Now, I am a Kanye West fan. In fact, I’ve been told to stop “sucking off Kanye” more times than I care to remember; which is funny to me, because I do not view oral sex as degrading–but that’s for a different post. Back to Mr. West, I own his albums and few of his mixtapes. His Graduation artwork, which I stole from an album singing three years ago, hangs on my wall as I type. Though I do not read his blog, I do follow his tweets no matter how obtuse. This post is not about his blog nor numerous his bus bench philosophies. It’s about this shit he’s dropping every Friday night/Saturday morning.
If you’ve been unplugged from pop culture or trapped in a Chilean mine, then you might not have heard that Kanye decided to release a new song every Friday until his album is released in November. When I first heard of this, I kissed the Dropout Bear flying above my bed and memories of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”, “It All Falls Down”, and his verse on “Never Let Me Down” flooded my psyche. “Yes. After two long years, the voice of the Millenniums is speaking again,” I thought. Then, I downloaded “Monster”. When the yawn-fest known as Nicki Minaj rips the most dense verse (notice, I said “most dense”. Not good, just “most dense…okay), there’s a problem. But Kanye…really? Must you reduce your rhyming to sexually aggressive lyrics. I expect that from YGs of the world, but from the lyricist of the aforementioned tracks and one of the few outspoken rappers against homophobia in Hip Hop, I expect more. As weeks have passed, so have my expectations. Lyrics like those in “Devil in a New Dress” (that’s best summed up at the end of this post) and “Good Friday” only reinforce my disappointment. There is so much to talk about (The Tea Party, unemployment, so-called “post-racial/feminist” world) still when discussing sexual politics, one can dig deeper. Why not examine your masculinity and question that instead of reinforcing the same trite, antiquated rhetoric? Why do you rely on sexually aggressive, sexist lyrics to fill bars? To make it plain Kanye, why is there little progress, maybe even regression, when it comes to your sexual politics?
Some defenders of art say you’re only rapping about your one’s own personal experiences, and they may be right. He may know or have known women like the woman he describes in “Devil in a New Dress”. Then again, D.W. Griffith may have known Black folk like “those” in Birth of a Nation; “knowing” something exists and creating non-progressive, flat art about that “something” are different. What folk seem to forget is that one’s art only dies after it leaves the world’s consciousness. Thanks to the internet, that may never happen. So when Kanye, another artist, or you for the matter, creates work that is sexist, homophobic, racist, patriarchal (please insert mode of oppression here) he or she voice echoes throughout the world forever, and if the global consciousness changes to point that it is at odds with one’s sexist, homophobic, racist, patriarchal, (please insert mode of oppression here) work, one’s voice becomes a tale of caution. It becomes what your 11th grade history warns you not to be. One need to only look at Civil Rights resistors for an example of this. How proud are they now?
A word to the wise Kanye. Change. Become an artist who is too good to stoop to levels of everyday people. Become an artist who defends all people and progresses nations. Become an artist for the ages, and not just a generation.
On another note, Ann Powers wrote a good article about women and sexuality in pop music. She and I share similar views on Mr. West and the like.