My Kanye Ramblings…Why Because I?…For Reasons

Yesterday there was an interview in the NY Times featuring Kanye West. I had several thoughts about it but there were three that that stuck with me. The first, is that Kanye is one of the only Black men in pop culture who continues to evolve publicly, in real time, while remaining squarely in front of his narrative.

Second, a big part of Kanye’s public evolution has to do with his willingness to be vulnerable and emotional, publicly. He is willing to be vulnerable, honest and wrong. When I say emotional I don’t mean full of rage, there is space for Black men to do that in pop culture, in fact some folks expect it.  In fact way back in 2008, I wrote about his willingness to be vulnerable with the album 808′s and Heartbreak.

Last, I realized that a huge portion of the public sphere conversations about art don’t pivot around Black artists who put their craft first. On Twitter, we talk about Scandal (and Shonda Rhimes certainly puts her craft first but our conversations on Twitter aren’t about that dimension of her work), we talk about Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, we talk about rap music lyrics if they are inflammatory. But Black visual artists who are craft first!?!? But perhaps  one of the issues playing a role here is privilege, my own personal privilege that I need to own in this conversation. By privilege I mean the ability to know, study and read about Black artists who are craft first. When I think about Black artists who are craft first the folks who come to mind are Ava Duvernay, Wangechi Mutu, Sanford Biggers, Bradford Young,  Dee Rees, Aisha Simmons (who is on and engaged on Twitter). This list isn’t exhaustive, these are the folks who came to mind. I am not saying that they don’t have online presence, they do, what I am saying is that reading that Kanye article made me wonder, where are the artistic conversations by young(er) established and emerging artists in 2013? Or perhaps the conversations exist and I am slipping. If you are aware of such conversations, please link me, I’d Love to see them.

If a huge portion of the Black public sphere is happening on the internet, and this is MY observation, then what does it mean if we don’t see these artists in these spaces having conversations. Or is the issue also of one around time, space and labor. In other words, if you are too busy shooting documentaries, shooting photographs, writing novels, creating web series, creating multi-media work, then you simply may not have the time to be on Twitter.

Social media is labor.

Anyhoo, just some thoughts that the Kanye interview had me thinking about.

I guess also has me thinking that as I move forward with the book and the doc, one of the questions rattling around in my head is whether will the historic spaces that I have visited and participated in, will they feel the same? Will the internet conversations be enough?

Why People Hate 808′s and Heartbreak

Kanye and Alexis

I listened to 808 and Heartbreaks last week for about two days straight.
It is an album that needs to be played loudly, in your trunk, on your
headphones or in the living groom.

I came to it through the back door as I wasn’t really tripping off of it
until I saw folks at The Smoking Section speak and I read the comments
section. I figured if that many people were hating on it, then I should give
it a listen.

Besides, I typically rock for the underdog.


I also knew that given the loss that he experienced in the last year
and the fact that he is a Gemini, he was going to go all out on the album.

Word to Tupac.

The more I listened to the album, the more I realized that this
cat was in a lot of pain, and trying to articulate it.

To say that he “sounds like” T-Pain misses the point by looking
at just the sound, but ignoring the content. T- Pain ain’t never
said anything that made me think about nothing.

Whereas, 808′s and Heartbreak, helped me with being in
reflection mode last week.

Besides, listening to the beat and not the lyrics has been a troubling
issue in hip hop since The Chronic.

Break up albums allow an artist to lay it on the line. 808′s is no different.
In fact, Marvin Gaye’s Here my Dear, Erykah’s Mamas Gun are some
other examples that come to mind.

Other than the loss of someone, when are you really vulnerable?

Listening to the album and hearing him describe those
post break up slug penetrate moments, I came to realize
that he was being both vulnerable and in pain and in our culture that
is a no no for men, and antithetical to Black manhood. That is if
if you believed what you saw in hip hop.

It was then that I realized that the only acceptable emotion
for Black men to publicly express and still retain their
masculinity
is rage.

Kill a hundred fools? Cool.
Murder, stab, rape? Fine.
Sad over losing our ex? Blasphemy.

In many ways, 808′s and heartbreak is a blues album.

That classic since my baby left me blues music.

In fact, the beef over this Kanye album underscores
the stark differences between the Blues and hip hop.

With the blues, Black men could be complex, emotional
human beings.

With hip hop, at least with regard to the dominant narrative,
they can only be self destructive machines.

I wonder what BB King thinks?