The Award Winning Newspaper Of Pace University

THE PACE CHRONICLE

Is Kanye Misunderstood?

Ebony Turner, Opinion Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Being a perfectionist is exhausting. Or at least that is the impression Kanye West exudes with every passion filled rant and emotionally charged album. Since the days of him doing five beats a day for three summers – an impressive 5,400 beats in three years – to the “I See Now” era when Consequence would never think to air him out on Power 105.1, I grew up on Kanye. Similar to a brother whose love is unconditional, though he still manages to make irrevocable, thoughtless decisions. It is hard to separate the man from the music when the man is all that the media cares to indulge in, but trail back to the MTV Jams days with me for a brief moment.

I remember the first time I ever saw a Kanye video. MTV Jams was the show of choice when my cousin and I were in the house alone and their song of the week was in constant rotation. It was “Through the Wire,” a five minute documentary of his journey to the throne, filled with gruesome footage of the war wounds from the car accident that nearly took his life. It was depicted through the wires of his wired shut mouth, an early hint to the passion of Kanye. When I walked into the living room my cousin was glued to the television, I arrived during the final moments as the camera captures his hand kiss to a poster of Chaka Khan, the sample of choice for this 2004 hit. I stayed in the living room every day of every week watching the video every time it re-aired in between the Ying Yang Twins and other Atlanta club bangers at the time. Soon after, I grew obsessed with figuring him out. He was a lot shyer, and wore hoodies and backpacks with the same dedication with which he wears leather pants and gray v-necks present day.

I did not understand him. How could a new artist – arriving at a time where music videos made or recycled your career – come out with a video with no flashy bravado hip-hop was soaked in? I did not understand The Roc’s best-kept secret, but it’s a quality of his artistry I would soon hate to love. At the time, the influence J Dilla had over his career was almost unavoidable. It was a relationship he would pay homage to with “Selfish,” his collaboration with Dilla’s group Slum Village. Then came his collaboration with Little Brother in “I See Now” – a personal favorite of mine from the 04’ Kanye days – and it became clear that Kanye wasn’t ready to escape the underground despite the massive hit The College Dropout was. He was transitioning through a difficult space that all “real hip-hop” producers struggle with: attempting to progress in your career without being branded a sell out and having to explain your ascendance into mainstream.

Those were his subtler days, when he felt less inclined to explain himself better than his music could. He was not afraid to bare his soul, his weakest moments, his vulnerability, and his love for an industry that wavers in loving him back. Regardless of how he was received, the music spoke more than he did during those days. He received ten Grammy nominations for his hip-hop diary, and nine months later would solidify his place in my heart. The Life and Rhymes of Kanye West aired on MTV November 7, 2005. It was my cousin’s birthday and this was the present he had waited for. My present to him was my silence during the hour long special – a difficult but obliged request. He decoded all of his songs from the ‘Dropout,’ but most of all let his fans in on the kind of music that helped him get through his younger days. Little did he know, his fervor listening to Main Source’s “Fakin’ The Funk” with underneath the covers past his bedtime was the same with which we listened to “Spaceship.”

I always felt mildly misunderstood. I couldn’t really share my odd, all encompassing taste in music with anyone other than the few friends to whom I was closest. Even now, playing music in my car or allowing anyone to rummage through my iTunes is a right of passage; it’s a sign of my complete and utter trust in you. Like Kanye, I listen to everything: Radiohead, A Tribe Called Quest, Justin Timberlake, N.E.R.D. That was only a sample of what filled my first generation iTunes platform on my Dell computer at the time. I spent hours, far past my bedtime, soaking in the sounds. The songs, the samples that made the songs, the samples that created those sampled songs. I studied my favorite artists as if I was trying to become an artist myself. I would find myself in an Alice in Wonderland maze of endless music from various eras far beyond my introduction to this world. I didn’t understand myself. How could I – a Black girl living in Laurel, Maryland – go from listening to Bonita Applebum to Beast of Burden with the click of an arrow? That is why I loved Kanye’s music so dearly, and grew defensive when anyone said anything bad about him.

I still refrain from sharing my music taste with anyone, even my own friends; I don’t want to explain myself and I know if I share it I might have to. After constant media scrutiny for Kanye’s deserved bravado and confidence, the death of his mother and the domino of mistakes that followed, he was tired. The public treated him as though he had to explain himself – he had to make sense of who he was because his music was not enough anymore. People forgot that his music is who he is. His music explains more than an interview ever could. The majority of the world doesn’t work that way, a sobering truth he did not internalize well.

He did what only he knew he could. He took the work ethic that produced five beats a day for three summers and produced two platinum albums after the death of his mother. He didn’t even do a press junket for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and it was clear why. He felt misunderstood and didn’t see the point in explaining himself to a public that was dedicating to not understanding him.

What we fail to realize in our search for self is that the pressure we feel to explain every bit of ourselves is unnecessary. If who we are is not evident without explanation than we should let inquiring minds wander. As long as we know who we are, those who fail to understand that don’t deserve an explanation – they have already committed to misunderstanding you.

There is no old Kanye or new Kanye. There is the Kanye you thought he should be and the man he truly is. I’ve learned to accept that as a human being, he, like many, is filled with imperfections far too complex to explain; a glazed over reality we seem to forget when our expectations supersede the truth. But I am a fan, tried and true, because I don’t need to understand him even though I do.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




*

Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • 40 Acres And A MacBook

    Taking My 40 Acres and a Mule

  • Is Kanye Misunderstood?

    40 Acres And A MacBook

    Are Michelle and Barack Obama the New Standard?

  • Is Kanye Misunderstood?

    40 Acres And A MacBook

    African American v. Black

  • Is Kanye Misunderstood?

    40 Acres And A MacBook

    Leave Chris Brown Alone

  • Is Kanye Misunderstood?

    40 Acres And A MacBook

    To Be A Witness to Greatness: Beyoncé

  • Is Kanye Misunderstood?

    40 Acres And A MacBook

    Black Republicans: Who is Mia Love?

  • 40 Acres And A MacBook

    MIA & The Transformation of Islamophobia

  • Is Kanye Misunderstood?

    40 Acres And A MacBook

    The Miseducation of Society: Lauryn Hill is Overrated

  • 40 Acres And A MacBook

    PWI V. HBCU: Different Strokes for Different Folks?

  • 40 Acres And A MacBook

    Black Genocide: Is It Really a Conspiracy Theory?