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9/04/2005

Home of the Brave/Shots Called


I keep this space to write about music, for whatever it's worth. While plenty of other things cross my mind, I see the peanut butter words as an excercise of sorts.

What I want to say about Kanye West is this: in spite of his messianic aspirations, the grandeur of his ego, and the prickly spectacle that can be made of live television, I can't think of a better and more honorable way to exercise one's fame.

Kanye wasn't flexing some weak, sexed-up Vote or Die agenda. I could only read the tension in his face and stumble in his rhetoric as an expression of his fear in attempting to seize his moment in front of millions; any cooled comments of "soundbyte" are forgetting that things like these coups (if you will) aren't pristine or graceful. Stutter in his step, sure, but no fumble.

There's something overwhelmingly uncool about letting our pop culture tingle mix with our interests as Human Beings of the World; that's not going to change, i.e. American culture has developed way beyond political consciousness as hip, sad and misled as that fact is. In that light (and others, of course) Kanye is a transgressor and hopefully a catalyst. If our entertainers are going to be socially conscious, we want them to be predictable and relaxed about it, where Kanye was sizzling, confused, and passionate. (Note: Conor Oberst, I'm not sure about you yet.)

There's no place in my heart that can possibly fault him taking a detour from the routinized rhetoric of tragedy (i.e. distress->sympathy->comfort->relief) to speak his mind. More than that, he blatantly fucked the expectations of our well-scrubbed celebrities to be politically neutered, especially in a situation where there's some consensus to be "patriotically" unified in our opinion of the event (like say, 9/11).

On an unusually personal and eventually related note, I remember being in college and feeling so bitter and confused on first hearing Richard Pryor's "Bicentennial Nigger" that I wept; I remember writing a paper about The Last Poets'
"Niggers are Scared of Revolution"
and feeling embarrassed about shreds of liberal guilt. Now I realize that I was only stalled by these constructs (being white & in college), that what got me in those pieces was tangled but honest, speaking to a backlog of murky bad feelings and collective uncertainty about race relations (the irrevocability of the slavery era, the sublimation of racism from legislated to viral).

The difference here is that The Last Poets' whole shtick was explicitly politicized, as was Pryor's (to a certain extent and in a different direction). Kanye's been walking this line of being socially conscious & has made some missteps, for sure. I'm not hoping he's going to become a radical (his charges were definitely and astoundingly not radical). What makes him compelling is his public admission of guilt mixed with disgust and sadness. I'm not going to solve any problems on this blog, for sure, but I did think his gesture was significant and beautiful because of its lack of resolution; what better expression could I have asked for?

2 Comments:

Blogger Ian said...

Thanks, man. You said it perfectly. Hope you don't mind if I link to this.

12:47 AM  
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