Sit down and grab some popcorn kids, this is gonna be a long one…
Last night I watched all four parts of the Zane Lowe/Kanye West interview online. What tickles me is that I didn’t know this conversation (can I even call it that?) happened until going on Twitter, after the hoopla between Kanye and Jimmy Kimmel went down. I’m a huge Zane Lowe fan, so I had to see the cause of the parody sketch that Kimmel made in the first place. Part 2 of Kanye’s monologue blew my mind. Anyone can see that this man is angry and what pushes me over the edge is that even with all of his money, his connections, and his fame, HE IS STILL UNHAPPY and CREATIVELY UNFULFILLED. Apparently, he can’t be who he wants to be in his creative life, or rather, isn’t given a chance to go to the lengths in his career that he would like to. But what’s stopping him? Who’s stopping him? Why let the opinion of others tear you down and make you frustrated? Why is Kanye even comparing himself to Jay-Z? Kanye can find another way (MANY other ways) to get his ideas out there. He could just do it. He will be recognized for whatever creativity he chooses to put out in the universe right now, as he is a public figure. James Franco doesn’t let anything get in his way- this guy continues to rack up degrees, show at art galleries, and direct, along with acting, writing short stories, hosting, and being the butt of his own Comedy Central Roast. He is a BEAST and anyone can get to his level with smart and hard work. Time has shown us that Black folk can reach amazing heights in life. Don’t let your skin color stop you. Don’t become bitter. Kanye can create, but why doesn’t he build his own studio(s)? Sure you can’t do it alone, but I bet that he could amass a powerful creative team behind him that would share his vision and inspire others. Get it out there! Feeling limited? That’s a mental construct. Don’t wait for Nike or other brands to help you, Kanye. What you’re dealing with is what us middle-class and poor creatives without the money we need, connections we’d like, and exposure we dream of work through EVERY DAY! This is practically the mantra of the Millenial generation and a good number of us are quietly breaking through and making gains. We’re the ONLY generation that’s been told we can do whatever we want to do and we’ve discovered how classism has worked to ruin this for those without money and excellent connections. Kanye is literally coming to grips with this revelation himself in his talk with Zane Lowe, and it’s painful to watch because he is… KANYE WEST! Just imagine how many other well-known folks are in Kanye’s position. Two years ago I would have thought, “Well, if Kanye can’t catch a break, who can?” But I’ve learned through my struggles in college, in grad school, and in living life that I hold the key. I can choose to complain or I can just keep working. Every breakthrough is one step closer and any time taken out to complain is time wasted. Call me naive, but as a creative, you have to keep going. You see all these obstacles and limitations in front of you, but you have to keep at it. If you strip away money and fame, you can STILL CREATE! You will find a way to make your art.
Also, the present classism that Kanye talks about in this interview… he is knee deep in it. He is a part of the system. We all are. But, if you’re feeding into the problem, you can’t possibly be of help, especially if you go on knocking down your peers. That dig against Lady Gaga… what was that?! He expresses that he wants to make uniforms for an entire city. The people in this city will be clothed, sure. But Kanye’s mission sounds more epic- he wants to be the head of a trillion dollar company. He wants to be on the level of George Lucas and Steve Spielberg. How about going down to Chicago and talking to kids there instead! Mentor them. Fly them down to your studio and give them a chance to express themselves through music. Donate time and funds to help rebuild the new MURDER CAPITAL OF THE UNITED STATES! Why feel the need to make uniforms? Uniforms…uniformity. What will uniforms do for the people who could purchase them in this city you speak of? What if these people won’t get an education so that they can sell drugs? What if some folks just don’t want to be uniformed by Kanye West? It’s statements like the one that Kanye makes about selling uniforms that pulls me away. There are so many layers to this sentiment alone that suggest of our country’s issues with capitalism, poverty, education, class, and racism. Kanye talks about people being slowed down by a perception of themselves… this perception of themselves will be developed by uniforms? Or by the meaning being the uniforms? Exactly what meaning is Kanye hoping to convey with these uniforms? What about helping them to develop being individuals and finding themselves without looking like everyone else on their block?
But, you know, I realize that Kanye is a part of new money, and I feel bad for him because in his world, he will never quite fit in. Kids see his material wealth, but the smart ones know that the reason he’s frustrated and pissed off is because when he presents himself into certain social situations, he’s just another Black rapper, a Black man with NEW money. That can’t compete with the Rockefellers, the DuPonts, the Vanderbilts and the Astors. He might be able to break bread with them, but making a business deal where he is able to 100% call the shots? Highly unlikely. Then he sees Lady Gaga being the Creative Director of Polaroid and Jay-Z winning at all of his business decisions and maybe that hurts him to the core. However, if I were Kanye, I would sit down with Gaga and Jay-Z and pick their brain for hours. I would want to know how they got to where they are. I would analyze all of their business moves and strive to not do exactly as they did, but to take their advice, make it my own, and run with it.
This is where self-sufficiency strolls in. You need to have this if you plan on being a creative person. I tell this to other fellow creatives ALL THE TIME. You can’t just play the drums or write a book and think that your work is done. You have to be smart in business or surround yourself with the smartest people you can find who know how to market, network, and help to create the legacy you envision. The 10,000 hours that Kanye mentions? That’s not enough anymore. It sounds depressing for a little while. But if you want to get ahead, you’ll make it work. You’ll log in more hours, do more research, ask questions, build up your team (and this does NOT happen overnight!), and take risks. I bet Steve Jobs has heard no more times than he ever heard yes. I’m sure he was frustrated. But that man just kept going!
Kanye wants respect. He wants recognition. He wants the freedom to do the work that he wants to do. Welcome to the real world Kanye. This is what WE ALL WANT. The playing field has been eradicated. With technology and the majority of youth with a college degree, everyone is fighting for a chance to be seen and their voices heard. The difference is at what level and cost do you want to be known on? He calls himself an inventor, a genius. Many geniuses toiled away in obscurity, always ridiculed, not taken seriously until AFTER DEATH. Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Vincent Van Gogh… their art became appreciated after death and their legacies continue to inspire and live on. I feel that many people these days can’t handle knowing that this could happen to them. We want everything now. We’re afraid to live. If only we could take a deep breath, step back, and live life peacefully knowing that we are living out our purpose. If you have a passion, hold on to it, work on it, continue to grow and learn, and share it with the world in whatever way you can. Leave the naysayers in the dust. We don’t know where we will end up or where our art will end up. But it’s a blessing to be able to create. Getting paid to create? That’s the maraschino cherry on top.
This four part interview put me through the emotional ringer. I don’t regret my education. I don’t regret knowing what rejection feels like at a young age, away from an X-Factor or American Idol stage. I’m a slave to my passion and mission as well. But, I’m glad that I’ve bided my time and that I’m in competition with myself. I’m grateful for family and friends and not having the weight of yes-men around me. I’m a new slave who first recognized this status, along with racism and classism through my own experiences, in various social situations, from my tween years to present day. As much as Kanye annoys me at times, I hold a soft spot for him because he is just now seeing classism in America, as a Black male, while in a position where he can afford the basic necessities. He is an artist who is held captive by his visions and dreams. Kanye wants to do everything, he wants to help, he wants to invent and create, he wants to be a leading voice of his generation. But is everyone as racist and classist and he’s purports them to be, or is he the only obstacle in his way? Do people not want to work with him because he comes off as arrogant and a narcissist? Watch the four-part BBC Radio 1 monologue featuring West and Lowe and judge for yourself.