I don’t want to continue to beat the Kanye drum but in light of the tremendous feedback I received from my previous piece, Kanye West: The Higher Learning of the College Dropout , I just wanted to briefly add more context to what he’s been talking about because there really is a lot to unpack.
Outside of the high volume of views I had for the piece I also had the opportunity to engage in some great discussions surrounding it. One thing that kept coming up consistently in some of the responses is not what Kanye was saying but WHO Kanye is. That is to say, many people think he’s whiny, egoistical, self-indulgent etc etc etc
Opinions differ of course and although I appreciate Kanye, I myself understand that he is far from perfect. That said, we seemingly live in a ad hominem, straw man fallacy led culture where people’s statements are outright disregarded and their position distorted not because of what they’re saying but who’s saying it. This is a dangerous place to reside in because it can also be aversely detrimental on the other side in that a society that chooses to live this way can also be misled and swept away by the eloquence of someone’s rhetoric precisely because of who’s saying it. Just take a peep through history. Its happened time and time again.
Regardless of one’s feelings toward someone or how they make you feel, to disregard or distort their position simply because you don’t like who it is coming from is for the lack of a better word a sucker’s game and it won’t be long before you get taken for your house if you haven’t already. It is this exact line of thinking that is a con artist’s dream and has people standing in front of Judge Judy trying to get their money back from some silver tongued fox or devil.
Here’s some truth. Whether you like it or not a Kanye West for many in this millennial, Internet generation speaks in a voice and through a medium that people of this generation understand and for many of today’s consumers of hip hop Yeezus is, or has been their “prophetic voice”. Sounds silly right? I can hear the voices of dissent now. “He’s no MLK”. Agreed, I’m not arguing that he is. What I am saying is for many people his voice carries that type of weight in THIS generation. Just because it doesn’t travel in the same medium or fashion that it did during our romanticised historical recollection of the Civil Rights movement doesn’t make it any less.
Even our beloved brother Martin had begun to experience a disconnect between the youth of that time with his message of non-violence as they began to respond to voices in the Black Power movement that spoke to THEIR generation. Martin was the man of his time, Huey P Newton, Angela Davis, and Bobby Seale were the voices for their time and believe it or not, like him or hate him, Yeezy is one of the preeminent voices for this time in his own way.
All of that aside, I came across an interesting piece in MotherJones that connects back to something Kanye was saying in his Breakfast Club Power 105.1 interview.
“It’s companies that have the same company that will allow them to do a song that promotes guns that promotes guns that promotes guns would be connected to the exact same corporation that promotes privately owned prisons. It’s actually the same company. It’s actual slavery” [sic] – Kanye West
Everyone knows someone who uses Microsoft and it is well known that Bill Gates as the face and founder of Microsoft is the richest man in the world. It is estimated that over one billion people use Microsoft products worldwide. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda to their credit have one of the biggest charitable organisations in the world called “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation”.
How many of us then would be shocked to know that same charity, with the money that was raised from the sale of Microsoft products, is also connected to the prison industrial complex, the fast food industry and most of the major multi-national corporations in the world that peddle in the extraction and profit of our precious natural resources?
To be clear, I know that Kanye is not the only voice in hip-hop speaking on these issues. I don’t even think he is the best voice to speak to these issues. I think there are far more knowledgeable and scholarly voices that can do a superior and more informed job. Michelle Alexander and her book The New Jim Crow come to mind. However, the fact remains that in a culture where young people are reading less books, music and Kanye’s voice and exposure in particular, might be one of the few mediums where they can hear about these important issues that are taking place in our culture. This is why it’s important that despite how we feel about a particular person, we don’t kill the message just because we don’t like who the messenger is. If we can get past our personal feelings, which often times are less to do with the person who we state is irritating us and more to do with ourselves, we can use these “rants” like Kanye’s to connect to deeper, broader and more meaningful topics that are of the deepest relevance to important justice issues taking place right now in our culture.
Thoughts and comment would be appreciated.