the overall community culture. He has dined and shopped local, visited sporting events and bible studies, and has caused no trouble other than the fact that he is here and people are freaking out.”

Tyler Cramer, senior at Cody High School, had similar views, saying, “I think it’s pretty cool that he moved to Cody. [It has] kinda put Wyoming on the map a little more. I would say the biggest impact about it would be if more people possibly moved here—possibly other rappers.”

Unfortunately, not everyone shared such perspectives. Many of the natives made one thing clear: they don’t want anything messing with Cody country culture. 

“Some people are warm and welcoming, and some people are trash-talking him and posting all about how they don’t want him here,” Sauers mentioned. 

“Most natives that I talked to are pretty indifferent; they just hope the big city doesn’t follow them to Cody,” said Schmidt. Cramer expressed similar a concern, stating, “as long as it doesn’t bring an astonishing amount of people into Cody, then we are absolutely fine with having Kanye be a Wyoming resident.”

Donald commented on this apparent resistance, explaining that local uncertainty may stem from something beyond opposition to character.  

“People are absolutely going nuts, and fall all over the spectrum, from angry and resentful to excited and welcoming,” noted Donald. “Cody just isn't used to this kind of publicity and I believe—based on the rhetoric floating around the circles—that locals are worried that his residency will impact already seemingly inflated real estate market and cost-of-living ratio. In other words, they don't want Cody to turn into another Jackson.”


Kanye West’s ranch in Wyoming. Source:  Powell Tribune

Kanye West’s ranch in Wyoming. Source: Powell Tribune

His infamous hubris aside, it’s hard to deny that Kanye is a creative force to be reckoned with. He has been an influential facet of the music biz for over two decades, and I’m pretty sure that every one of my friends has at least one Kanye song that they love unconditionally. 

And honestly, all of this sort of makes sense to me. My proclivity to seek out creative inspiration has brought me to love Cody’s beauty myself, so despite my initial surprise, I do see the draw. Plus, the town may be small, but the portion of the 14-million-dollar ranch that the family has christened West Lake is not—I’m sure that helps ease some of Yeezy’s culture shock. 

All in all, it will be interesting to see if Cody’s distinct culture is impacted by its new legendary inhabitants. I suppose I’ll just have to find an excuse to cruise by West Lake next time I visit my family to see what’s really up. Strictly for research purposes, of course…

Written on September 23, 2019

Updated on October 10, 2019

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