If Kanye West says he’s a millennial, is he one? (Photo: Getty Images)
Kanye West accepted the Video Vanguard Award at Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards and, in true Kanye West fashion, made several eyebrow-raising comments during his 11-minute acceptance speech.
Among them: He thinks he’s a millennial.
“We the millennials, Bro,” West said at one point during his rant. But West was born in 1977, which puts him squarely in Generation X. (Millennials are typically defined as those who were born between 1982 and 2004.)
People quickly took to Twitter to correct West:
But, while he’s too old to be a millennial, West possesses many of the same characteristics as the average member of that generation: He’s outspoken and image-conscious, and strives to be an individual, among other things.
Is it possible to be a “millennial” without actually being a millennial?
Surprisingly…yes, Jason Dorsey, millennials researcher and strategist at The Center for Generational Kinetics, tells Yahoo Health.
“You can look at birth years or characteristics,” Dorsey says. “If you go by characteristics, absolutely somebody can be an honorary millennial.”
Millennial expert and researcher Jean Twenge, PhD, author of “Generation Me,” agrees. While we use birth years to create generational markers, Twenge tells Yahoo Health that it’s really arbitrary.
When you define the characteristics of a generation, it’s due to things that have been changing steadily for a while, she says. Therefore, someone may see themselves as a part of the next generation, even though they’re technically a member of the one before.
Dorsey points out that West is what’s known as a “cusper,” i.e. he was born within five years of a generational marker. “It’s very normal for a cusper to have the characteristics of the generation before or after them,” he says.
West’s apparent desire to be a millennial isn’t unusual, though. Millennials are seen as having the most influence over technology, the leading indicator of consumer trends, and an increasingly important voter group. “They’re the hottest generation in that sense,” says Dorsey, “and a lot of people may want to be millennials as a result.”
But just because West wants to be a millennial doesn’t mean the generation will embrace him — especially since Twenge says millennials aren’t so crazy about outsiders wanting to be like them. “It’s the usual reaction of younger people to older people wanting to join them — go away,” she says. “It’s usually considered to be lame.”
Since West is a tech-savvy celebrity who already has a huge millennial fan base, it’s possible the rules won’t apply to him.
And, of course, he simply believes he is one. “Kanye has done an outstanding job making himself an honorary millennial — and what is more millennial than that?” says Dorsey.