By Kye White
A great deal of the coverage surrounding Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel’s recent twitter spat has focused on Kanye. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the whole saga is too many people write off West as a douche and look at his tweets and just think its more of the same. West’s tweets undoubtedly were over the top and he ackowledges as much in the subsequent interview with Kimmel. However Kimmel’s sketch was ignorant and I think it’s important to acknowledge that too. Slate’s Forest Wickman sums up the origin of Kimmel’s ignroance eloquently. Firstly Wickman argues that rap is the new rock and roll and Kanye is the biggest rapper. It’s a point I don’t think I can argue against. If you believe both propositions to be true then it’s unreasonable to object to Kanye’s characterisation of himself as the biggest rockstar. Wickman’s also points out that West, clearly knows more about fashion than Kimmel, and instead of trying to understand what West was saying in the Zane Lowe interview, he just makes the assumption that West stupid, and thus we arrive at the sketch which proceeds to infantalize him.
If you are going to criticise Kanye, don’t make it about “modesty“, or even honesty. Yes he went on TV and said ”George Bush hates black people”, but just two years later then Senator Barack Obama “ripped into” the federal government’s response to the disaster. Not quite the same point, but Kanye isn’t known for his subtly. Then of course there’s his Video Music Awards outburst in 2009 where he took the microphone from Taylor Swift, who had won best female music video, and proclaimed Beyonce’s Single Ladies video, a Swift competitor, the greatest of all time. I will spare you the pain of linking to a Taylor Swift video, but take my word, the winning choice was a terrible one. Don’t believe me? Ok sure, here’s the link. You’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.
If you are going to criticise Kanye, do it for his misogynistic lyrics, which are inexcusable. At least he does have some self awareness about the issue. Which is more than can be said for most celebrities.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ of The Atlantic, someone eminently more qualified to write about race relations in America argues that My Dark Twisted Fantasy is also casually racist pointing out that the lyric “Rolling with some light-skin chicks and some Kelly Rowlands,” is little more than “you’re pretty for a dark-skin girl” in this postracial era”. I have a hard time disagreeing.