Tag Archives: Kanye West

Video: Jay Smooth and W. Kamau Bell discuss homophobia and hip-hop

By Arturo R. García

I thought W. Kamau Bell’s interview with Jay Smooth was worth sharing and getting our readers’ impressions.

After some talk about Kanye West’s run-in with Jimmy Kimmel and the appearance of a White Jesus character at the first show of West’s new tour, the discussion turns toward the LGBT community and hip-hop, and Jay acknowledges the generation gap at work — while acknowledging the presence of LGBT rappers — in commercial circles.

“There’s a sort of old-fogey, anti-gay Tea Party contingent among hip-hoppers my age,” Jay tells Bell. “They see the tide of history turning against them, so they’re becoming this really loud, freaked-out minority who thinks that our culture’s going to lose its moral center if people are openly gay or wear skinny jeans and things like that.”

Jay also name-checks James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin and points out that the modern LGBT rights movement began with a “bar fight” — the seminal encounter at Stonewall.

“There’s nobody more gangster than the LGBT community,” Jay explains “If they knew their history, like, Rick Ross would be pretending to be gay instead of pretending to be a drug lord.”

Racializens, your thoughts on the interview?

The Racialicious Links Roundup 10.17.13: Kenan Thompson, Mapping Race In America, Kanye West & ‘Negro Bed Wenches’

“Saturday Night Live” cast member Kenan Thompson. Image via BET.

Thompson’s decade-long run on SNL is really some kind of miracle. He should be extremely grateful, and say 10 prayers of thanks every single day for lasting so long as an SNL cast member. He’s a very lucky man.

Thompson is lucky because despite the fact that he hasn’t done anything remotely funny on SNL in 10 years, he’s still cashing their checks.

In reality, whenever most people hear the name Kenan Thompson, the very next thing that pops into their minds is, “Hey, whatever happened to Kel Mitchell?”

Thompson’s true claim to fame is his body of work for kid’s network Nickelodeon. I’m talking “All That,” “Kenan & Kel,” and the “Good Burger” movie.

Yes, Kenan Thompson paired with Kel Mitchell was, at times, comedic genius. Mitchell, however, was the bigger talent of the two child-stars, and few will argue that point.

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Quoted: Chill On Rachel Jeantel, Already!

Rachel JeantelRachel Jeantel is a teenager, a 19-year-old girl who told the world what she heard that fateful February night on the phone with her longtime friend Trayvon. From the news reports produced by the mainstream media, you got the impression that Jeantel was genuine and believable. Of course reporters from outlets like the New York Times, Miami Herald and the AP are not going to feel the need to describe Rachel’s attitude or overuse of black English vernacular, but they will feel compelled to describe the effectiveness of her testimony. And I saw them use words like “transfixed” to describe the all-female, nearly all-white jury’s reaction to what Jeantel was saying. Perhaps if the prosecutors had done too much coaching of their star witness, her genuineness would not have shone through.

I also saw incredibly mean things said about her looks on social media, even seeing her described as “Precious”—referring to the movie character brought to life by Gabby Sidibe, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of the troubled overweight teen. Disturbingly, this has become the go-to moniker for overweight, dark-skinned girls—aided by rapper Kanye West, who leveled that scarily ignorant line in his song “Mercy.”

“Plus my b*tch / make your b*tch look like Precious”

Jeantel had to live through a close friend being murdered, watching his killer walk free for far too long, then sitting in front of the world and recounting the painful night with an intimidating older white man directing questions at her while she’s clearly scared out of her mind.

Now, on top of all that, she has to endure some assholes critiquing her looks?

Really, people? Grow the hell up.

–Nick Chiles, “In Attacking Trayvon Martin’s Friend Rachel Jeantel, Black Folks Are Taking It Too Far,” My Brown Baby 6/27/13

Quoted: Your Monday Morning Kanye

The concept of vanity is so rooted in the idea of a singular narcissist that it can be hard to catch that Kanye speaks almost from a populist perspective — a populist narcissism, if you will. Granted, the thematic focus on community vs. the personal has evolved from College Dropout to Yeezus, but take a second and remember the very first song on Kanye’s first album. He has a chorus of children singing, “We wasn’t supposed to make it past 25 / Joke’s on you, we still alive / Throw your hands up in the sky / And say we don’t care what people say.” If you chalk up his “we don’t care what people say” attitude to simply his ego, then you have missed the point entirely. This isn’t about ego; this is about boldly asserting yourself in a world that is not meant for you. This is a vanity that is rooted in bringing the community up with you. To the ire of some who are so wrapped up in the anxiety of respectability, the message he gives the kids (in front of all these white folks who are listening to his music!) is not to be modest but to unapologetically laugh in the face of a world that does not care about them. The joke’s on you, white America. We made it, and we don’t even have the decency to be grateful. We’re laughing. We dare to laugh.

This is why it’s so critical to really think about how and why folks are calling him “crazy.” There’s a great Dave Chappelle quote from his Inside the Actors Studio interview that really gets to the heart of this. In a conversation about the difficulties of black celebrity life, Chappelle explains, “The worst thing to call somebody is ‘crazy.’ It’s dismissive. ‘I don’t understand this person. So they’re crazy.’ That’s bullshit.” To continuously label what Kanye says as “crazy” is to dismiss him as not worth understanding and to flatten his deeply complex work and complex personality. Kanye told Rolling Stone in 2004, “I’m the rap version of Dave Chappelle. I’m not sayin’ I’m nearly as talented as Chappelle when it comes to political and social commentary, but like him, I’m laughing to keep from crying.” “Laughing to keep from crying” is a tone that captures so much of both of their work, but it’s also a survival mantra. Originating with Langston Hughes, this expression encapsulates a history of black artists who have used wit and satire to capture their exasperations and make light of the world’s absurdities.

– “In Defense Of Kanye’s Vanity: The Politics Of Black Self-Love,” by Heben Nigatu via Buzzfeed

Open Thread: Kanye West and Yeezus

Kanye West via The New York Times

It wasn’t five minutes after I posted the New York Times’ profile of Kanye West on my Facebook wall that someone commented about how racist he was in claiming that he’d never won a Grammy against a white artist. That seemed to be a general reflection of the way the internet as a whole consumed the interview– disseminating it from a whole piece into several tweet-sized quotes that sounded even more outrageous when taken out of context. On a larger scale it’s reflective of the way we’ve consumed his music.

I’m not a Kanye apologist by any means. Jay Smooth summed up one aspect of Yeezus pretty well in this tweet:

Put lightly, Yeezus is not the most feminist of albums. I’m not sure I can even replicate the face I made at the already infamous “sweet and sour sauce” line. That said, the early reviews are interesting, in that people seemed shocked at how much race, power, and his supposed hatred of women are referenced on the album. “Dark” and “abrasive” are two words being consistently repeated to describe it.

The record, which overtly addresses issues of race in three song titles – “New Slaves,” “Black Skinhead” and “Blood on the Leaves” – is the hardest, most abrasive record, both musically and thematically, of his career … This is not a man concerned with offending women or racial activists. It’s an otherwise thoughtful man in pure id mode, thinking with his groin and worrying little about the ladies’ vote. -  The LA Times

“You see it’s leaders, and it’s followers,” Kanye West tells us. “But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower.” And Yeezus, Mary and Yoseph, does he mean it. Yeezus is the darkest, most extreme music Kanye has ever cooked up, an extravagantly abrasive album full of grinding electro, pummeling minimalist hip-hop, drone-y wooz and industrial gear-grind. – Rolling Stone

“It presents Kanye as nothing less than the Johnny Rotten of his generation… The raw, dark and minimalist reliance on stabbing, bristling synths recalls a sound pioneered by acts like Ministry, Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails 20 years ago. – The New York Daily News

The album is definitely different. It’s harsh. It’s not an album to launch 4-5 radio singles. But the themes in his music aren’t new if you’ve actually been listening to the lyrics. In his times profile, Kanye seems to agree:

I wonder if you see things in a more race-aware way now, later in your career, than you did then. The intensity of the feelings on “Watch the Throne” is much sharper.

No, it’s just being able to articulate yourself better. “All Falls Down” is the same [stuff]. I mean, I am my father’s son. I’m my mother’s child. That’s how I was raised. I am in the lineage of Gil Scott-Heron, great activist-type artists. But I’m also in the lineage of a Miles Davis — you know, that liked nice things also.

Just as Monster, Gold Digger and The New Workout Plan have lyrics as offensive towards women as I’m In It,  Never Let Me Down, We Don’t Care, and Jesus Walks have as much to say about race as New Slaves  and Black Skinhead. If anything, Kanye’s lyrical themes –race, family, Chicago, and his own materialism– are fairly dependable, leading me to believe that by “articulate yourself better” he means that he’s done disguising his messages behind Top 40 friendly beats that allow the listener to ignore what he’s saying in favour of concentrating on a catchy hook.

The messages may be more direct and, perhaps to some, more offensive, but they’ve always been there. Your thoughts?

Meanwhile, On TumblR: Kimye and RuPaul’s Transmisogyny

By Andrea Plaid

RuPaul Andre Charles. Via peacockandpaisley.com

RuPaul Andre Charles. Via peacockandpaisley.com

Racialicious fave Monica Roberts of TransGriot wrote a scathing critique about RuPaul and his transmisogyny–and how they influenced her to be the renowned activist she is today. The excerpt is the most liked and reblogged one this past week:

RuPaul is a Black gay man, not a transperson, and the trans community is beyond sick and tired of being sick and tired of him being elevated by cis and gay people to some nebulous ‘trans expert’ level..

As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I became a trans activist in 1998 was because of a Transgender Tapestry magazine article in the 90’s that ignorantly considered RuPaul and Dennis Rodman as Black transwomen juxtaposed against other accomplished white trans people despite both Ru and Dennis Rodman emphatically saying they weren’t trans and didn’t want to transition.

It was the epiphany that made me realize just how invisible Black transwomen were in the trans human rights movement and gave me the impetus to get involved and change that dynamic.

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Listening To Kanye [The Mental Health Files]

808′s and Heartbreak Album Cover.

 

Went through, deep depression when my momma passed/
Suicide, what kinda talk is that?/
But I been talking to God for so long/
And if you look at my life I guess he’s talking back- Kanye West, “Clique,” Cruel Summer

As often as Kanye West talks about the state of his mental health, one would think that we’d be having a national conversation on mental health–kind of like the way we had a wave of conversations about domestic violence in the wake of the Chris Brown-Rihanna incident. Yet, in the four years since Kanye began talking openly about the depression related to the death of his mother and the dissolution of his romantic relationship with longtime paramour Alexis Phifer, the conversations have continued to be one-sided.

A search for “Kanye West and Depression” brings up surprisingly few articles and discussions. There’s a sterile AP article describing his initial comments, Cord Jefferson advising Kanye to go to a therapist on The Root, an MTV news article on his path to recovery, and Tom Breihan in the Village Voice distilling 808′s and Heartbreak down to “emo bellyaching” and a “album-length tantrum at his ex.” While Bassey Ikpi later argued to have some compassion for Kanye, it was one small plea in a sea of indifference and condemnation.

After four years of being open about pain and vulnerability, I’m starting to wonder if society will ever really hear him. Continue reading

When Will The Media Start Portraying Black Women Without Betraying Them?

Lakesia Johnson’s new book Iconic highlights how negative stereotypes have followed black women from Sojourner Truth to Gabby Douglas, and shows how the black community can be among the worst perpetrators of negativity.

By Guest Contributor Tracey Ross

Recently, Lakesia Johnson, assistant professor at Grinell College, released her new book Iconic: Decoding Images of the Revolutionary Black Woman. Through her book, Johnson strives to demonstrate how black women throughout history have worked to counteract negative stereotypes placed on them–angry, emasculating, mammy, sex object–and reposition themselves to advance agendas for social change. She illustrates this by honing in on some of history’s most iconic figures–Sojourner Truth, Angela Davis, Alice Walker, and Michelle Obama, to name a few–and analyzes the imagery, interviews, film, literature, and music by and about these women. At times, Johnson seems to over-interpret some of the images she analyzes, offering deep meaning to what the eyes in a photograph might signal, but her work highlights the power that images of black women possess.

Throughout the book, a few important themes emerge. For instance, black women’s hair becomes a character of its own, from the “threatening” natural style of Angela Davis to the “peaceful” locks of Alice Walker to the “Afrocentric” braids and head wraps of Erykah Badu. Johnson believes these women’s intentionality with their looks helps direct their message towards their ultimate agendas. Another theme throughout is the idea that outside forces work to turn these “revolutionary” women into sexual objects, focusing on their beauty and appeal over their intellect in an attempt to diminish their power. Johnson covers lots of territory in only 128 pages, but the main contribution of her book is that it serves as a reminder that we need to do better by black women. Starting with the black community.

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