Kanye Said What??
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Kanye Said What??

Why Kanye's Tweets aren't what they seem

Kanye Said What??

Kanye West recently sent out a flurry of tweets that, like usual, have made some waves. Among other things, he proclaimed himself "the new Moses" while attempting to get out of his deal with Sony Music and Universal Music Group. Biblical comparisons aside, I think that Kanye West is hitting on an important topic that cannot be ignored in discussions of systemic racism.

The commodification of the talent and/or genius of minorities in America has persisted throughout this country's short history. Take for example, Division 1 college sports. The Southeastern Conference, where roughly 61% of student athletes identify as black, signed a $400 million annual TV deal with Disney/ESPN last December, while the NCAA has refused to allow the payment of athletes; only recently have steps been taken towards that goal. Black owned businesses make up roughly 7% of all businesses despite African Americans accounting for 13% of the population. Scarier still, the Pew Research Center reported in 2017 that middle and lower class white families have four times as much wealth as black families, due in part to low homeownership rates. Work continues to be done to explain the lack of black ownership in the United States but I think it's very clear: implicit and institutional biases have prevented black Americans from engaging entirely in the American dream.

Kanye himself has championed this fight. His stance on the commodification of his artistic genius is best crystalized in his masterpiece, "Power," Off the second verse,

I just needed time alone with my own thoughts

Got treasures in my mind but couldn't open up my own vault

My childlike creativity, purity, and honesty

Is honestly being crowded by these grown thoughts

Reality is catching up with me

Taking my inner child, I'm fighting for custody

With these responsibilities that they entrusted me

As I look down at my diamond-encrusted piece.

In this metaphor, Kanye's creative genius is his "inner child" and he clearly feels that is being taken away from him. He views the culprit as materialism and the industry in general. When he looks at his diamond necklace (presumably a Jesus piece) he is not reminded of his own spirituality but rather reckless materialism compromising stakes in his own music. "Open up my own vaults" could be interpreted as a literal reference to him not owning the rights to his master recordings, as well as being prevented from accessing his own artistic vision. Another example, Kanye's infamous Sway interview, he is candid about how his vision in fashion is being compromised because he cannot generate the capital necessary to fulfill this vision. He demonstrates that he is also aware of what is at stake for him when he says, "Now who's gonna be the Medici family and stand up and let me create more; or do you wanna marginalize me 'til I'm out of my moment." The frustrations Kanye feels is understandable; UMG and Sony Music have the contractual right to tell him when to release music and how it is marketed. They want to turn an eccentric and unpredictable individual into a machine that they generate income off. It is disgusting.

Kanye West fulfilled his dream. He founded his own record label. He used Yeezy sales to fund his Sunday Service Gospel. However, he is also aware that people like Rob Stringer (Sony Music) and Mark Parker (Nike) represent companies that attempt(ed) to control and profit off his own artistic vision. And if they can do that to Kanye, there is clearly a deeper issue at stake here. Artistic control and predatory contracts are a major problem in the industry as artists like Taylor Swift and Kesha continue to fight for access to their master recordings. Without them, companies have free range to distribute and compile recordings even without the artist's consent. African Americans have long been shut out of passing down generational wealth making this not just a music issue but a race one as well.

I agree that Kanye's twitter feed reads more like

The Onion than The Atlantic and yes, his attempts at communicating himself are often misguided, his rhetoric brash, and message overshadowed by his ego and antics. But to describe him as just those things is reductive and dismisses what he is trying to say. In reality, I find Kanye to be incredibly empowering and his message representative of deeper issues in society.
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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