Kanye West vs. white mediocrity
February 17, 2015 6:29 PM   Subscribe

Kanye takes more heat than anyone. Post-Grammys and "SNL" 40, we're finally seeing his critics for what they are. Social media has changed the game a lot in the past six years. There’s a lot of voices–lumped under names like “Black Twitter”–who have begun to consistently speak out to fill in the missing pieces from stories like the Kanye West Saga, to poke holes in pat narratives like “Kanye West is an egotist” or “Kanye West is a maniac.”

The single biggest piece that’s been brought up, over and over again, in the past few years? Black Excellence vs. White Mediocrity.
posted by standardasparagus (229 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
I respect Kanye immensely for staying true to himself. It is (and always has been) rude to point out that the emperor's dress isn't quite as he and his purport it to be, but if he can get a few people to at least consider it consciously...
posted by flippant at 6:52 PM on February 17, 2015


Heh! I just posted a podcast in defence of Kanye in Fanfare.
posted by unliteral at 6:54 PM on February 17, 2015


I thought he was a very good sport at the SNL 40th, and he so rarely laughs in public, it was charming.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:55 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Your favorite white people suck.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:56 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know what, for whatever else people think Kanye is, I will always respect him for speaking this truth. As a bonus, that Katrina clip is actually SNL40 related, what with Mike Myers and all.
posted by Ruki at 6:59 PM on February 17, 2015 [41 favorites]


Damn. I know it's tempting to knee-jerk on this subject, but that piece was really great and insightful. I urge everyone to read and absorb it.

It’s a different context, but the same lesson my dad taught me years ago–as a minority, you have to accept that you can only get ahead by working incredibly hard at technical, objective achievements that can be scored on quantitative metrics. Getting by on “intangibles,” on “being yourself,” on being vulnerable and revealing your failures–that’s for people who aren’t cultural outsiders.

...

Look, the demand for black excellence is an amazing thing. Whole genres of art, music and performance were created under conditions of the worst hardship imaginable.

But it’s also a burden, and the white artists I mentioned–whom I genuinely like and genuinely respect–are able to do what they do because whiteness is a roomier identity, an identity where you can screw up and fall on your face and be a fool without letting your people down.

We should all strive for excellence, no question. But we should also all have the privilege of being afforded leeway to be mediocre once in a while, to fail, to be given the benefit of the doubt.

We aren’t there yet.

posted by naju at 7:01 PM on February 17, 2015 [68 favorites]


"White people are mediocre like this, and black people are mediocre like this."
(It's true, we're so lame!)
posted by entropicamericana at 7:03 PM on February 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


Kanye’s in the same place a lot of us have been. He’s poured all the effort and expense he can spare into this project. He’s confident that based on the only semblance of an objective measure there is–audience response–he’s won. But six artsy white European guys win instead anyway, based on artistic “intangibles.”

Are there objective measures of audience response -- at least for the grammy nominees in areas where West was competing?
posted by weston at 7:05 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


"White people are mediocre like this, and black people are mediocre like this."
(It's true, we're so lame!)


There's a lot to unpack in this piece, and we're not doing ourselves any favor dismissing the very valid points brought up on the double standards at the intersection race and privilege. I don't see an easy solution to the idea of differing technical standards, or even how to address the borrowing of ethnic culture/music for adaptation into the mainstream. However, I do like how he consciously points out the subversion and subsequent forgetting of the original artists who created these styles (Elvis vs. Berry), and Iggy Azalea's essential mimicry as opposed to creatively expanding her field. Great link, thanks. *Also holy shit Iggy Azalea goes from extreme to extreme in an interview versus an actual song. I never realized how much she shifted.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 7:06 PM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Man, I really liked that SNL performance of his. It was provocative in a way that I wouldn't have expected from a set that was so brutally minimal.
posted by boo_radley at 7:08 PM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wait, the grammies aren't just based on sales numbers?
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:11 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


jeffamaphone: "Wait, the grammies aren't just based on sales numbers?"

The Grammies are voted on by academy members, like the Oscars (different academy, though). The Billboard awards are by chart performance which is a proxy for sales and airplay.
posted by mhum at 7:16 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


People get mad at Kanye for having an ego, but he very rarely says anything that isn't true. He just doesn't say it with any particular tact, which apparently is an unforgivable offense if you're talented and black.
posted by supercrayon at 7:17 PM on February 17, 2015 [65 favorites]


When Kanye first went up and interrupted Taylor Swift the only thing I thought was "there's a guy with ADD/ADHD." I continue to this day to believe he has it, diagnosed or not, I don't know. It would explain a lot of his actions to me. From the outbursts to the intense focus on his craft. I think that's a particular angle that hasn't been address (or at least I've not seen it addressed.)
posted by Flotsam Rosewater at 7:22 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


People get mad at Kanye for having an ego, but he very rarely says anything that isn't true.

True. I generally refer to being a jerk but being right all the time as Kanye West syndrome. Though I've changed my mind about Taylor Swift! Guess I don't have it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:26 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Are there objective measures of audience response -- at least for the grammy nominees in areas where West was competing?

It's not just measurement of audience response--it's the audience response itself. As Iggy Azalea so aptly demonstrates, marketers and consumers prefer a white face on their Black music. That's fucked up.

One of the things I like about West is his willingness to be real, human, and wear his heart on his sleeve in public and in his music in a way very few celebrities are willing to do. He's not tactful. He's impulsive and passionate and unwilling to keep his mouth shut. Yes, this tendency means he's done dumb shit--but everyone does dumb shit, his dumb shit just happens to get spread across the universe on account of his fame. And you know, he doesn't react to public opprobrium by sending out loads of PR people to prettify it or go on half-assed apology tours. He apologize if he feels he was in the wrong, he doesn't if he doesn't. His impulsiveness, by the way, also means he's been unafraid to do brilliant shit and say the truth uncouched in weasel words and polite language.

Like everyone he swings from self-hate to arrogance, from self-confidence to self-doubt, and his music is a relentless tour of his subconscious and his identity and his struggles with what it all means. I think it is a lot easier for people to pigeonhole West as crazy and an egomaniac than accept that here, out in the public, is a Black man being a complex, emotional human being who defies the little holes we try to stick our Black celebrities into.
posted by schroedinger at 7:30 PM on February 17, 2015 [34 favorites]


While I tend to like Kanye as provacateur especially when he says stuff that needs to be said in a blunt manner I feel like at a certain point in time that's taken over his public persona to the possible detriment of his art. While I think there is a long tradition of the artist as social critic it's difficult in the modern media era to separate what an artist says vs what they create (in many cases they are the same thing) but as a black artist Kanye is going to almost always be seen in a negative light (he's opinionated, he's crass, he's married to a Kardashian, etc) that basically boils down to he's "uppity". While I agree with his opinion that Single Ladies was superior to T Swizzle's video in 2009 and the less said about the Beck win this year the better I wonder if Kanye's basically going to be unable to be judged on the quality of his artistic output and will instead be judged exclusively on the nature of his opinions and comments. Personally I think the comments and and opinions are more resonate to me than his musical output so I'd like him to stay outspoken but YMMV.
posted by vuron at 7:36 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Kanye measures worth by how much "good pussy" someone gets, so he makes it kinda hard to respect him.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:45 PM on February 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


The article - yes yes yes. I'm a white dude and I can walk into an audition and almost be guaranteed a role that could be better performed by most of the non-white dudes and most of the women. This sucks for everyone - better performers aren't performing and I become lazy because I don't need to be any better than I am. Privilege is not having to improve because your OK is more desirable than somebody else's excellent. This article nailed it.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:46 PM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


While I tend to like Kanye as provacateur especially when he says stuff that needs to be said in a blunt manner I feel like at a certain point in time that's taken over his public persona to the possible detriment of his art. . . . I wonder if Kanye's basically going to be unable to be judged on the quality of his artistic output and will instead be judged exclusively on the nature of his opinions and comments.

In West's case I think public persona vs. art is a false dichotomy. The traits that lead him speak up and piss people off are the same traits that shape the themes of his music. You're absolutely right that his "uppity" behavior will have an influence on how his art is perceived--but you know, fuck those people. You put those people in 1964 and they're cluck-clucking their tongues at Nina Simone singing "Mississippi Goddamn" because gosh it's so aggressive. It's not like he's having any trouble surviving as an artist, so there's no reason for him to temper his behavior to make himself more palatable.


Kanye measures worth by how much "good pussy" someone gets, so he makes it kinda hard to respect him.

you're correct because context doesn't matter ever
posted by schroedinger at 7:48 PM on February 17, 2015 [18 favorites]




I guess I just don't understand why he's so concerned about Beyoncé. Seems to me like she's doing pretty well for herself.
posted by spilon at 7:53 PM on February 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


Having stopped listening to new music around 1989, I am mostly unfamiliar with the music of Kim Kardashian's husband. I do, however enjoy his antics and his public persona in interviews seems to have a bit of Muhammed Ali going on there, which is fun.
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:53 PM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Not sure how much context you really need for blatant sexism.

Also, the dude is a millionaire many times over, he doesn't need anyone to defend him.
posted by Gin and Comics at 7:54 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I, for one, prefer Morning Phase. It's full of really really beautiful music from start to finish, and that's all that matters to me, or should matter to anyone.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 7:59 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, the dude is a millionaire many times over, he doesn't need anyone to defend him.

You're not paying attention, it's not about money, it's about privilege, racism, mediocrity. Go back and read the article.
posted by ashbury at 8:01 PM on February 17, 2015 [17 favorites]


It’s a recurring trope. Beyoncé stuns everyone with a flawless video of her and her backup dancers doing an incredibly demanding routine in a single take (or close to it). Meanwhile Taylor Swift melts everyone’s heart with a fairly standard and predictable story video that soars on the strength of its “emotional core,” of Taylor Swift being naturally lovable.

I find this incredibly ironic in an article ostensibly about the terrible burden black artists go through due to "white mediocrity". Shit on Taylor Swift all you like, she actually respects dancers enough to understand what "incredibly demanding" dancing looks like, that it takes training and talent and deserves to be showcased, and that she can't do it. Single Ladies is a super cool video, but good lord the hagiographizing of it makes me want to strangle something. The dancing in Shake It Off is vastly cooler, in part because unlike Beyonce, Swift's not trying to fake being something she isn't and impress with half-baked illusory bullshit.

The article is full of technically inaccurate, half-baked shit like this. Again, say what you want about Adele and Sam Smith becoming famous for essentially appropriating a black style of music, Amy Winehouse too, but all of them have incredibly good voices and are actually extremely good, technically proficient singers. This whole "black excellent, white mediocre" hot take is just lazy caricature. This fool has no idea what the fuck he's talking about half the time, which is a shame, because what he's talking about is often an issue, but not all the time, and the idea that black or other POC artists can't ever be mediocre or beneficiaries of certain privilege is actually pretty racist. Sort of how like everyone ignores how Beyonce is literally R&B royalty.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 8:01 PM on February 17, 2015 [35 favorites]


I wonder how Beyonce feels about being the oft-times face of Kanyes campaign? She's married to his friend, it's got to be super awkward.
posted by fshgrl at 8:03 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sexism should be called out when it happens.

Racism should be called out when it happens.

Kanye has been guilty of the former and victim to the latter. I'm don't listen to anything he tends to say about women but I do think that he's got a valuable perspective on issues of race in America. Hopefully as he gets older someone smacks him up the head about his sexism and he can use his outspoken nature to be an ally in issues of sexism instead of an antagonist Butin the meantime I also can totally concede that it's perfectly acceptable to wash your hands of him because of his sexism.
posted by vuron at 8:04 PM on February 17, 2015 [12 favorites]


FTA: ...as a minority, you have to accept that you can only get ahead by working incredibly hard at technical, objective achievements that can be scored on quantitative metrics

That is very profound.
posted by Renoroc at 8:10 PM on February 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


Kanye's biggest fault is that he cares a lot about his work and is bad at speaking about it in public.

He's a genius. Maybe we can forgive him those small human failings?
posted by 256 at 8:13 PM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


If Kanye West didn't exist, the White Media Establishment would've had to create him.

Waitaminute. Maybe they did.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:14 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, I agree with Ruki a million times. For all that "George Bush doesn't care about black people" became a punchline, the man was speaking the truth, and emotionally, in that segment. I wish that more people who found themselves in the spotlight had the courage to do so.

That clip makes him forever sympathetic in my mind.
posted by 256 at 8:18 PM on February 17, 2015 [49 favorites]


He’s the guy who knows that if he goes on a rant about Hurricane Katrina it’ll be used as evidence for years that he’s unhinged, while Jon Stewart can go on the same rant in far more profane terms and keep the reputation of the Sanest Man in America.

I don't think much of Kayne West or his music, but this is an excellent example of the heinously unfair double standard that is applied to him.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:25 PM on February 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think the thing that stands out with Kanye is that while yeah, we may agree that Beyonce did better than whoever else--it's not socially acceptable to yell that out during the awards ceremony, ruining their moment while cameras are on everybody. The dude doesn't have enough self-control to just wait to tweet it the next morning like everyone else :P
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:26 PM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


Kanye measures worth by how much "good pussy" someone gets, so he makes it kinda hard to respect him.

I feel like it's possible to be both say something misogynistic and also create things of value, and say things that are worth discussing, and be someone who deserves respect for the things that you've done.

The collective we has no problem respecting literally dozens, if not hundreds, of white dudes who are singers, actors, directors, and other public figures who've beaten women, raped women, raped children. Given the number of men who have been brutally, criminally awful towards women and have somehow remained respectable, it kinda feels like there's something else involved in this sort of dismissal of Kanye. Something, maybe, like racism, and holding black men to a different standard than the one that we hold white men to.

Sometimes I feel like there are two real issues people have with Kanye. The first is that he says what he's thinking, even if he knows the people around him disagree, or don't want him to say it. The second is that he says he's gonna do great things--and then he goes and does what he said he was going to do. It makes him an easy target, because "confidence" in a white man is "hubris" in anyone else, and god, do we hate that.
posted by MeghanC at 8:28 PM on February 17, 2015 [33 favorites]


Just because Kanye West did something at the Grammys, it doesn't mean that it's incumbent upon anyone to evaluate his character or the whole of him as a human being, is it? The only commentary I've read about what he did (most recently) which I thought was worthwhile merely pointed out that Beck is a very accomplished musician and artist, and that Kanye's assessment of Beyonce as more deserving seems kind of arbitrary.

I think it's unfortunate that it's nearly impossible to talk about certain people's actions in a discrete way like that. It's just exhausting that others feel the need to take any opportunity to call Kanye himself into question, as though he, his work, and his life are up for critique whenever he does anything even mildly unusual. He's a hugely talented musician and an insightful observer of society who's also, apparently, rather impulsive; but it's not like he's done anything harmful or dangerous or whatever. It's a dismaying sign of normalized, even routinized racism that a Black musician can't even make what amounts to a gesture without practically being put on trial. Though that's a much lighter sentence than what a lot of Black men get for making gestures that discomfit certain White people in America.
posted by clockzero at 8:30 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Kanye? Swift? Beyonce? Beck?
Really?
From a very small distance, it's all merely pop stardom and pretty darn low brow pop.

I know, merely a variation on "your favorite band sucks," but really...
posted by cccorlew at 8:31 PM on February 17, 2015 [23 favorites]


He's a genius. Maybe we can forgive him those small human failings?

I've mostly missed Kanye's career so don't have a well formed opinion on his stuff. But people whose taste I respect pretty much reflect this position.

What I don't get is why any mature adult would give a shit either way about who wins a Grammy. I mean, I remember being seventeen in 1976 when Captain + Tennille won best record of the year -- that was enough for me. Here was an institution to be ignored. It's not that they don't occasionally recognize great records (and artists) -- it's just that as reliable measure of anything, their batting average is pure minor league.
posted by philip-random at 8:32 PM on February 17, 2015 [18 favorites]


From a very small distance, it's all merely pop stardom and pretty darn low brow pop.

So what?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:32 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Kanye's biggest fault is that he cares a lot about his work and is bad at speaking about it in public.

To me, The thing about Kanye's public speaking is that we're so used to public figures speaking in cliched pr massaged soundbites, that it's completely jarring to see someone just communicating their real thoughts in that context.

I had to give a 5 minute interview on an internet talk show the other day. I'm pretty much a nobody, and the topic was far from tantalizing . Still, I had to spend an hour on the phone with a producer beforehand prepping me for the questions, massaging my answers, and coaching me on where to look and how to speak to the interviewer while focusing on the "audience". It was hard as shit, and I hope to never do it again. The idea that Kanye continually steps into that arena and just goes for it, blows my mind.

I don't know why we as a society feel so adamantly protective of the artifice of celebrity. To me Kanye speaking his mind is like Lena Dunham taking off her clothes. It's makes people so angry for no reason whatsoever. It's the equivalent of a McDonalds franchise deciding to serve a real home-cooked hamburger, only for angry mobs to burn it to the ground in disgust.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:33 PM on February 17, 2015 [24 favorites]


Jon Stewart ranting about how Bush handled Katrina during a comedy performance is not the same as Kanye doing it during a charity event meant to appeal for help from an audience that included Bush supporters.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:33 PM on February 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


I don't think much of Kayne West or his music, but this is an excellent example of the heinously unfair double standard that is applied to him.

To quote someone upthread: "you're correct because context doesn't matter ever"

Remember that Kanye's outburst happened during a telethon, an appeal to help victims of Katrina. As honest as what he said was, it probably didn't help those people as much as reading from the cue card would have.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:36 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


From a very small distance, it's all merely pop stardom and pretty darn low brow pop.

If you mean "low brow" in the "I am a classist shithead who cannot appreciate art and craft unless it comes from a very narrow, mostly European, historically privileged context" sense, then yes, you're probably right. If you are using it to mean "disposable/mass market pop culture that is of low artistic and technical quality", in the case of Beck but super mega quadruple especially Kanye, no, it is not. At all.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 8:40 PM on February 17, 2015 [33 favorites]


The collective we has no problem respecting literally dozens, if not hundreds, of white dudes who are singers, actors, directors, and other public figures who've beaten women, raped women, raped children. Given the number of men who have been brutally, criminally awful towards women and have somehow remained respectable, it kinda feels like there's something else involved in this sort of dismissal of Kanye. Something, maybe, like racism, and holding black men to a different standard than the one that we hold white men to.

Then how do you explain the careers of Michael Jackson, Ike Turner, James Brown, Bill Cosby... oddly, they're all black entertainers who've gotten a pass, so to speak. How are they different from Polanski or Woody Allen?

Maybe people think Kanye's an arrogant asshole because he is an arrogant asshole, not because he's black. Maybe they think his music sucks because they actually believe his music sucks.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:47 PM on February 17, 2015 [19 favorites]


The dancing in Shake It Off is vastly cooler, in part because unlike Beyonce, Swift's not trying to fake being something she isn't and impress with half-baked illusory bullshit.

Why is the assumption that Beyonce is faking, being something she isn't, and creates half baked, illusory bullshit? Yes, Swift plays off of her "awkward realism" and people love her for it, including me, but I don't think Beyonce's polish is at all illusory, especially after watching her latest release and the associated interviews about what she wanted to accomplish and how she wanted to push herself in new directions. Her analysis of how competition has hurt her, her celebration of love, and her determination to present herself as clearly as possible directly to her fans make her amazing.

Shake it Off and Pretty Hurts are both responses to the experience of judgement, and both have important things to say. I would argue that Pretty Hurts has a depth that Shake it Off doesn't - and I don't think that's unexpected given their relative ages and stages of life.

I also think it's important to note that Shake it Off does use some sexist framing in the video; overall I like the celebration of dancers versus Swifts playfulness, but the use of black women twerking as a backdrop is specifically playing into some damaging tropes that dehumanize and sexualize black women.

Race matters, in who gets attention, in who gets awards, and in who gets rewarded. If Kanye were white, he would be viewed very differently - but he wouldn't be himself. Likewise with Beyonce (and she has to contend with sexism as well). I'm troubled by the number of people who want to dismiss race as a factor in how they are treated, both by individuals and by institutions.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:49 PM on February 17, 2015 [21 favorites]


I don't listen to Beyoncé or Beck or West's music, but I saw the Katrina outburst live on tv as it happened, and at first I squirmed, then though wait-- there's someone speaking the flat-out TRUTH about that sonofabitch. It was ballsy and necessary at the time. Next to Colbert's roast, it was the best anyone gave ol' Dubya in a way that caught some damn attention. I'm glad he did it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:49 PM on February 17, 2015 [23 favorites]


Are there objective measures of audience response -- at least for the grammy nominees in areas where West was competing?
It's not just measurement of audience response--it's the audience response itself.


Audience response may well be shaped by racial attitudes and privilege is probably operating in other ways in the arts; I don't doubt it.

But the author of the piece himself characterizes audience response as the only arguably objective measure of excellence available (quite astutely, I think, and very honestly since it partially undermines some of his larger points). And seems to be saying that West had reason to believe he would win vs the artsy white dudes based on that.

Was that just rhetorical device for the other points about the dynamics at the intersection of privilege and the evaluation of talent? Or is it likely enough there was literally some measures of response West would have been following? If so, which ones would they probably have been?
posted by weston at 8:50 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Remember that Kanye's outburst happened during a telethon, an appeal to help victims of Katrina. As honest as what he said was, it probably didn't help those people as much as reading from the cue card would have.

Sure, it was inappropriate. But West was, as mentioned in the article, widely portrayed as 'unhinged' because of that outburst. Not 'tactless', but 'crazy'. In my view, that is where the double standard was applied.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:54 PM on February 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


Again, say what you want about Adele and Sam Smith becoming famous for essentially appropriating a black style of music, Amy Winehouse too, but all of them have incredibly good voices and are actually extremely good, technically proficient singers. This whole "black excellent, white mediocre" hot take is just lazy caricature.

Yeah, and it also glosses over the fact that most black and white artists are "appropriating" someone else's style of music. Almost all music is highly derivative, and that includes the most successful, acclaimed musicians. This thing of lambasting white musicians for "appropriating" black music is embarrassing in its traditional, old-school, segregationist racism: it's an apparent attempt to scare whites away from emulating black music that's genuinely worth emulating. (I'm sure most who buy into the "appropriation" meme would vehemently deny they're being racist against blacks — but of course, racism is often unconscious.) If musicians didn't get excited about copying other musicians they admire, music would die out. We shouldn't try to discourage that; we should go out of our way to encourage it.

The article also comes off as juvenile in its presupposition that "mediocrity" and "excellence" are objective qualities of which the author is the arbiter. If you feel Kanye West is "excellent" and Beck is "mediocre," you're entitled to your opinion, but I happen to think Kanye West is mediocre and Beck is excellent. And I know many will think I'm so wrong about that, and that's fine — we can agree to disagree. Neither of us has any way of proving our opinion is more right than the other's. I also realize Beck is derivative of a lot of black and white musicians — and those musicians were all derivative of someone else before them. Even as seminal a musician as Chuck Berry wasn't totally original — he derived his style from black and white guitarists before him. It would be wrong to dismiss his greatness over that.

Musicians who are in their prime today — any of them who are mentioned in the article or this thread — are at a disadvantage when it comes to originality, since so much has already been done. There's less new stuff left to do. Of course Adele is derivative of a decades-long line of singers, but so is Beyonce — neither of them invented a genre. Is Beyonce somehow more authentic or worthy because her race meets your expectations of what someone who sounds like her looks like? Would you apply the same thinking and say that a neo-Beethovenian classical composer of European descent is somehow more authentic or worthy than a musically similar composer of African or Asian descent? I hope not.
posted by John Cohen at 8:55 PM on February 17, 2015 [29 favorites]


Kanye West is what white people think black people should be listening to -- much in the same way white people used to think black people should listen to Public Enemy or watch Spike Lee movies.
posted by flarbuse at 9:00 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I disagree with Chu that audience response is the only objective measure we can look at - there's also critical response, and it has overwhelmingly been in Kanye's favor across the board. Pitchfork put two of his albums in the top 10 of the decade so far - with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy at #1. Other publications reacted similarly. That's not nothing.

If Kanye were white, he would be viewed very differently - but he wouldn't be himself.

Interesting hypothetical, and I personally can't even picture a Kanye who isn't black - his black identity is tied to his music, lyrics, persona, statements, how people react to him, everything. I think that's precisely why he's a proxy for uncomfortable discussions around race in our country. 1) It's safe to talk about pop culture, but when we talk about it we're not really talking about just pop, if you know what I mean - it's often a proxy for class, race, gender, etc. 2) The reactions to the guy are really reactions to how he is performing race, so to speak - and whether he's performing it up to our standards, in the ways we expect people to perform their race. He deliberately upends "how the black man behaves in the media" so consistently and spectacularly that he dares us to question it, and when we do it reflects on us more than it does him. That's where his true art lies. Aside from his brilliant music, it's one of the reasons I cherish him as one of the greatest artists working in any medium today.
posted by naju at 9:05 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Why is the assumption that Beyonce is faking, being something she isn't, and creates half baked, illusory bullshit?

Because I actually know something about dance from a technical perspective, and there is a grand total of two moves that even come the tiniest bit close to "incredibly demanding", the harder of which Beyonce doesn't even do herself and is also something a halfway trained ten year old can do.

Meanwhile, the buzz around that video is really not unlike a lot of the praise for the movie Black Swan: a lot of the buzz around Portman's performance was based around the idea that she transformed herself into a ballerina and did most of the dancing herself, which wasn't at all true. Most of the praise for Single Ladies, including the argument that it was somehow "better" than what Taylor Swift won for, centered around this idea that it was some super difficult feat of dancing. It's not. It's cool, but it's just not what the media narrative surrounding it says that it is, and that pisses me off because it's disrespectful to dance and dancers as both an art and a craft.

I'm speaking very very strictly of the dancing, mind you. Not the videography, not the singing, not the music, not the concept, any of it, and leaving aside the absurdness of the idea that entertainers should be "multi-talented", when all of these artistic fields but especially dance requires an absurd amount of focus and dedication to rise to the level of excellence.

And, yeah, in an article that's about the idea of "excellence", that's bullshit.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:07 PM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


I agree with the article's point of Kanye being the voice of perfectionism, rather than pure ego. Maybe I'm just more conscious of his earlier albums, but there's always been a way where his brags are matched by his moments of self-loathing....what other rapper has rapped about wetting his bed as an adolescent?

In that sense, I feel like there's something slightly different from narcissism or megalomania in Kanye. It's related, but it's this relentless cruel ambition- something that he can apply against himself with no problem, because he's been treating himself that way all his life, but becomes truly asinine when he expresses it in public against others. The same virtue that forces him to produce these really strong albums in private is the same vice that causes him to be such an asshole in public. In other words, a truly egotistic person would have become complacement in Kanye's context. He'd go into semi-retirement after Graduation or 808s and Heartbreak and live in his mansion, satisfied that all was right in the world.
Kanye's not like that. It's insecurity, the need to be acknowledged, rather than ego, which involves a certain self-satisfaction after a point.

I've often thought that Barack and Kanye represent two different poles in the compass of the aspirations of African Americans. Barack represents the assimilative aspiration- study hard, work hard, keep your temper and your tongue in check, and you two can make it to a nice white house in a well off neighborhood. The ideal that egalitarianism is being treated according to what you do.
Kanye represents the autonomous aspiration. There are parallels with Nina Simone, in the sense that Nina Simone never tried to fit to white ideas of beauty-- she had her own aesthetic and she followed through upon it masterfully. The autonomous aspiration is the dream of becoming successful by being yourself, warts and all. Of being admired for speaking your mind, of being able to air your flaws and quirks and insecurities and to be respected for doing so. The autonomous aspiration is the ideal that egalitarianism is being treated according to what you are.

So I do think that Kanye is a voice of his generation, as Barack is. But it's rather like Sergeant Elias and Sergeant Barnes from Platoon, or if you prefer, Dionysis and Apollo. Neither is wholly good nor evil, but they are the two opposite poles of what it means to be a successful black man in modern America. They both, collectively, embody what is best and worst within us.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 9:07 PM on February 17, 2015 [26 favorites]


as a minority, you have to accept that you can only get ahead by working incredibly hard at technical, objective achievements that can be scored on quantitative metrics.

This is an observation worth repeating.
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:09 PM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


what's interesting to me about taylor swift's awkwardness in the shake it off video is that she is likely much better at the ballet than she lets on, and maybe the other styles as well, as there are about a million pictures of her arriving and leaving from ballet practice. to me, that video (which i really like, as well as the song) is sort of like her fake shocked face - it's as much as an artifice as anything that beyonce is doing. shake it off is also a much, much better song and video than the one that single ladies lost to so it's weird to see them compared wrt kanye's stage stealing.
posted by nadawi at 9:16 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


The world is a more interesting and entertaining place with Kanye West in it. Without the likes of Kanye, televised specials and award shows might as well be watching a private party through the window.
posted by dry white toast at 9:22 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Arthur Chu is kind of KILLING IT. This twanged a few nerves for me, but it really needed writing, and his other recent stuff has been great too.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:32 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sure, it was inappropriate. But West was, as mentioned in the article, widely portrayed as 'unhinged' because of that outburst. Not 'tactless', but 'crazy'. In my view, that is where the double standard was applied.

Yeah, I'm still angry about this, years later. He got treated as a punchline for that bit of speaking truth to power, but it wasn't fucking funny. Nothing about Katrina or the lamentably inadequate response to it was funny. It's not Kanye's fault that the kernel of truth in his outburst got thoroughly, totally ignored in favor of jeering at Kanye himself and the usual handwringing by white people any time someone dares to suggest they're sort of racist.

We took the wrong goddamn lesson from it and that's not on Kanye. It's on people like George W. Bush, who said that Kanye West calling him a racist was an "all-time low" for his presidency and that at the time, it was "the worst moment of his presidency." THE. WORST. MOMENT. OF. HIS. PRESIDENCY. Please consider all the many and varied objectively terrible moments of the Bush presidency pre-2005. And yet, the very worst of those was a visibly terrified and mumbling Kanye West, saying something a lot of other people were thinking.

A lot of the shit Kanye says gets this kind of disproportionate response, and it behooves us to think really hard about just why that is.

Anyway, I really like the new song he performed on the SNL anniversary. Whatever else you can say about him, he's always at least an interesting artist.
posted by yasaman at 9:35 PM on February 17, 2015 [34 favorites]


Is Beyonce somehow more authentic or worthy because her race meets your expectations of what someone who sounds like her looks like? Would you apply the same thinking and say that a neo-Beethovenian classical composer of European descent is somehow more authentic or worthy than a musically similar composer of African or Asian descent? I hope not.

I think you're missing the point of the argument. Nobody is saying Adele or Sam smith shouldn't make the music they do. The point is that the mainstream will accept and laud them for what they do at a higher degree than they would a Black artist doing the same thing.

A good example is Usher and Justin Timberlake. They are both R&B Artists. But due to skin color, JT is consistently nominated for grammies in Pop/Album of the Year categories, and Usher in R&B categories. Which is important because it's the industry that they work in applying more mainstream credibility to one because of the color of his skin. Not knocking Timberlake, or claiming that Usher hasn't had a wildly successful career. It's the way the industry and society continue to hold on to this double standard that is the issue.

Chris Rock summed it up perfectly and hilariously in this bit "A Black man has to fly to get to places a White man can just walk to" .
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:43 PM on February 17, 2015 [26 favorites]


I think Kanye is more just against mediocrity, and not specifically white mediocrity. I'm honestly glad that he interrupted Beck's win. When that category went down it was the first time I had even heard that Beck had an album out, and I'm really into music. I mean, Beyonce basically reinvented how to spell the word surfboard. Beck's album is pretty good, but c'mon. And even though I'm a sucker for awards shows because I find famous people fascinating, it's just lame to be crowning one creative thing over another. It turns something pure into an unnecessary competition. It's like having to pick groomsmen and bridesmaids for a wedding. In no other scenario do you have to rank your friends. Who gives a shit? Round those people up and make them listen to Weird Al until they're fixed.
posted by pwally at 9:44 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Kanye West can be a jerk sometimes, but as far as I'm concerned he'll never be half as bad as Gene Simmons.
posted by Green Winnebago at 9:55 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wow, that article spent a long time getting around to "Well I'm not actually saying all the things I just said above, just saying that if the things I said above were true, well, that'd be a thing, hunh." He's actually onto something interesting about the way that African-American musical culture embraces technical virtuosity and tolerates a fair amount of interpersonal harshnessviciousness to get it, while white culture's tolerance for imprecision allows for more technically imperfect kinds of self-expression. But he gets so wrapped up in a polemic built out of total bullshit (Beyonce is not such a great dancer, lots of black people call West crazy, white America mostly prefers its hip-hop to come from black people but enjoys the occasional white novelty rapper) that he can't actually follow up on his interesting points.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:15 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think Kanye is more just against mediocrity, and not specifically white mediocrity.

I remember that right after the Taylor Swift stage invasion, it was pointed out that this wasn't the first time Kanye had done something like this, because he deeply cares about awards going to the most deserving person (in his opinion). Hell, here's a collection of times he tried to give awards he won himself to other people he thought were more deserving.

Partly, I think, it's that he's got a quirk in his personality that places a lot of importance on awards going to the right people, and he just happens to have a bigger microphone to make his preferences known than the rest of us with our Twitter or whatever. Partly, though, he's an example of what other people have said here already, that non-white artists have to be significantly better to earn the same amount of respect and acclaim. If he sells a hundred million records, he's just "popular". If he sells a hundred million records and gets a 10.0 from Pitchfork he's "popular" and "hip" but still gets brushed off by Grammy voters in favor of whatever 60s relic released an album this year. He needs to pull off the trifecta cleanly just to be as respected as Beck or Thom Yorke or The Black Keys, and I think understanding that fact is crucial to understanding Kanye's media presence from at least My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy on.

It's completely paradoxical that Kanye West cares more about award show voting than the actual voters do, but he demonstrably does, and for good reasons, too.
posted by Copronymus at 10:19 PM on February 17, 2015 [24 favorites]


Also, since that Hulu video of his SNL performance reminded me of it, I wanted to mention that I really like the bit in "Only One" where Kanye describes Kim Kardashian and his daughter as his two angels. He's the only person I've ever heard describe Kim as an angel and it makes me happy to think that their relationship is more like that than the sham wedding between two horrible famous people who are just in it for the publicity that it's often assumed to be.
posted by Copronymus at 10:22 PM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


People get mad at Kanye for having an ego,

Actually, no, people dislike Kanye because he tries to project an ego while actually being insecure. People endear themselves to people with egos all the time (Muhammad Ali, for example). The thing they can't seem to stand are people who need the attention from a place of insecurity. There have been studies done that show that people despise unskilled liars, for example, but they tend to respect liars who are confident enough to pull it off well, combined with an attractive personality. Kanye's Achilles heal is that he needs the attention, not that he asks for it. He comes across as insecure, while wanting to appear supremely confident . It feels phony, and people don't admire insecurity that isn't honest with itself.

He's a great artist, but his ego isn't his social vice.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:24 PM on February 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


So I'm baffled at all of this discussion.

Many of you seem under the impression that Kanye's interruptions are unscripted, or that some of this image manipulation is accidental...

Let me post my favorite Wikipedia article for your edification. Pop music is pretty boring these days, and without imaginary feuds people might lose interest even more than they have.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:25 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Urgh, I skimmed the article all the way to the end before I realized it's by Arthur Chu.
posted by Bwithh at 10:35 PM on February 17, 2015


Meanwhile, the buzz around that video is really not unlike a lot of the praise for the movie Black Swan: a lot of the buzz around Portman's performance was based around the idea that she transformed herself into a ballerina and did most of the dancing herself, which wasn't at all true. Most of the praise for Single Ladies, including the argument that it was somehow "better" than what Taylor Swift won for, centered around this idea that it was some super difficult feat of dancing.

I remember the focus on Portman's dancing as evidence of how hard she worked (and the endless focus of our culture on actresses losing weight)--but I also remember it being emphasized over and over that she didn't do the dancing. Single Ladies was an interesting concept, visually arresting, had a fun dance with a fun dance "hook", the videography was just better period, people rarely see pop stars doing a full dance routine like that, and it was a great song. "You Belong With Me" had Taylor Swift being a Sad White Girl and the song is fucking awful. I think your perception of why these artists were lauded and why West was upset is flawed.

Actually, no, people dislike Kanye because he tries to project an ego while actually being insecure.

And if you pay attention to his music for one second, then you'd recognize he puts his own insecurity full on display for the world to see. As I said before: West is very open about both his insecurities and his points of pride. He lays himself out as an open book. Most of the people I know who hate West have little to no familiarity with his music and base their opinions entirely around Gawker articles about a tweet he posted or a stunt he pulled.

This thing of lambasting white musicians for "appropriating" black music is embarrassing in its traditional, old-school, segregationist racism: it's an apparent attempt to scare whites away from emulating black music that's genuinely worth emulating.

The sensitivity around the white appropriation of "black" music is tied to the VERY REAL historic phenomenon of Black artists getting no play on the radio and no attention, their work gets stolen by white artists, those artists get played because they're white, and the white artists end up getting popularity and credit for songs they swiped from Black artists. Your argument fails to appreciate a cultural context that still has rippling effects to this day. Racial attitudes affect music like any other industry--in who gets popular, in what category they're put in, in what we expect from our performers.

white America mostly prefers its hip-hop to come from black people

White America prefers its hip-hop to come from the artists who will play to caricatures of Black people. White America is not so much a fan of Black artists who break out of this mold.

A lot of these arguments seem to fall along these lines:
- I'm too cool for pop music
- Taylor Swift is underrated, y'all
- I don't listen to these Black pop stars but I don't like them and my friends don't like them

I think this should be repeated:
If [West] sells a hundred million records, he's just "popular". If he sells a hundred million records and gets a 10.0 from Pitchfork he's "popular" and "hip" but still gets brushed off by Grammy voters in favor of whatever 60s relic released an album this year. He needs to pull off the trifecta cleanly just to be as respected as Beck or Thom Yorke or The Black Keys, and I think understanding that fact is crucial to understanding Kanye's media presence from at least My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy on.
posted by schroedinger at 11:24 PM on February 17, 2015 [19 favorites]


Dismissing the long, ugly history behind white appropriation of Black music with "but everyone is derivative of everyone else!" is a bit like me stealing your house and then saying "But this land was stolen from Native Americans so no worries brah"
posted by schroedinger at 11:29 PM on February 17, 2015 [14 favorites]


I dunno what to think. Chu's piece makes good points, but manages to ignore lots of other things at the same time. I guess this is where I shrug and say "intersectionality?"

Per other commenters, why does Beyonce need Kanye to say anything on her behalf? When white dudes do this it's labelled "mansplaining." Somehow Kayne's white-knighting is taken at face value.

And I find it odd that people are so quick to label Iggy Azelia as an appropriator when she, to me, seems basically the same as Drake. Who is a Jewish Canadian, who learned to rap by going out and studying "real rappers" and imitating their style. Not that Drake's ridiculousness as a hip-hop star is exactly a secret. But people give him a pass. Is it because he's black(ish)? Or maybe people are more forgiving to Canadians than Australians. Probably one of those two.

As for this...

If [West] sells a hundred million records, he's just "popular". If he sells a hundred million records and gets a 10.0 from Pitchfork he's "popular" and "hip" but still gets brushed off by Grammy voters in favor of whatever 60s relic released an album this year. He needs to pull off the trifecta cleanly just to be as respected as Beck or Thom Yorke or The Black Keys, and I think understanding that fact is crucial to understanding Kanye's media presence from at least My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy on.

This has nothing to do with objective reality and everything to do with voter demographics.

When Obama got beat in, say, Alabama, were you somehow surprised? Is it because Alabama voters don't see Obama's many amazing qualities? No, you chalk it up to the fact that Alabama has gone Republican for the last 35 years. $5 says the voters for the Grammys are overwhelmingly white and old and thus don't particularly like hip-hop. it doesn't take a poli-sci major to figure this out. It's not about blacks needing to work twice as hard (true as that may be). It's one highly subjective vote at a time.

Team Kayne with Alan Parsons and I'm sure he'll crush next year's Grammys.
posted by GuyZero at 11:47 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Previously on Metafilter, regarding the Ego issue:
a long tradition of black artists for whom self-love is a political act about the article In Defense Of Kanye’s Vanity: The Politics Of Black Self-Love.
posted by andoatnp at 12:19 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Speaking of Kanye and self-love...
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:31 AM on February 18, 2015


I also remember it being emphasized over and over that she didn't do the dancing.

Only because Sarah Lane, who was Portman's body double and actually did basically everything remotely technical, spoke out about it after the Oscar campain, which included taking down behind-the-scenes footage that showed how CGI was used to put Portman's face on Lane's body.

There really was a concerted effort by the studio and people involved with the movie to present what Portman did as being much more involved and impressive than it ever could have been. Even Portman's babydaddy and actual famous choreographer and dancer Benjamin Millepied still maintains a lot of the fiction in public, which is kind sad given that he's an actual member of the ballet world, but if you read between the lines in a lot of what he's saying, you can tell it's shit; he just goes out of his way to phrase things in a way that someone who wasn't familiar with dance couldn't parse. That fiction is a great deal of why she won the Oscar that year.

Single Ladies was an interesting concept, visually arresting, had a fun dance with a fun dance "hook", the videography was just better period, people rarely see pop stars doing a full dance routine like that, and it was a great song. "You Belong With Me" had Taylor Swift being a Sad White Girl and the song is fucking awful. I think your perception of why these artists were lauded and why West was upset is flawed.

Firstly: I could not give less of a shit about Imma-Let-You-Finish-gate, it was hilarious and I don't care either way, everyone involved is rich as balls and get to be entertainers for a living, they can all cope. What I care about is dance and dancers being shit on. Pretty much all of the Single Ladies hype was because "omg Beyonce is dancing", because frankly there's not much else to hype. Everything about how that video was shot, including the admittedly cool videography, the black-and-white and shifting perspectives during some of the sequences, even the costuming with the leotards and crazy Sasha hand were geared towards making dance look harder and more impressive than it was, including the misperception (repeated by Chu) that it was all in one take. That's all there is to that video, it's a presentation piece for that piece of choreography. Period, the end, and so it's fair to say that Beyonce won for her dancing because her dancing essentially is the video, it's all window-dressing for the choreography. So, given that there's this mythology, which Chu directly states, that it's "incredibly demanding" choreography, it's totally fair to point out that no, it's not. Beyonce is not, at least in this case, a reasonable example of "black excellence", or at least not to the degree she's being credited with, if it's being contrasted with Taylor Swift. And, again: her dad made Destiny's Child for her, her famous record producer dad. She's talented and I like a lot of her music, but in some ways, the deck was and is as stacked for her as it is for anyone else in the game she's playing.

And I find it odd that people are so quick to label Iggy Azelia as an appropriator when she, to me, seems basically the same as Drake. Who is a Jewish Canadian, who learned to rap by going out and studying "real rappers" and imitating their style. Not that Drake's ridiculousness as a hip-hop star is exactly a secret. But people give him a pass. Is it because he's black(ish)? Or maybe people are more forgiving to Canadians than Australians. Probably one of those two.

So, which precisely of Jewish, Canadian, and black are mutually exclusive? Whatever you think of his authenticity, he is a black dude. People look at him and see a black dude, because no matter his religion or nationality or ethnic background, he carries the physical signifiers of blackness, because he is a black dude. People look at Iggy Azalea and see a white woman because she is a white woman. She can get all the butt implants, collagen injections, and white girl braids her heart desires, she's still white, and she can no more change that than Drake could change being black if he decides to talk back to some white cop in Missouri who doesn't actually know that he's Drake. There is no "ish" about a level of looking black that could get you killed for it.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:35 AM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think Kanye is more just against mediocrity, and not specifically white mediocrity.

I remember that right after the Taylor Swift stage invasion, it was pointed out that this wasn't the first time Kanye had done something like this, because he deeply cares about awards going to the most deserving person (in his opinion). Hell, here's a collection of times he tried to give awards he won himself to other people he thought were more deserving.


The irony of the whole Taylor Swift episode was, Kanye's specific objection to the award was that "Single Ladies" was "one of the best videos of all time".

Swift won Best Female Video.

Beyoncé later that same night won Video Of The Year for Single Ladies. The best video of the entire year, by anyone of any gender in any music category. That's what she won, right there. Kanye was correct, he was just objecting about the smaller of the awards Beyoncé was up for that night, when she was going to be revealed later to have won the actual BIG award of the night.
posted by hippybear at 1:00 AM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


So why doesn't he just start the Kanye West Awards?
posted by telstar at 1:22 AM on February 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


Is Kanye liked at Pitchfork? I didn't know he was. I do know that he's out out some of the best music of the last 30 years. I'm aware of the other stuff usually only when it appears on MF.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:25 AM on February 18, 2015


Is Kanye liked at Pitchfork?
He's liked, but he's not well liked.
posted by thelonius at 1:55 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Upthread, someone mentions Muhammad Ali as someone who was well loved because of/despite his ego, which is a very reductionist view of history. He was widely disliked because he didn't know his place, because he changed his name, because of his stance on Vietnam, because rope-a-dope wasn't the way you were supposed to fight, and because everything I just said, plus he was black.

I was surprised after the Grammy's how many people I knew claimed to be offended by Kanye's lack of decorum. These are people who grew up idolizing Sid Vicious and David Bowie and Axl Rose and Iggy Pop and Kurt Cobain and Keith Richards, a couple of different but overlapping camps of people who loved the antics and outspokenness and excesses of punk rock, heavy metal, rock'n'roll, and glam. If you really believe in the Grammy's, maybe Kanye briefly kinda Beck (he didn't talk any shit or say anything about Beyoncé until an interview afterwards) is like spitting in the punchbowl, but why do you suddenly give a shit about someone spitting in Beck's punchbowl, or the Grammy's at all?
posted by elr at 2:16 AM on February 18, 2015 [17 favorites]


His last few albums scored 9.5, 8.5, 10, which is off the scale in an era when Pitchfork is, like my Junior Cert English teacher, giving nearly everything a good but mediocre 7. I think My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the only album they've given a 10 to in the last decade. He's basically their number one artist.
posted by kersplunk at 2:19 AM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Someone else above listed five black artists who "got a pass" for horrific behavior, but their cases aren't and the reaction to them aren't the same at all.

-Ike Turner has spent a lot of time in jail for both drug crimes and violent crime; his name is synonymous with domestic abuse, and he never had a hit album since. A good comparison to Ike Turner would be drug user and violent husband John Lennon, who seems very well regarded.
-James Brown served time for spousal abuse decades after his heyday and, it is mostly brushed under the rug. Nobody stopped buying his albums.
-R. Kelly went to court and was acquitted. He was more popular than ever and his name became synonymous with predatory statutory rape, and it looks like it's starting to affect his career, but we're in the middle of it, and we'll see how it plays out.
-Michael Jackson settled out of court and was acquitted in court; the proceedings were highly publicized and, though he never stopped making money, his career dipped, and he never regained his presence in the 1980s.
-Bill Cosby settled out of court and most people didn't hear about his many, many, many rape allegations until a decade later. He was as famous as ever, but his career was on the wane. It looks like his behavior, and the knowledge of his behavior is preventing a late-in-life resurgence. This is another instance we're right in the middle of, and only time will tell how he's regarded going forward.

So that's five artists, two of whom went to jail, two of whom went to court, and one who settled the case so he wouldn't have to. We can go back and forth with more white artists and more black artists, but it really seems that successful black artists are held much more accountable than their white counterparts in America, just like in the rest of our justice system.

The thing about Kanye is, he hasn't been convicted or even accused of any violent crime. I can respect anyone who hates him for his lyrics, where there has been some repellant, tacky and unpleasant shit, but not because he's arrogant, or doesn't show awards shows or other artists their proper respect. That puts him in the same camp as Kurt Cobain, not an abusive shitheel like James Brown or John Lennon.
posted by elr at 2:28 AM on February 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


But seriously, the Grammys? I don't get why this one is still running. The Grammys have been a complete joke for their entire existence. Maybe they don't care about black people. They certainly don't care about young people. How many albums does Beck have that are better than his current one? Seven? Eight? Why is Alison Krauss second in all-time Grammys won? Look at the top 5 Grammy winning bands: U2, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Dixie Chicks, Foo Fighters, Pat Metheny Group. Most awards to a single album: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: U2, Supernatural: Santana. In the 60's there were Grammy voters running around telling all and sundry that The Beatles weren't music. Why do we care what these people think?
posted by kersplunk at 2:28 AM on February 18, 2015 [12 favorites]


“He would cut me off during my shows,” Kweli explained. “So when I see him do it to Taylor Swift, I’m like ‘Oh, that’s what he used to do to me. He literally would come on stage while I was rapping and stop the music and say, ‘Yo, I gotta kick this rhyme. And I would have to be like, ‘Yo, you can’t, this is my show.’ But that’s how passionate he is about the music.” (Talib Kweli)

Given their respective talents on the mic, I don't see this as a crusade against "mediocracy" so much as a man blundering through the tropics of fame like a cultural Indiana Jones. Your grammy is a bag of sand! The attention belongs in a museum!
posted by kid ichorous at 2:35 AM on February 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


as a general rule, chu is dead wrong about technical proficiency in music because he doesn't understand where the technique is concentrated these days - in production and engineering, not actual musical ability, which can be simulated with production and engineering

if he thinks the white artists he lists are anything less than "working incredibly hard at technical, objective achievements ", he knows nothing about the modern recording process or what actually matters in it - musical ability is not on the top of that list. not even in kayne's recordings - he's a good rapper, a barely adequate singer and if he plays an instrument really well, i've missed it - what he brings to the table are very good ideas and world-class production technique

and believe me, everyone of the artists he lists has someone working for them that has mastered those skills to a high level, including beck - (it's not easy to do a "lo-fi" record that people actually want to listen to)
posted by pyramid termite at 2:44 AM on February 18, 2015 [16 favorites]


“He would cut me off during my shows,” Kweli explained. “So when I see him do it to Taylor Swift, I’m like ‘Oh, that’s what he used to do to me. He literally would come on stage while I was rapping and stop the music and say, ‘Yo, I gotta kick this rhyme. And I would have to be like, ‘Yo, you can’t, this is my show.’ But that’s how passionate he is about the music.”

That's off the scale disrespectful. The barriers to entry for an actual gig are pretty high. You get gear together and spend time and probably money practising. You send some stuff around, get your name out there, deal with dickhead promoters, get a gig. You get there a few hours early, lug all your stuff there, set up, soundcheck, wait around for a couple of hours. After all that, playing onstage is the easy bit, the reward. And some prick tries to shove you off and hijack the one enjoyable bit of the whole thing? Fuck that.
posted by kersplunk at 2:56 AM on February 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


Yeah, that Kwell quote is a good reminder that Kanye's habit of grabbing the stage has little to do with race, and everything to do with his massive sense of entitlement.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:47 AM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


You know what, for whatever else people think Kanye is, I will always respect him for speaking this truth. [yt] As a bonus, that Katrina clip is actually SNL40 related, what with Mike Myers and all.

In all fairness to President Bush (a phrase I find surreal to type), I don't think that statement is accurate. I used to say that he should have said that President Bush hates poor people but that's probably not accurate either. I believe that he simply doesn't understand either group of people. And the worst part is that he has never tried to understand any worldly viewpoint other than his own. And I suppose I blame the first President Bush for that one.
posted by dances with hamsters at 6:05 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


The white hairy mushroom in the SNL video had a great voice.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:11 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


In all fairness to Kanye West, he said that George Bush doesn't care about black people, not that he hates black people, which doesn't have any conflict with the belief that Bush never bothered to understand any one else's viewpoint.
posted by frimble at 6:28 AM on February 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


it makes me happy to think that their relationship is more like that than the sham wedding between two horrible famous people who are just in it for the publicity that it's often assumed to be.

anyone who thinks they're marriage is fame arranged knows little about them (much like most kanye conversations) - they've been hooking up for a very long time and didn't seem to stop during any of their other highly publicized relationships. it actually seems like they waited until both of their fame and careers could withstand the blowback of getting together.


why does Beyonce need Kanye to say anything on her behalf? When white dudes do this it's labelled "mansplaining." Somehow Kayne's white-knighting is taken at face value.

what a weird way to structure this objection. this wouldn't be mansplaining no matter who was doing it or calling it out. now, if kanye was explaining grammys to bey that would certainly be mansplaining, but this ain't that. if this "white-knighting" is taken at face value (which i think isn't proven) it's because they're friends, seemingly good ones. it's not really our job to jump into their friendship and save her from him.
posted by nadawi at 6:31 AM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Kanye measures worth by how much "good pussy" someone gets, so he makes it kinda hard to respect him.

from an interview with complex given a few days ago:
Because when I was a single bachelor rapper, and with the access that I had, I realized that I wasn’t respecting women the way I needed to. God has an amazing way of teaching people, and literally for two years I lived with all alpha females and a daughter, you know? [Laughs] So I had to learn to really do what my mother taught me, and become the man she always knew I could be, and bow as a creative.
posted by nadawi at 6:34 AM on February 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


But seriously, the problem with white virtuosity is that it is extremely sterile. The western classical establishment, which is packed to the gills with amazing technicians, is for the most part priced and dressed up for rich people and meant to be absorbed in a way that is almost entirely cerebral. Bands like Dream Theater, Coheed & Cambria and Muse are all wildly perfectionist but don't engage a wide audience because they are more concerned with perfect quintuplets over a 7/13 backbeat than communicating something that is emotionally engaging and potentially messy. And just listen to the corporate rock of the early '90s! I mean, Nelson? The low-fi aesthetic that birthed indie rock was a reaction to that oppressive, heavily-marketed sterility.

Kanye is absolutely virtuosic and without a doubt emotionally charged, but I also see a lot of self-deprecation in his work, or at least the willingness to expose flaws. Sometimes it is manufactured via the set-and-forget autotune, but mostly it is his unfiltered stream of consciousness. He is honest and uncensored 100% of the time, and say what you will about his specific comments or his ego or whatever, that is a respectable character trait. And his later albums have been very experimental and contrarian from a sonic perspective which puts him squarely in Beck's camp, aesthetically. He's like the Flaming Lips of hip-hop.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:36 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


But seriously, the problem with white virtuosity is that it is extremely sterile.

Most people have no interest in, or ability to relate to, music that doesn't have a vocalist up in front. Nothing anyone plays can change that.
posted by thelonius at 6:49 AM on February 18, 2015


Taylor Swift is, technically speaking, not all that great a singer. Her voice doesn’t have the power and control of even Katy Perry
--From the original linked article

I never thought I'd enjoy an "in defense of Kanye" article, much less one from Salon (the left wing Fox News if there ever was one) but omfg do not shit on my girl Taylor like that. Katy Perry sounds like a yodeling cat on autotune.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:18 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Many of you seem under the impression that Kanye's interruptions are unscripted, or that some of this image manipulation is accidental...

This seems way out of left field.
posted by josher71 at 7:49 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


In all fairness to President Bush (a phrase I find surreal to type), I don't think that statement is accurate. I used to say that he should have said that President Bush hates poor people but that's probably not accurate either. I believe that he simply doesn't understand either group of people. And the worst part is that he has never tried to understand any worldly viewpoint other than his own. And I suppose I blame the first President Bush for that one.

I think your premise is flawed. If you are President, you don't get a pass for willful ignorance. Indeed, it rather proves Kanye's point.

But seriously, the problem with white virtuosity is that it is extremely sterile...

Please let's not starting talking about how "Black people have soul." I don't think you know what you're talking about if you consider most "white virtuosity" to be extremely sterile. You seem to be saying that you don't know about, or like, white musicians one might consider virtuosos. I don't know a serious lover of European classical music who would describe it as sterile when played by a virtuoso.
posted by OmieWise at 8:02 AM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


All these years since Kanye sprung on the scene with his “George Bush doesn’t like black people” quip, and I still haven’t actually heard any of his music, I just hear about Kanye…what is his big hit? Somebody tell me, please...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 8:41 AM on February 18, 2015


LeRoienJaune: '...what other rapper has rapped about wetting his bed as an adolescent?'

This is actually not entirely uncommon. I know there a lot of examples of it, but this Ghostface song springs to mind immediately.
posted by still bill at 8:42 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Don't put words in my mouth, OmieWise. As someone who studied classical composition at a conservatory and has had wide exposure to the Western classical establishment I am not coming from a place of ignorance. Bang On A Can et al notwithstanding, the classical music world is extremely conservative and stuck in the past, more of a museum of artifacts than a petri dish of creativity. So, yes, a brilliant violin prodigy might bust out an amazing, tear-jerker performance of Tchaikovsky Op. 35, but that is within the context of a world that abhors newness and is actively failing to attract new adherents. That is, if not sterile, then definitely infertile.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:44 AM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


As someone who studied classical composition, then you must be aware of Arnold Schoenberg, the polar opposite of sterile and infertile. Or Even Gershwin. Or Bill Evans, who gave Miles Davis a fertile garden to plant in.

But it's an old rehash of "BB King rules, Joe Satriani droolz" nonsense.

(And perhaps you should check out the black guitar virtuoso Tosin Abasi)
posted by remlapm at 9:09 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


All these years since Kanye sprung on the scene with his “George Bush doesn’t like black people” quip, and I still haven’t actually heard any of his music, I just hear about Kanye…what is his big hit? Somebody tell me, please...

Here's a top ten list, might be a good start. POWER is my personal favorite though.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:12 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I like Kanye. He's a good egg. Some people hate him because he's brash. Some people hate him because he's pushy. But yeah, some people just hate him because he's black. I love him for so stubbornly and conspicuously insisting on being an actual human being in his public image despite the great pressures on celebrities to pretend they're just product. I suspect that human touch is also why people stay interested in him.

(Obligatory, Kanye-inspired self-plug: Speaking of new pop that's not sterile and doesn't go out of its way to appropriate black culture--while recognizing many debts to influences across the human cultural spectrum--you might want to give the forthcoming Tangemeenie album a listen when it's out later this year. I would stand it side by side with any major studio release and the recording production process was intimately bound up with the composition process itself so that there's really no gap between the two, which I think is still a relatively new and interesting way to work.)
posted by saulgoodman at 9:15 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think what REALLY bothers the shit out of me is the fact that I absolutely HATE Chris Brown. That mofo beat the shit out of 20 year old Rihanna. Dude is a big dude, and he's muscular. He went to town on her. The pics were so horrific, that I don't feel comfortable linking to them. He should be publicly hated all the time.

And Kanye embarrassed himself on stage, with T-Swift.

So some black dude beat the shit out of a black woman, and some black dude got in an embarrassing situation with a white woman. Who do people LOVE to hate more?

I'm just glad our criminal justice system isn't like it used to be because that would mean Chris Brown would get a pass because "black people issues", and Kanye would be part of some strange fruit hanging on a tree in some Indiana-like state. But despite our law now being like it used to, you can still sense that some people really really really hate Kanye because he didn't know his place.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:25 AM on February 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


Why is the assumption that Beyonce is faking, being something she isn't, and creates half baked, illusory bullshit?

Because Beyonce is black.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:27 AM on February 18, 2015


Kanye would be part of some strange fruit hanging on a tree in some Indiana-like state

Indiana?
posted by crank at 9:33 AM on February 18, 2015


METAFILTER: then you must be aware of Arnold Schoenberg,



and in a thread concerning Kanye West latest Grammy Award faux pas; now that's progression
posted by philip-random at 9:35 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Any Top 10 Kanye list that doesn't have School Spirit on it is objectively wrong.

Because Beyonce is black.

No, because she's not that great dancer (which is fine, she's a singer! she doesn't have to be a dancer!), and the choreography is not at all impressive, but the video is intentionally designed to make it look very challenging and impressive. If she and her dancers did the same routine without the black and white, without the camerawork, without any of the tricks that made it look super impressive, no one would ever have been talking about how great a dancer she is because it is barely dancing. There's one sequence of footwork that's moderately challenging but not anything more complex than sixty year olds in ballroom and swing dance classes manage all the time (while going backwards!), and a high arabesque that Beyonce herself doesn't do. There's that transition to a side lunge too, I guess. Do you know why there are a million zillion parody and "tribute" videos to Single Ladies that even include fat, out of shape people and literal toddlers doing pretty much the whole dance, sometimes even in high heels? Because it's really fucking easy to do.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:38 AM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yes, Indiana. Back in the 20's, something like 30% of all white males in the state were members of the Klan. By percentage, I think it had more Klan members than any other state in the nation.

It's still in the news.
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:42 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do you know why there are a million zillion parody and "tribute" videos to Single Ladies that even include fat, out of shape people and literal toddlers doing pretty much the whole dance, sometimes even in high heels? Because it's really fucking easy to do.

Um, that's what makes it fun. To me, that's what makes the song and the video fun. I remember watching it at a friend's house and we were all mimicking the dance right away and it was a really good time. I think the stylistic elements of the video are pretty cool, too. All in all it's an undeniably iconic moment in music video history, especially considering that people don't make as big of a deal out of videos anymore like they did in the pre-internet/smartphone/streaming/etc era.
posted by zutalors! at 9:44 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I always figured that the reason he interrupted Taylor Swift at the VMAs to say that Beyoncé's video was better was because he assumed his own video was going to win the overall best video award that hadn't been handed out yet and he certainly didn't want to say during THAT award speech that Beyoncé had the best video of all time. And then Beyoncé won and Kanye didn't say "Oh, well never mind then."
posted by ckape at 9:44 AM on February 18, 2015


[One comment removed; please do not keep relitigating comments you don't like from old threads in new ones; if you feel like metadiscussion about something like that needs to happen now, it needs to happen in Metatalk.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:50 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do you know why there are a million zillion parody and "tribute" videos to Single Ladies that even include fat, out of shape people and literal toddlers doing pretty much the whole dance, sometimes even in high heels? Because it's really fucking easy to do.

Is it difficult for you to understand that is part of the appeal of the video and the choreography? And even if Beyonce isn't A+ #1 Dancer Ever she sold the hell out of it, and that is a large part of making an excellent music video and being a good performer?

And then Beyoncé won and Kanye didn't say "Oh, well never mind then."

The article that points out Kanye has publicly, on stage, given his own awards away when he feels another artist was more deserving has been pointed out multiple times in this thread alone, so I am not sure where this one is coming from.
posted by schroedinger at 9:59 AM on February 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


kanye has given his awards away before - there's no reason to think he wouldn't do it for beyonce.

also if people want to talk about the technical proficiency of the single ladies dance, they should take it up with bob fosse and the j-setters, i guess...but it's not like it's the only time that bey has danced and there's a lot of evidence that she's better than a lot of the people driving in the same lane as her.
posted by nadawi at 9:59 AM on February 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


"Person X is confident and I don't think they deserve to be" says a whole lot more about you than it does about Person X.
posted by almostmanda at 10:00 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


No, because she's not that great dancer...

So thats why she's "fake"?
posted by hal_c_on at 10:02 AM on February 18, 2015


As someone who studied classical composition, then you must be aware of Arnold Schoenberg, the polar opposite of sterile and infertile.

he's been dead for 64 years

Or Even Gershwin.

he's been dead for 77 years

Or Bill Evans

he's been dead for 34 years

stuck in the past, indeed
posted by pyramid termite at 10:06 AM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Um, that's what makes it fun. To me, that's what makes the song and the video fun.

I don't even disagree with that. But the context of the video is that there was also a ton of hype about Beyonce and bashing of Taylor Swift before, during, and after the whole incident centered around this bullshit notion that Beyonce is a great dancer! So much more talented that Taylor Swift! So much more deserving! that's just utter crap. There's a really fucked up, misogynist undertone to a lot of it, that any criticism of Beyonce is fundamentally racist, and also that any misogynist criticism of Taylor Swift is okay because she's white. It's ridiculous. They're about equally musically talented, both incredibly hard workers, both are incredibly smart about how they manage their career and image, and ultimately about equally privileged in terms of their background and connections when it comes to the music industry. And, tellingly, they're about equally good dancers.

Of course, dancers and dance get shit on horrifically at the moment, financially and culturally and artistically, even when dance has a ton of increased visibility and popularity, but I'm sure that has nothing at all to do with cultural misogyny. Nothing at all to do with dance being very much seen as "woman thing", or incidental homophobia, because in the West male dancers are just kind of assumed to be gay because dance is such a "girly" thing.

Nope, the only story and the only thing going on there is the fact that Beyonce is a black woman, nevermind that she's rich and connected. Woo, nuance.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:10 AM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I see the problem that non-white artists face as similar to women in the tech world; they have to fight a lot harder to be taken seriously because they aren't a member of the majority demographic.

This seems true of any minority trying to speak to a majority, whether it's a black artist like Kanye, or Eminem, who has never been accepted as a 'real' rapper by the majority black hip-hop community because of his skin color.

For someone like me, who dislikes music intensely - despite my efforts - it's a larger question of how do you measure quality of subjective experiences without bias?
posted by nerdler at 10:15 AM on February 18, 2015


So why doesn't he just start the Kanye West Awards?

I haven't watched the Grammies or the Oscars all the way through in at least 10 years, but I would absolutely watch that.
posted by codacorolla at 10:16 AM on February 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


Actually, no, people dislike Kanye because he tries to project an ego while actually being insecure.
And if you pay attention to his music for one second, then you'd recognize he puts his own insecurity full on display for the world to see. As I said before: West is very open about both his insecurities and his points of pride. He lays himself out as an open book. Most of the people I know who hate West have little to no familiarity with his music and base their opinions entirely around Gawker articles about a tweet he posted or a stunt he pulled.
I hear what you are saying, but that still doesn't get to the heart of it. The one insecurity that will keep him from becoming endeared to the hearts of many people is very specific: it's a perceived insecurity about not being validated. He acts overtly because he is passionate and objective about art. However, many people interpret him as projecting an ego because he has a need to be affirmed. It's enough for some people that it's permanently offputting. There may be a disconnect here between what he's intending and what he projects, but I think that is the heart of his PR issues.

Nobody wants to be pressured into validating someone because they are insecure. I've been married for awhile now, and even in marriage, excessive neediness in this regard can be offputting, even to people who love you and are committed to you. I think Kanye is an excellent artist, but there's a point in which you need to trust others to give you the validation you have earned. If you have to force validation because you need it, it's simple human psychology: people will push back against it in such a way that ironically, you won't get what you need.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:19 AM on February 18, 2015


I would also add, that apart from the point of black excellence / white mediocrity, there's also the punk rock, and speak truth to power aspects of this. If Kanye was a white punk star, then I wonder how much differently his outspoken behavior would be viewed. On a small scale, it's similar to the studies that education researchers have done about what is absolutely the same behavior in white and black children, where white children get mildly scolded (or even praised) and black children get reprimanded.
posted by codacorolla at 10:21 AM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


or Eminem, who has never been accepted as a 'real' rapper by the majority black hip-hop community because of his skin color

that's just straight up untrue. eminem is greatly respected and accepted. it was a little rocky at first, but then he proved he wasn't just another vanilla ice - that he was doing it from his perspective and not just pulling a minstrel show (unlike, say, iggy).
posted by nadawi at 10:23 AM on February 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


nerdler: For someone like me, who dislikes music intensely - despite my efforts

I hope this is a typo, otherwise, I don't know how someone who dislikes (all) music intensely would have something worthwhile to say about the topic.

As nadawi says, it's patently false that Eminem was never accepted. He had Dre vouching for him almost from day one, he had the goods lyrically and technically, and his authenticity was never in question. If you really think Eminem is somehow marginalized in the hip-hop community because he's white, you really haven't been paying attention.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:34 AM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


[Couple comments removed. Vibrissae, we've talked to you about giving Kanye threads a pass. Do so.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:47 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see the problem that non-white artists face as similar to women in the tech world; they have to fight a lot harder to be taken seriously because they aren't a member of the majority demographic.

This isn't true at all and hasn't been for at least a decade. The really big, talented, famous producers (in the technical sense, not the "money guy" sense) are a fairly diverse bunch that if anything leans way more black than the actual demographic breakdown of the US, UK, etc, and there's huge crossover, and very little of it actually fits the classic "white producer exploits artist of color" narrative that Boomers and their ideological children desperately want to apply to it.

It's another reason that the whole "white virtuousity is sterile!!!"/"all black people have soul" narrative is a joke, apart from being racist. Maybe in the purely classical world, but what musician only makes their money or their music in only one place anymore? Yeah, that's the point, and the classical world is as more and more populated and sustained by Asians as it is white people anymore anyway, both as artists and audience. But those stuff, dead, sterile white musicians are usually working and performing and creating in context other than pure classicism anyway, that's essentially a luxury for people who are really, really good and really, really dedicated. Complaining about the classical scene being stuck in the past is like complaining about historical reenactors being stuck in the past. That's the point, doesn't mean the training or perspective isn't incredibly fertile and productive in other contexts, and it also doesn't say squat about white people or white art, either.

Facile racial narratives and categorization are just profoundly unhelpful, but especially in the context of the arts.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:51 AM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't see what's wrong with Kanye. He's very talented in so many ways and I wish I had the energy and drive to apply myself to creative endeavors like he does.
posted by gucci mane at 10:52 AM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Class-wise, Eminem comes from the same background as most hip-hop artists, a poor, urban environment. I guess you get to cross a certain number of bridges and still be accepted but at some point you have to far to go. Vanilla Ice was white, upper-middle class, suburban... it was just too much. Drake, to me, has pretty much the same pedigree as Vanilla Ice but as someone else noted, hey, he's black, it's OK. Well actually I do have one specific complaint:

There is no "ish" about a level of looking black that could get you killed for it.

Drake is from fucking Rosedale. ROSEDALE. Nobody is getting shot in Rosedale. At the risk of being a smug Canadian, no one, even in the worst fucking part of Toronto, is getting shot for being black. A handful of people get shot I suppose, but it's not the same. There's racism in Canada, absolutely, but it's not the same. Well, the generic racism is the same. But the shooting part isn't. Now, sure, I suppose Drake - and let's use his birth name, Aubrey - if Aubrey does a show in Ferguson, MO he has to watch himself the same as every other black man there if he goes out after the show. But in terms of where he's from, Aubrey is on par with Rob Van Winkle or Amethyst Kelly.

Anyway, my point, such that it is, is that this whole discussion of who is or isn't "authentic" is pretty arbitrary and you can sort of see patterns but ultimately it's random and made-up. Aubrey is a "real" hip-hop artist, Kanye is "real" but Amethyst isn't. I find it odd that Kelly (Azelia, ugh, too many names) gets labelled as an appropriator when the only difference between her and Aubrey Graham is her skin color when at the same time Eminem is OK being white because of his class background. And when to my ears they're all reasonably competent musicians (which itself is a huge matter of debate I'm sure)

If nothing else, one should give Kanye respect for at least going out with his own name.
posted by GuyZero at 10:57 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Drake is from fucking Rosedale. ROSEDALE. Nobody is getting shot in Rosedale.

Forest Hill, actually. But, yeah, same difference.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:05 AM on February 18, 2015


drake discusses the authentic issues at length in his new tape/album (which is blowing up the charts, yay aubrey!) - here is one example :
I used to rap on the phone, one of his friends doing life
And now I got me a Grammy, that could be part of the reason
Let's just call this shit even, we got some things to believe in
Do you remember back to Weston Road, Scarlett Road?
Hangin' with Aaron Bell and Reny shit could've gone south for me he looked out for me ma
He never let me do drugs
He let me shoot a gun one summer but out there everyone does
He made me listen to his music, old music, soul music
Shit that can only be created if you go through it
I used to get teased for being black, and now I'm here and I'm not black enough
Cause I'm not acting tough or making stories up bout where I'm actually from
But I just roll with it momma, rolling stone with it momma
and besides all that - one of the big differences between the vanilla azalea and the drakes of the world is that drake is actually talented as an mc.
posted by nadawi at 11:09 AM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


They're about equally musically talented

I don't think this is true. I wouldn't put Beyonce anywhere near, say, Aretha Franklin or Mahalia Jackson, when it comes to voice, but I'd put her a hell of a lot nearer to them than I would Taylor Swift. I also don't think Beyonce would make anyone cringe when trying to sing alongside Stevie Nicks.

Also, while people laud Swift's songwriting abilities, Beyonce has been honored as a songwriter several times.

Don't get me wrong: Taylor Swift has her strengths and she, wisely, sticks very close to them. But I have a hard time believing that she and Beyonce are equally musically talented.

And, tellingly, they're about equally good dancers

I've seen toddlers, old people, prisoners, people in heels, and people of various body types perform Michael Jackson's moves from the Billy Jean and Thriller videos. So what's with all this "Michael Jackson is an incredible dancer" stuff?

I think it's extremely uncharitable to say that Swift and Beyonce are about equally talented as dancers, and it's a sentiment that points to the truth behind "black people have to fly to get to places white people can walk to" sentiment expressed by Chis Rock.

In a funny way, it's very nearly a reversal of how black and white athletes are treated. In sports, we usually hear that the black athlete is naturally talented while nobody is going to outwork or outhustle the white athlete. Here, despite not having the dance training and background of Beyonce, Swift is just naturally engaging when she dances while Beyonce has to work incredibly hard just to be seen as Swift's equal.

I've long thought that Swift needs to be sure Kanye West is on her Xmas card list and in her will because his "menacing her" (I've seen it described that way right here on Metafilter) catapulted her from being Just Another Pop/Country Starlet to inheritor of the title of America's Sweetheart.

Having said all that, I think there's a lot to like about Taylor Swift. I find her approach to Pop Princessdom smarter, and more good-hearted than what we saw in a great many who came before her.

But I also think Beyonce has had to - and will always have to -- wade through chest-deep rivers of crap that Swift will never even get within sniffing distance of in order to achieve roughly the same things.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:14 AM on February 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


Vanilla Ice was white, upper-middle class, suburban... it was just too much. Drake, to me, has pretty much the same pedigree as Vanilla Ice but as someone else noted, hey, he's black, it's OK.

Also, Vanilla Ice sucked and was bad. Eminem is talented and good. I'm not personally a huge Drake fan, but holy shit, he's least more talented and proficient than Vanilla fucking Ice. That a bunch of obnoxious white people are parsing out the details of their various backgrounds and not paying attention to the fact that Vanilla Ice sucked balls and Eminem is really fucking good is kind of working against whatever point about black excellence or the relative importance of talent or white mediocrity you're trying to make here. Ice and Iggy suck. Eminem and Dre are good.

Drake is from fucking Rosedale. ROSEDALE. Nobody is getting shot in Rosedale. At the risk of being a smug Canadian, no one, even in the worst fucking part of Toronto, is getting shot for being black.

My point was that he looks black because he is black. Not that he grew up having to be afraid of being shot, but that if he went to Alabama, he could be shot for being black. Some mixed-race people pass, but Drake isn't one of them. Likewise, nothing Iggy Azalea could do, including blackface, will change the fact that she's white and not black. If you're so clueless that you think "lives in fear of being shot" is the only way to be authentically black, you're a racist but that doesn't invalidate my point. Do you think that shooting the only way that white people react to a black dude that forms a common part of black experience? Barack Obama didn't grow up being afraid of being shot either, doesn't make the people who are mad at him for "choosing" to identify as black any less racist. Does your smugness extend to pretending that no one in Canada never, ever noticed the fact that Drake is black at all?

I've seen toddlers, old people, prisoners, people in heels, and people of various body types perform Michael Jackson's moves from the Billy Jean and Thriller videos. So what's with all this "Michael Jackson is an incredible dancer" stuff?

Because he could moonwalk and that is hard as fuck and no, toddlers aren't doing that shit. Most people who try can't even come close, to the point where it's comical. Lots of people still think it was some kind of optical illusion or trick shoes.

I love people calling me racist for making the same argument about Beyonce that I make about Natalie Portman. What's going on in these debates and with these kind of sloppy articles isn't at all what people think is going on. It's tiresome.

I've long thought that Swift needs to be sure Kanye West is on her Xmas card list and in her will because his "menacing her" (I've seen it described that way right here on Metafilter) catapulted her from being Just Another Pop/Country Starlet to inheritor of the title of America's Sweetheart.

No, that's just when the kind of pop culture illiterate MeFi nerd who likes to use these kind of debates to show how totally not racist they are became aware of her. Trust me, she was there already. She has never been "Just Another Pop/Country Starlet", and a lot of that actually has to do with record sales and how "America", especially the kind of America that has sweethearts in the first place, isn't just the country of the kind of white people who, in essence, like Kanye without listening to his music because he scored some points for Team Blue against Team Red when he called out George Bush.

But I also think Beyonce has had to - and will always have to -- wade through chest-deep rivers of crap that Swift will never even get within sniffing distance of in order to achieve roughly the same things.

Be honest, did you even know she was in Destiny's Child? "Will always have to"? Do you even engage with popular culture at all outside of SLSalon blue posts? Are you fucking high? This is total and utter garbage, and not reality. I'm not the biggest fan, but Beyonce deserves better than being a fetish item for lefty white people who like to use her to show how not racist they are by lionizing a struggle she largely didn't go through.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:04 PM on February 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


Are you fucking high?

Come on, now. You know this isn't cool.
posted by josher71 at 12:10 PM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's another reason that the whole "white virtuousity is sterile!!!"/"all black people have soul" narrative is a joke, apart from being racist.

But it's an old rehash of "BB King rules, Joe Satriani droolz" nonsense.

Please let's not starting talking about how "Black people have soul."

It is worth noting that the straw man of whiteness being "less" than blackness was shot down three times without ever having been brought up.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:16 PM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]




I love people calling me racist for making the same argument about Beyonce that I make about Natalie Portman.

I'm not calling you racist and think you make some good points overall but you seem to really want to make this whole conversation about dance, which it's not.
posted by zutalors! at 12:17 PM on February 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


IMO Kanye is some ways our David Bowie. Both intended to be and are massive superstars who still made very experimental records (I mean have you listened to Yeezus).

By analogy David Bowie had a massive ego and said and did lots of stupid things (like giving a nazi salute whilst riding in an open top car).

But we forgave him for that and appreciate his artistic talent. Just like we should with Kanye.
posted by Erberus at 12:47 PM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


There may very well be (probably is, actually) a conversation to be had about institutional racism in the music industry against black artists. There is no question - and much has been written on this fact - that the Grammys historically award "safe" artists and are often proven wrong in critical retrospect.

But Kanye West should not be the poster child for that conversation. He is not without talent -- "Touch the Sky" and "Power" are two favorite tracks of mine -- but he is not nearly as talented as he thinks he is (or, say, Pitchfork). He is hardly the first confessional rapper. And everything he has done since discovering auto-tune (and "singing") is painful to listen to. On the flip side, his public persona is arrogant, tactless, and self-aggrandizing. You may very well disagree with me about his level of talent, but that's because music is subjective and people can disagree about it.

As several people said upthread, it's absolutely possible to dislike Kanye West (both his music and his behavior) without being racist.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:54 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


By analogy David Bowie had a massive ego and said and did lots of stupid things (like giving a nazi salute whilst riding in an open top car).

But we forgave him for that and appreciate his artistic talent.


We can write it off now as cocaine fucking with his head or whatever, but it was such an outrage at the time that it inspired Rock Against Racism.

Call me when Kanye inspires his equivalent Rock Against Shuttershades or whatever the fuck.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:57 PM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]



As several people said upthread, it's absolutely possible to dislike Kanye West (both his music and his behavior) without being racist.

It's disappointing that people go straight to "being racist," "calling me a racist" every time a discussion comes up about "what does this criticism mean in the larger context of how our culture treats black people" and yet here we are.

Yeah, you can dislike Kanye's music and behavior without being racist. Of course. But a lot of the language around why his behavior is wrong and bad and etc is interesting to talk about in the context of insitutional racism. That's a totally different discussion than calling individual people racist.
posted by zutalors! at 12:58 PM on February 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


It is worth noting that the straw man of whiteness being "less" than blackness was shot down three times without ever having been brought up.

Actually, yes it was: "But seriously, the problem with white virtuosity is that it is extremely sterile. The western classical establishment, which is packed to the gills with amazing technicians, is for the most part priced and dressed up for rich people and meant to be absorbed in a way that is almost entirely cerebral."

Apart from actually flying in the face of reality, this is not only casting "white" virtuosity as "sterile", it's also therefore categorizing PoC virtuosity as, say, fertile? Fecund? Raw? "Real"? Authentic? I don't know, pick a dogwhistle offensive caricature of black art and artistic sensibilities, it's not my damn caricature, but you can't say the criticisms aren't being made. That argument is a racist strawman for a whole litany of reasons I'm too lazy to type up another time, but this lazy "cricitizing the criticism of white people for being bad, sloppy, lazy criticism is itself racist!" crap is tiresome. Do your eyes just glaze over the moment you see someone take down an argument that has the word "white" in it?

Seperately, it's also worth pointing out that to many, many people who appreciate classical music, it's not only or even at all cerebral, and that's even only within the context of "official", concert-going, musically-educated, rich (white) people classical music appreciation, which isn't the only one that exists. You can pretend "sterile" isn't derogatory if you want to think that means it's not also shitting on all the black, brown, etc people of all different races who appreciate classical music, and you can pretend categorizing some music as "white people music" in order to create crude stereotypes of it isn't racist the same way categorizing other music as "black people music" to do the same just because it happens to be aimed at white people, but the cultural reality has actually managed to move past the goddamn 1960s. Again, applying a tired and fundamentally inaccurate, sloppy Boomer-esque narrative to the modern situation is not helpful.

I'm not calling you racist and think you make some good points overall but you seem to really want to make this whole conversation about dance, which it's not.

It's a conversation about excellence and mediocrity and how race does and doesn't play a part in how those are perceived. In Beyonce's case it happens to be entirely pertinent to the larger point that, seriously? She has not actually held to a higher standard than other, similar white artists because she is black. As already has been pointed out: she won Best Video for Single Ladies. She is incredibly successful, very talented, very intelligent, very hard-working, and very deservedly very well-rewarded and lauded. Assuming that she's been through some kind of narratively pleasing struggle for the sake of a reductive, bad argument about race in the arts, or hasn't gotten her fair due or is somehow underappreciated, or is secretly vastly better than every other white artist of similar fame, success, and record sales just because she happens to be black is incredibly patronizing. When it's aimed at Taylor Swift specifically, it's misogynist as hell.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:59 PM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


The idea of black artistry being deemed 'fraudulent' isn't new.

The day after the Grammys, I was digging into some reading about Cecil Taylor - a towering figure in free/avant jazz, one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time - still capable of bewildering listeners. A major portion of the establishment saw him as a 'fraud' and a 'charlatan'. Those were the precise words they used. Meanwhile, white composers in the classical world, exploring similar avant-garde avenues that Cecil was exploring but in academic outlets, were being praised by the exact same people. Those were the 60s. We're still fighting those same battles, in a lot of ways. We dismiss Kanye's art - which is multifaceted and acrobatic in every album he's recorded - alternately angry, melancholy, hilarious, political, scatological, boasting, self-effacing - often in the span of a single song. He's doing sophisticated things with production, aesthetics, thematic content, and performance art that are akin to a kind of lithe multimedia jazz in some ways. But he's a fraud.
posted by naju at 1:08 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's disappointing that people go straight to "being racist," "calling me a racist" every time a discussion comes up about "what does this criticism mean in the larger context of how our culture treats black people" and yet here we are.

Yeah, you can dislike Kanye's music and behavior without being racist. Of course. But a lot of the language around why his behavior is wrong and bad and etc is interesting to talk about in the context of insitutional racism. That's a totally different discussion than calling individual people racist.


How can you have a discussion of the question "what does this criticism mean in the larger context of how our culture treats black people" without the suggestion that some people are criticizing Kanye because of subconscious (or conscious) racism (which is one of the implications of Chu's article)?

My point is that that suggestion doesn't necessarily hold water, because there are some very reasonable and non-race-related reasons to dislike Kanye (his music and his behavior). In other words, the answer to the question "what does this criticism mean in the larger context of how our culture treats black people" may, in the case of Kanye, be "maybe nothing".
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 1:11 PM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


sure, some people might have special snowflake criticisms that are some how in no way influenced by the culture we're all swimming in - but when people, accidentally or not, critique kanye in racially loaded ways then we should be able to talk about it. if that ends up hurting some feelings, oh well. we're not going to tear down the white supremacist patriarchy politely.
posted by nadawi at 1:15 PM on February 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


sure, some people might have special snowflake criticisms that are some how in no way influenced by the culture we're all swimming in - but when people, accidentally or not, critique kanye in racially loaded ways then we should be able to talk about it. if that ends up hurting some feelings, oh well. we're not going to tear down the white supremacist patriarchy politely.

Where do you get "special snowflake criticisms" out of that? Are you saying there are NO objective criticisms of his music that are unrelated to institutional racism?

This is exactly the problem with these sorts of conversations. They are reductionist in a way that precludes actual critical judgment of the art itself. If I happen to think that Kanye's auto-tuned vocals are horrible to listen to, it's because of the white supremacist patriarchy, not because I have a valid opinion based on the music itself.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 1:23 PM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]



How can you have a discussion of the question "what does this criticism mean in the larger context of how our culture treats black people" without the suggestion that some people are criticizing Kanye because of subconscious (or conscious) racism (which is one of the implications of Chu's article)?


I mean, lots of ways. The way you phrase this makes it sound like the very idea is ridiculous, but it's not. I personally find this sort of discussion really interesting and "you're a racist if you X" much much less so, so I wouldn't even want to have that kind of conversation.

How could we possibly identify things that could stem from conscious or unconscious conversation if we don't talk about it? And then whenever we talk about it, we have to have the whole "I'm not a racist, don't call me a racist" "I'm not, I'm talking about a racist institutional/cultural structure" "that's the same thing as calling me a racist" back and forth.
posted by zutalors! at 1:27 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Drake (by the way that's his real middle name) made a whole bar-mitzvah-themed music video. I think he does sometimes resort to macho posturing and "look I totally hang out with guys from the hood" - presumably a reaction to the criticism he's gotten from the beginning - but for the most part he does his own thing and knows to save the roleplay for when he shares a track with someone who can make it work. He's sort of the next step after Kanye, who took some time to be taken seriously as a rapper - not necessarily just for class reasons but it's probably not irrelevant - but came with an old-school production pedigree and an obvious commitment to the art form and his self expression.

Eminem never did win over all the purists and he never will, but his whole backstory was that he grew up around hip hop and loved it but had to fight to fit in because he was white, and he backed up that story with top tier technique - as juvenile as his subject matter can be - and self-reflective use of personas. Iggy A is packaged in a vaguely similar way - where Eminem had Dre, she has T.I., and she's got the story about always wanting to be a rapper, coming to America and staying to chase the dream and all that. But she's literally performing in not her voice and hasn't cleared the bar when given a chance to prove her artistic credibility in the context of her chosen genre, like in the Sway non-freestyle. Which might still leave her all right as an inoffensive party rapper, except she's stepped right into the racial messes that have come up. I don't know how much she's responsible for all these blunders versus her record company, or if she couldn't ever turn it around but the backlash isn't arbitrary. She's gone through the same tests as other artists but not passed.
posted by atoxyl at 1:28 PM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


We dismiss Kanye's art - which is multifaceted and acrobatic in every album he's recorded - alternately angry, melancholy, hilarious, political, scatological, boasting, self-effacing - often in the span of a single song.

Who is "we"? Who is dismissing Kanye artistically? He's incredibly popular, successful, critically acclaimed and commercially beloved. How his celebrity persona is used as a Shibboleth in bad arguments about race by people who either don't listen to his music or like the fact that they listen to his music more than they do his actual fucking music really has nothing to do with his success. The people who hate Kanye for being too mean or too unhinged or too gangsta (lol as fucking if) all either agree that he's a great artist or just don't comment on it because they don't really listen to hip-hop anyway. Most of the actual criticism, real criticism, of Kanye's music and art that I've seen has come from people really immersed in that scene, most but not all of whom are PoC, and very little of it is dismissive; "this wasn't as good as he can be" is not actually very dismissive. White people either love him, sometimes out of porportion (I'm guilty of this myself), or don't listen to his music.

Unless the art you're talking about his fashion stuff, which is a whole other ball of worms, isn't racial so much as class-based, and divorced from all that is totally reasonable on technical grounds. Kanye the musician and Kanye the designer are two completely different artists. He's not secretly also a fashion genius, although he works really hard at it and obviously cares about it and I kind of love him for that, but in that area dude thinks he's Da Vinci and he is not.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 1:28 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


If I happen to think that Kanye's auto-tuned vocals are horrible to listen to, it's because of the white supremacist patriarchy, not because I have a valid opinion based on the music itself.

Most of the criticisms are not along the lines of "His cadence and flow needs work, he's not in the leagues of a Kendrick or a Pusha T" or "the song structures evolve but rarely in a way that makes sense for the song" or "not tonally sophisticated enough" or even "tries for pathos but doesn't quite make it" or something that actually engages with the work that's presented. Instead the criticisms are things like "arrogant", "ego-driven", "talentless", "rude". What are we to make of that, if not focusing on extramusical stuff - some of which is undoubtedly race-related?
posted by naju at 1:30 PM on February 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


if you don't see that you can have your own not at all racially motivated criticisms while also acknowledging that a great majority of the criticism against kanye is racially based, then i don't know what to tell you. also, when so much of it is racially based, valid criticisms can still contribute to the problem.

for example, i used to hate olivia munn. i thought i had very good reasons for this that weren't at all based on sexism/racism. but, i realized how she was used by our misogynist culture as a stand in for all sorts of ills, she was a punching bag for people who wanted to say certain things about women (and asian women) in general. so i stopped critiquing her - and i came to realize that while i do have some valid criticisms of her, some of my criticisms really did unintentionally trade on sexist and racist tropes.
posted by nadawi at 1:32 PM on February 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


I mean, lots of ways. The way you phrase this makes it sound like the very idea is ridiculous, but it's not. I personally find this sort of discussion really interesting and "you're a racist if you X" much much less so, so I wouldn't even want to have that kind of conversation.

How could we possibly identify things that could stem from conscious or unconscious conversation if we don't talk about it? And then whenever we talk about it, we have to have the whole "I'm not a racist, don't call me a racist" "I'm not, I'm talking about a racist institutional/cultural structure" "that's the same thing as calling me a racist" back and forth.


I'm not suggesting we don't talk about it. The very first sentence of my first post in this thread was about how there's definitely a conversation to be had about the effects of institutional racism in the music industry. So yeah, we should definitely talk about that.

All I'm saying is that Kanye West isn't necessarily the best example of someone affected by that institutional racism. Aside from the fact that he's wildly successful and a critic's darling, there are plenty of perfectly good reasons to dislike his music and his behavior that have nothing to do with institutional racism or cultural structure. (Or not, as nadawi suggests.)
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 1:32 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think Kanye's a shit rapper. He's also a remarkably talented producer and aesthetic-developer.

I do feel like, on MeFi in particular but also in the broader music blogosphere, the Kanye fan bloc dismisses or attacks nearly any criticism of the guy or his output as racist (on an individualized level).
posted by still bill at 1:38 PM on February 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


the institutional part of institutional racism means that we can never really rise above it as long as it's the ruling game in town. kanye is wildly successful because he's worked really, really hard, is very talented, and is good at moving the toxic swirl of celebrity to his benefit. black people in this country have to do twice as good to get half as far, kanye's not exempt from that just because he's successful.
posted by nadawi at 1:40 PM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


And institutional misogyny means we stretch and stretch for explanations for why it's okay for a man to rip a microphone out of a woman's hand on a stage to shut her up so a man can talk instead about how she is undeserving and unworthy of recognition and why the critics of that man should quiet down. Ultimately, you just have to accept that Kanye isn't the perfect launching point for these arguments.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:45 PM on February 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ultimately, you just have to accept that Kanye isn't the perfect launching point for these arguments.

There is not a perfect one but he is great at giving us grist for the mill.
posted by josher71 at 1:47 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


And institutional misogyny means we stretch and stretch for explanations for why it's okay for a man to rip a microphone out of a woman's hand on a stage to shut her up so a man can talk instead about how she is undeserving and unworthy of recognition and why the critics of that man should quiet down. Ultimately, you just have to accept that Kanye isn't the perfect launching point for these arguments.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:45 on February 19 [+] [!]


That's not what institutional misogyny means at all.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:48 PM on February 18, 2015 [6 favorites]



And institutional misogyny means we stretch and stretch for explanations

No, that's not what it means.
posted by zutalors! at 1:48 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is not a perfect one

Yeah let me rephrase, he's a shit launching point for these arguments.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:49 PM on February 18, 2015


Really? Finding excuses for bad behavior by men who shut up and insult women isn't institutional misogyny? This site sometimes, Jebus, this site.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:50 PM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah let me rephrase, he's a shit launching point for these arguments.

Out of curiosity, who is a good launching point?
posted by josher71 at 1:50 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Any person who gets up on stage and "rips" the microphone away from a white filthy-rich woman who is the result of three generations of bank presidents is ok with me.

kanye +1
posted by hal_c_on at 1:51 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm really, really not into the attempts to shut down race conversations by invoking misogyny. I've seen it a bunch on this topic and it's always really unsettled me. No one's excusing misogyny, and bring it up by all means - but I'm seeing a tactic here, and it's not a good look.
posted by naju at 1:51 PM on February 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


yea it happens a lot in Kanye threads as well.
posted by zutalors! at 1:52 PM on February 18, 2015


...especially invoking white woman tears...

there's definitely a conversation to have about misogyny in music and entertainment, but shoehorning that into a conversation about racism is nagl.
posted by nadawi at 1:53 PM on February 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Out of curiosity, who is a good launching point?

Literally any other black artist who does not have a history of misogynistic behavior or perverting national charity events into platforms for his political rants. It's not even close to a high barrier to pass. I agree with everything the article says about the challenges black artists face, but no I'm not going to pretend that means we give Kanye a pass and use him as the poster boy for that message because it does nothing but undercut itself. Many of his problems are of his own making, not a result of how society at large views black artists as a collective.

invoking white woman tears...

Any person who gets up on stage and "rips" the microphone away from a white filthy-rich woman who is the result of three generations of bank presidents is ok with me.


There's definitely zero undercurrent of misogyny here. Sorry guys! Carry on! Lol he sure showed her! So cool!
posted by Drinky Die at 1:59 PM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


perverting national charity events into platforms for his political rants.

He was actually talking about institutional racism right there in that moment you're talking about. That makes him an excellent artist to talk about institutional racism, rather than whichever black artist you deem more appropriate.
posted by zutalors! at 2:04 PM on February 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


I hope this is a typo, otherwise, I don't know how someone who dislikes (all) music intensely would have something worthwhile to say about the topic.

As nadawi says, it's patently false that Eminem was never accepted. He had Dre vouching for him almost from day one, he had the goods lyrically and technically, and his authenticity was never in question. If you really think Eminem is somehow marginalized in the hip-hop community because he's white, you really haven't been paying attention.


No, I haven't been paying attention as much as most others, but I remember reading about Eminem and his troubles gaining ground in the hip-hop community in his early years, and hearing friends and co-workers (who were largely non-white) talk about him as not a 'real rapper', but a pale imitation (no pun intended).

The fact that I don't like music is irrelevant, since the topic isn't music per se, but the struggle to be recognized as an artist, scientist, programmer, whatever, when you're seen as patently inferior because of characteristics that are irrelevant.
posted by nerdler at 2:08 PM on February 18, 2015


white woman's tears is a common phrase to discuss how white women, and their hurt feelings either perceived or real, are put a pedestal and how rushing to their protection has been a tool used to some really grotesque means. i apologize if you weren't aware of the phrase before this.

moving on, do you have any complaints about kanye relating to something that happened this decade?
posted by nadawi at 2:20 PM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


but I remember reading about Eminem and his troubles gaining ground in the hip-hop community in his early years

the slim shady lp was released 16 years ago (almost to the day). he's gained a lot of cred in the intervening years.
posted by nadawi at 2:23 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


People who hate Kanye for being mean to Taylor Swift usually do so for racist reasons. It was still a dick move and would have been a dick move done by anyone of any race. Wasn't particularly misogynist in that specific instance, which is perhaps confusing given how much of the dismissal of Taylor Swift is totally misogynist, but it was still a dick move and it's fair enough not to like him because he's just kind of a dick.

That said, yeah, lots of people think they can get a total pass on misogyny if they prepend "white" to "woman". It's a thing, it happens, that it probably wasn't a factor in the specific case of Imma-Let-You-Finish doesn't mean it's not a thing.

Kanye is actually a very good example for talking about how society relates to black artists in general because, and specifically precisely unlike Beyonce, for a lot of people who listen to his music, he is either their only exposure to hip-hop or the way they came to wider exposure. There are, essentially, a lot of people who talk about Kanye as their stand-in for "black male artist" because he is the only black male artist they're aware of who is remotely culturally relevant these days, certainly the only one whose music they might have actually heard, if only because it's in commercials and played at sporting events and just sort of... out there... in a way that very few black artists aren't for that particular demographic.

The fact that I don't like music is irrelevant, since the topic isn't music per se, but the struggle to be recognized as an artist, scientist, programmer, whatever, when you're seen as patently inferior because of characteristics that are irrelevant.

This is a shitty, shitty analogy. Programming and science are not at all the same as art, especially as art with huge cultural and performative aspects like hip-hop. There are objective standards of quality for programming and even for science. You could conduct blind interviews for programming talent the way orchestras can (and should always be) having blind audititions. Battling and freestyling come close, but there's more to it than that. Art and engineering don't make for good comparisons, the aims are completely different.

That's leaving aside what exactly it means to be "recognized" as an artist anyway, which is not at all as straightforward as a programmer or engineer, where the buck pretty much stops at having equal opportunity, being fairly compensated, getting equal credit for your work, and having a non-toxic working environment. Recognition for artists is a lot more complex, Eminem's struggles to get black dudes to love him aren't the same as mine as a female programmer if I was, say, trying to get funding. And as it turns out, he did get black dudes to love him because he was good and talented, but that some of them continue make fun of him is really not the same thing as women or PoC being pushed out of STEM fields.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:23 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


People who hate Kanye for being mean to Taylor Swift usually do so for racist reasons. It was still a dick move and would have been a dick move done by anyone of any race. Wasn't particularly misogynist in that specific instance, which is perhaps confusing given how much of the dismissal of Taylor Swift is totally misogynist, but it was still a dick move and it's fair enough not to like him because he's just kind of a dick.

Is there a word missing from this paragraph? The first sentence does not jive with the rest of the paragraph. Personally, I agree that it was a dick move and a generally shitty thing to do to someone who has just won an award (irrespective of your opinion of whether or not the award was deserved). And I think it was a dick move to do to Beck as well, even if he caught himself before following through, and saved his comments for afterwards. It would still be a dick move if it were Taylor Swift doing it to Kanye rather than the other way around.

As I recall, there was a pretty good and productive discussion on this topic related to the whole Macklemore / Kendrick Lamar thing a couple years ago, which was not complicated by the personal behavior of either performer. Additionally, there was a fascinating article a number of years ago about how Jay-Z had become so successful that he was able to rise above all of the hip-hop infighting, and that his rising above made him more popular with white folks who didn't understand the infighting to begin with.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 2:35 PM on February 18, 2015


if you think kanye is a bad jumping off point for the conversation than you might not enjoy a thread that is based upon using kanye as the jumping off point...
posted by nadawi at 2:44 PM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is there a word missing from this paragraph? The first sentence does not jive with the rest of the paragraph.

Nope. IALYF probably wasn't misogynist, definitely was a dick move, it's cool to think Kanye's a dick because he pulls a lot of dick moves* and not like him if you're not fond of dicks in general, people who belabor it and constantly bring up Kanye's dickitude as an example of anything other than the simple fact that Kanye is a dick instead of just being like "yep, Kanye's a dick, I don't like him because I don't like dicks, time to put him in my mental killfile and ignore everything about him" do tend to be racists and are certainly acting in a racist way. Not seeing the contradiction there.

*"George Bush doesn't care about black people": not a dick move, although possibly related to some of his other dick moves, only in that unlike all the pop culture conspiracy who think literaly everything is scripted, I think dude probably does have some impulse control issues. I don't know, but it seems like he has been an enormous and socially transgressive weirdo long since before he was famous, basically forever. I don't think it's all an act.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:56 PM on February 18, 2015


Did Taylor Swift get any backlash when, a year after the VMAs, she performed her song about West (preceded by clips of the interruption and everything, so there could be no doubt) at the VMAs, offering advice like "who you are is not what you did"?

I can see why she'd be castigated for the song -- this review by MeFi's own suggests she took a great deal of flack for suggesting his slight to her was really that big a deal (but it was! His tour was cancelled, he was a laughingstock, he basically went out and made MBDTF to redeem himself).

The song isn't my favorite and maybe it's a bit trite but I thought Swift was trying in a way to do what West does all the time: speak what's in her heart even if it gets her in trouble. So I appreciated it for that effort.

I also think it's interesting now, looking back, to see how the sentiment in that Swift song of "who you are is not what you did" is so similar to the heart of West's very moving "Only One" song of "no you're not perfect but you're not your mistakes."

I believe West 100% when he says he's not afraid of looking a fool if it benefits society, and I appreciate very much his willingness to talk about the both overt and genteel racism that he faces in various industries in which he competes.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:58 PM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Because he could moonwalk and that is hard as fuck and no, toddlers aren't doing that shit.

He doesn't moonwalk in either of the videos that I mentioned people imitate.

No, that's just when the kind of pop culture illiterate MeFi nerd who likes to use these kind of debates to show how totally not racist they are became aware of her.

I'm not sure whether the more insulting elements of that sentence were directed at me, but I became aware of Taylor Swift around the time of her first album because my sister-in-law, in her mid-late teens at the time, had the CD and was raving about her. I picked up the case and was surprised to see that Swift had writing credits on all of the songs. I thought that was pretty cool, even if nothing on the album struck me as particularly good. But my SIL was definitely who Swift was writing and singing for, and she dug it the most.

Outside of SIL, I recall more than a few people in my social circle (including people who like country ) being more or less like "Who?" or "Yeah, she's not bad" when her name came up -- which is totally unlike the buzz that LeAnn Rimes, for example, had when she first appeared. That's not America's Sweetheart-like.

And that's why I still feel like we wouldn't be living in the Taylor Swift Era if everybody and their dog hadn't come out to protect her and cherish her in the wake of West's misdeed. I think it's far more likely that she would have had her moment in the sun, mentioned in the same breath as the other pop starlets who were on the radar at the time and have since faded to varying degrees, instead of becoming a Phenomenon.

Be honest, did you even know she was in Destiny's Child? "Will always have to"? Do you even engage with popular culture at all outside of SLSalon blue posts? Are you fucking high? This is total and utter garbage, and not reality. I'm not the biggest fan, but Beyonce deserves better than being a fetish item for lefty white people who like to use her to show how not racist they are by lionizing a struggle she largely didn't go through.

This is so off-target with regard to me and my background -- and surprisingly acidulous, not sure what I did to merit bringing out the knives -- that pretty much all I can do is... smile. :-)

(But to answer some of your questions: I became aware of Destiny's Child around the time of Bills, Bills, Bills and Say My Name, the latter of which I found striking because of the -- at the time unique -- rap-like singing style Beyonce used.)
posted by lord_wolf at 2:59 PM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Literally any other black artist who does not have a history of misogynistic behavior or perverting national charity events into platforms for his political rants. It's not even close to a high barrier to pass.

It's not your place to decide who is best to raise these issues, or what black person best represents their own experiences. It really, really isn't.
posted by maxsparber at 3:01 PM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's interesting that Swift's faux pas of a preachy, condescending, arguably self-aggrandizing song and performance (String of Lights) is largely forgotten about, while West's every (hilarious) tweet about trying to sleep on fur pillows will be remembered for eternity. It's not the same offense -- interrupting a white girl and talking down to a black man -- but the different reactions and staying power are interesting to me.
posted by onlyconnect at 3:05 PM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm going to move this conversation back to Taylor Swift a little because it's extremely relevant. Anyone thinking that Taylor Swift can't dance is mistaken. Yes, she's terrible at any award show ever and is known for awkward dancing. But if you watch e.g. her dancing to Jenny from the Block when she invited J-Lo onto the stage she isn't bad. I won't call her a great dancer there. But she's at least competent, and that's not one of her major styles. But for whatever reason she chooses to play to the narrative that she's awkward and can't dance.

Now it's possible she just enjoys dancing as if no one is watching, but with anything she lets herself be seen to do I suspect she considers it to be good PR. (I'm not casting aspersions on her character there - I think all the stuff with her sending christmas presents to fans is quite real and she likes the reactions. She might know it's great PR, but it's not something anyone else I can think of would even think of doing as a PR stunt. Having an incredibly sharp PR game doesn't prevent you being a nice person).

But why does she do it? And given she's smart, motivated, and ridiculously rich, why can't she sing well?

Simple answer: I don't think she wants to. And more to the point I don't actually think her fans would want her to. Taylor Swift is very much selling something her fans can identify with turned up to 11. So she's a better singer than most of her fans, but not enough better that they can't imagine being up there on that stage singing like her. Likewise her dancing. They can all dance as if no one is watching.

What I'm not sure is whether this indicates a lack of ambition amongst her fans or whether it simply indicates that most of them aren't singers or dancers. Or both.
posted by Francis at 4:48 PM on February 18, 2015


It is worth noting that the straw man of whiteness being "less" than blackness was shot down three times without ever having been brought up.

You're kidding, right? You can either participate like an adult, which means recognizing that you don't have to spell something out in exact words to have said it, or you can choose to rules-lawyer your comment. Learning a logical fallacy, and misapplying it, doesn't show as much sophistication as you seem to think.
posted by OmieWise at 5:06 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


No, because she's not that great dancer (which is fine, she's a singer! she doesn't have to be a dancer!), and the choreography is not at all impressive, but the video is intentionally designed to make it look very challenging and impressive. If she and her dancers did the same routine without the black and white, without the camerawork, without any of the tricks that made it look super impressive, no one would ever have been talking about how great a dancer she is because it is barely dancing.

Someone could write a great article on Beyonce lionizing. Because on the flip side of the people who think she sucks, are people who seem to, almost in defiant childish response, declare her the greatest ever and exaggerate how great everything she does is.

This is similar in practice to hard core beatles fans or something, but it definitely feels like some performative in group centered more on who she is than what she actually does.

It really feels like it's more about branding yourself as one of the cool ones then actually appreciating her work. There's a fairly large group of people out there to whom anything she does is the greatest ever, in a totally hyperbolic way, and anything said against her is just mindless hate by racists who must be the type of people who painted NOBAMA on their barns.

The whole challenging dance routine bit just struck me as more hyperbole by that group. It's definitely a weird cult of personality, especially among 20something progressive-types.
posted by emptythought at 5:09 PM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


It is also worth noting that lots of patronizing invective and insults are being thrown at me for not admitting to saying what I clearly did not say. There is no reality in which my saying "these predominantly white cultural avenues for the expression of traditional technical virtuosity aren't very engaging" implicitly means anything about black cultural avenues.

Black culture is not the opposite of white culture, and the relentless insistence that I must have meant that says way more about my critics and their weirdly reductionist viewpoint than about me.

Furthermore, I was pointing out what I felt were contributing cultural factors to the emergence of what the linked article calls "White Mediocrity" - which I read as the low-fi aesthetic of indie rock - and not making a sweeping judgement about all of the music white people have ever made. It was germane to the conversation.

Clarifying my position is not rules-lawyering, OmieWise.
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:34 PM on February 18, 2015


Kanye and Taylor are BFFs now and just had dinner together. Somewhere fancy. And they're going to collaborate. I hope they had pasta and cake and wine.

I'm so hungry.
posted by discopolo at 5:48 PM on February 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


What? Taylor Swift wrote that awful song:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2010/09/13/129825153/taylor-swift-is-sure-kanye-west-can-get-to-heaven-despite-interrupting-her?ps=cprs

about the "interruption" incident, in order to publicly absolve Kanye?

I've long thought that Swift was seems hella charming and middling talented and very savvy, but for this, she really should've gotten much more grief. Did she, and I missed it? Because that took a lot of gol-dang gall.

More relevantly, yes! Racism is a real thing, it's like smog, and you've been breathing it your whole life. Anyone's dislike of Kanye might in some very unlikely way be unrelated to and uninfluenced by racist tropes, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it, ma.
posted by allthinky at 6:44 PM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've long thought that Swift was seems hella charming and middling talented and very savvy, but for this, she really should've gotten much more grief. Did she, and I missed it? Because that took a lot of gol-dang gall.

I think she's grown up a lot since then - that was still in her girly girl aw shucks period - which, as said above, really resonated with her demographic, so good for her but while I appreciated what she was doing for the most part (except that awful song), writing her own stuff, doing things her way, I didn't really start to like her until this year with 1989 and her full on pretty genuine seeming charm assault.
posted by zutalors! at 8:04 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


that was still in her girly girl aw shucks period

This "period" of Taylor Swift's life is her early adulthood...18-early 20s is about the same age that young black men are given huge prison sentences for whatever stupid shit they did.

This pretty much sums up why I dislike her. I'm sure she would be a fun friend to have and whatever. But the standard that America uses for people like her is dramatically different than the standard used for someone who isn't a nubile white girl.

I hate that, and I hate how T-swift loves taking advantage of that crap. Fuck you, t-swift. You are part of the problem.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:12 AM on February 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's incredibly harsh and, I think, very undeserved. My guess is she won't worry so much about someone being mean to her on the internet but still.
posted by Justinian at 1:18 AM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


One might go so far as to say she will... shake it off.

(puts on sunglasses)

YEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!
posted by Justinian at 1:37 AM on February 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


This discussion about how Taylor Swift is a better dancer than she is given credit for while Beyoncé is not a very good dancer at all is a master class in how white people are forgiven for mediocrity while black people have to be perfect to be credited for their work.
posted by maxsparber at 3:47 AM on February 19, 2015 [13 favorites]


Fuck you, t-swift. You are part of the problem.

smdh
posted by josher71 at 4:50 AM on February 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


You, with your switching sides
And your wildfire lies and your humiliation
You have pointed out my flaws again
As if I don't already see them
I walk with my head down
Trying to block you out 'cause I'll never impress you
I just wanna feel okay again

Someday I'll be living in a big ol' city
And all you're ever gonna be is mean
Someday I'll be big enough so you can't hit me
And all you're ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?
posted by onlyconnect at 5:32 AM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


This discussion about how Taylor Swift is a better dancer than she is given credit for while Beyoncé is not a very good dancer at all is a master class in how white people are forgiven for mediocrity while black people have to be perfect to be credited for their work.

And apparently since Michael Jackson is a highly-imitated dancer, that means he's not really that great of a dancer.
posted by girlmightlive at 5:46 AM on February 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


And apparently since Michael Jackson is a highly-imitated dancer, that means he's not really that great of a dancer.

I don't think that was the point, though I didn't post that comment. In context it seemed like the point was that Michael Jackson was an amazing dancer yet people could imitate a lot of his dances, so just because people can imitate Single Ladies doesn't mean it's not a good dance or Beyonce can't dance.
posted by zutalors! at 7:46 AM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


That does seem like a fair reading of the comment, and also an excellent point.
posted by maxsparber at 8:13 AM on February 19, 2015


Yeah, I mean also I guess read the rest of the comment and generally lord_wolf's participation here and it seems pretty evident. I don't know why people would take that comment as supporting the double standard, but I guess that's what happens when people cherry pick out of context.
posted by zutalors! at 9:53 AM on February 19, 2015


Yeah sure Kanye seems like a creative weirdo and tries to push the envelope in his own self conscious way but he's trapped in a boring and limited musical genre. So ultimately, I don't care about him.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:13 AM on February 19, 2015


Please Liquidwolf, say which genres would better merit your attention.
posted by codacorolla at 11:19 AM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


he's trapped in a boring and limited musical genre.

This is maybe the weirdest thing anyone has said in this thread yet. I can only guess that you classify him as something really specific like "rich-guy fashion rap" and I'd point out that's only even been like a third of his career to date. I don't even think he's that amazing as a rapper but geez.
posted by atoxyl at 11:28 AM on February 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


How many people have released an album as diverse as MBDTF - by no means was Ye the only one responsible mind you - on a major label in the last decade?
posted by atoxyl at 11:33 AM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


How many people have released an album as diverse as MBDTF...on a major label in the last decade?

Weird Al's Mandatory Fun "include[s] parodies of songs by Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, Iggy Azalea, Lorde and Imagine Dragons. It also features original songs in the form of pastiche, imitating the styles of the Pixies, Cat Stevens, Foo Fighters, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Southern Culture on the Skids." He also has better hair than Kanye.
posted by The Tensor at 12:07 PM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Weird Al is fun, but if you're suggesting he's a more ambitious and adventurous artist than Kanye, I can only laugh and assume you're trolling...
posted by naju at 12:10 PM on February 19, 2015 [4 favorites]




This "period" of Taylor Swift's life is her early adulthood...18-early 20s is about the same age that young black men are given huge prison sentences for whatever stupid shit they did.


That's a ridiculous comparison, unless you're saying that young black men deserve the huge prison sentences.

Compare her to Chris Brown and Brown's been treated better for beating the crap out of Rihanna than Taylor Swift has for mentioning that she was slightly upset and embarrassed that Kanye took her mic and embarrassed her for saying she didn't deserve her award. And he embarrassed Beyoncé too.

I'm always pretty suspicious of the rage men spew over Taylor Swift vs. Kanye. I can't help but suspect that these are signs that men like to take the opportunity to bash a young woman a little too heartily for reasons other than those they are willing to express.

Actually, tbh, I get suspicious of the women and men who criticize Swift for "pretending" to be charming, then piling on her and accusing her of not being genuinely nice, that she's probably cold, shrewd and manipulative. It honestly sounds like a very Red Pill perspective on women (I just found out what RP was and man, that's a messed up crowd) and female motivations.
posted by discopolo at 12:10 PM on February 19, 2015


Weird Al is fun, but if you're suggesting he's a more ambitious and adventurous artist than Kanye, I can only laugh and assume you're trolling...

You're probably right on the issue of ambition, at least, since Weird Al doesn't seem to think he's Jesus.
posted by The Tensor at 12:27 PM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Awesome zinger! (And we're right back to criticizing Kanye for his ambition, in a way I can only assume carries some racial weirdness. Love this thread.)
posted by naju at 12:49 PM on February 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, you "can only assume" that, can you? How limited you must feel.
posted by The Tensor at 12:59 PM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Feel free to explain with a paragraph or two, at any point. I'm into explanations and carefully articulated thoughts!
posted by naju at 1:06 PM on February 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


i like taylor swift - but for a long time i did feel like she played up a weird, young, virginal girl thing. it really grated on me how someone who was 22ish was still writing as if she were a 15 year old scribbling in her diary. it did feel false and manufactured, maybe even more so because she was sold as being really honest and real. i think she's done a really good job in the last year or so at finding her place and being able to be a little more grown up and authentic seeming. i do think it's gross the way that people came rushing to her defense, like the greatest insult had been done to her. i didn't extend that critique to her until that bs song and performance with the retro hair, white dress, and barefeet. it was a good business move, i guess. so congrats to her. if you feel like this makes me some sort of red pill woman, that's your right, but i don't think it's sexist to point out that things get weird real quick when a black man is seen to be offending a young white woman.
posted by nadawi at 1:21 PM on February 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


I could be wrong, but I don't see a lot of people ever attributing being charitable or kind to fans as some kind of business strategy to male musicians or entertainers. Most people are like,"Oh, he must be a genuinely nice guy."

Meanwhile, anything that smacks of generosity or genuine care, from Angelina Jolie's work on behalf of refugees to Taylor Swift engaging with fans on social media and sending gifts is seen as some shrewd and calculating PR move from a women attempting to emotionally manipulate others. And I take issue with that.

And the pretending to be virginal business--- I mean, what's the expectation here? How dare she pretend she's not into orgies or hasn't given blow jobs? I don't get it. What's your expectation of what she should have done differently to fit your (and it's not just you, a lot of commenters on gossip sites complain about this and I don't get it at all) sense of what is or isn't authentic?

(I just read that her management company had to buy up a lot of domain names like "I Taught Taylor Swift How To Give Head.com" and variations thereof, and that's not anything Kanye or One Direction or Adam Levine probably ever had to spend time and energy on or worrying about.)
posted by discopolo at 1:55 PM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


i didn't say anything about her social media stuff - that's actually included in the stuff she's done in the last year that i enjoy. the conversation about drake earlier in this thread proves that men have their own authenticity issues to surmount, but i agree that those aren't often based on niceness and that does seem to be related to how women are expected to perform a specific brand of femininity.

i don't think she has to go around pretending to love blowjobs - but i do think there was an abstinence culture sort of pure white womanhood thing that she used to push and it made me uncomfortable. i was just trying to explain why she didn't connect with me prior to the 1989 era - her and her music had an uncanny valley feel to it. but, i'm also an old school country fan who doesn't like much new country past the dixie chicks, so it makes sense i wasn't really a fan until she shirked off the new country stuff. fwiw, i was pretty equally troubled by the jonas brothers purity rings.

as for the "innocent" performance - yeah, i think it's just straight up gross to chastise a grown black man while dancing around a set made to look like pre-civil rights era nostalgia styled the way she was. i don't think she likely knew the messaging that could be read from that, but i think the people who helped with that idea surely could have. it seemed very dog whistle-y to me because of the subject matter.

and the domain buy up actually happened because a weird dude who gave her a few guitar lessons bought "i taught taylor swift guitar" and so in the legal wranglings around that they went and bought up all sorts of urls. i actually think it's pretty typical for famous people and i'd bet that the male acts you mention have all bought up domains related to gay rumors and the like.

i do think there's sexist shit that happens with all women in entertainment. i think taylor swift gets a lot of heat that she doesn't deserve. i think through the lens of intersectionality we can discuss why the defense of her is so loud any time the conversation is about kanye and race.
posted by nadawi at 2:11 PM on February 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


she played up a weird, young, virginal girl thing

Performers have personas, reflective of their audience and their expectations. Springsteen hasn't been a working class joe from Jersey for decades, but he still plays one on stage. Swift wasn't much past being a teenager herself. I wouldn't think more of it than her reflecting and reflecting on that for a few years.
posted by bonehead at 2:41 PM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


ok. it's still the reason i wasn't really drawn to her at the time and why i like her more now. i also think the way that mainstream culture latches on to those abstinence models is actively dangerous in a whole bunch of ways but that's really a whole other conversation.
posted by nadawi at 2:52 PM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


i don't think she has to go around pretending to love blowjobs - but i do think there was an abstinence culture sort of pure white womanhood thing that she used to push and it made me uncomfortable

Yeah, I guess if that's white abstinence culture, it seems a lot more lenient than the abstinence culture pushed on me as a South Asian woman growing up in the US (I mean, a boy is allowed to call her house? The grief I'd have gotten. She's wearing a tank top and showing her arms? Oh no! All the aunties will think she's a huge whore!) so it doesn't occur to me that singing about love and relationships is anyway representative of appearing overly sexually modest or romantically inexperienced.

Tthere's a lot of deeming white women easy/immodest in the very strict non-white culture I was raised in, because of all the starting dating at a young age and having lots of boyfriends/relationships. And I loathe and resent my culture'so attempt to control women's sexuality and bodies and clothing through threats to reputation. And I don't think anyone's sexual activities are anybody else's business.

So I think I pretty much only think of abstinence/virginity business being associated with white non-mainstream creepy Christians like the Duggars. Not white girls raised by stockbrokers.
posted by discopolo at 2:55 PM on February 19, 2015


How many personas have Madonna or Bowie gone through? Some artists become a persona. Others play with them. Both can be great and both can suck. Swift seems more like a player than not, but idk.
posted by bonehead at 3:05 PM on February 19, 2015


the persona she had previous to red was very very similar to the white southern baptists that i grew up around in the southern united states. it makes sense because her country fans were a big part of her audience and country is infamously very conservative. it wasn't just the themes of her songs but also the repeated theme in her videos of blond good girl vs brunette bad girl.

and yeah - lots of artists play with personas and personas aren't necessarily or even often a true representation of the artist. i just didn't connect with and had concerns about the persona that taylor swift started with. she's pretty great recently though, i think.
posted by nadawi at 3:11 PM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


the persona she had previous to red was very very similar to the white southern baptists that i grew up around in the southern united states. it makes sense because her country fans were a big part of her audience and country is infamously very conservative. it wasn't just the themes of her songs but also the repeated theme in her videos of blond good girl vs brunette bad girl.

In Archie comics, the Betty is the good girl, Veronica is the bad girl. But I see it: Debbie Reynolds vs. Elizabeth Taylor. Lila Fowler is somehow always worse than Jessica Wakefield. I get that.

This all makes more sense now. I used to be like, "What are these women talking about? How do you pretend to be a virgin when clearly she's having her heart broken by boyfriends." I get it now.

Though she did have that song "Fifteen" and I guess I didn't think too much of it because the virginity=whole giving everything away is so similar to the South Asian cultural nonsense I grew up with that it just seemed like something a 15/16 year old would think. I'm guilty of thinking that at 20 and over, and managed to stay in an unhappy relationship for too, too long. It happens. Women get brainwashed/socialized into a lot of ideas that they eventually discard. I think that's ok. Many of Swift's friends, such as Selena Gomez, say she's only ever loving and supportive, that she never judges them for dating Justin Bieber.

So yeah, I disagree with that abstinence stuff too. I don't like it one bit. But, she's changing like the rest of us. It's unfair to judge her based on her earlier stuff. I've changed a lot since I was 20, in fact, I've changed a lot since last year even due to many experiences. I suspect most ppl do, even Kanye, who has a wife he loves very much (even though people call her terrible names) and a lovely daughter.

Clearly Kanye's changing too. He wants to collaborate with her, respects her enough to want to do so.
posted by discopolo at 4:02 PM on February 19, 2015


(I never listened to "Innocent" and I'm scared to now. Glad it was years ago.)
posted by discopolo at 4:21 PM on February 19, 2015


i agree totally about the changing - i disliked things about her before and i like things about her now. i just think when discussing the vmas issue it's useful to remember the persona she was presenting at the time. i don't think current taylor swift would do something like "innocent" again - it would likely be far closer to "blank space".
posted by nadawi at 4:30 PM on February 19, 2015


Yeah, I guess if that's white abstinence culture, it seems a lot more lenient than the abstinence culture pushed on me as a South Asian woman growing up in the US (I mean, a boy is allowed to call her house? The grief I'd have gotten. She's wearing a tank top and showing her arms? Oh no! All the aunties will think she's a huge whore!

Can you speak for yourself on this, not every South Asian (American?)woman had this experience. I certainly did not.
posted by zutalors! at 4:41 PM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the comparison about the different ways Kanye, Beyoncé, and Taylor are treated is a valuable lens into the intersectionality of race and gender. Kanye gets the gravitas of being male while struggling with the stereotypes of being a thug/violent/animalistic - at this point he seems to be interrogating the masculinity he played out as a young man, re-examining the world, but he's often not given a space to feel out power-to-accomplish versus power-over because he is so often interpreted as uniquely threatening due to his gender and race.

Beyoncé has to deal with the peculiar mix of prejudices based on both race and gender - to an extent how she is treated by white media always cannonballs between Jezebel and Sapphire - is she angry, is she sexy, is she undermining women, is she undermining Black people - and a lot of her current oeuvre is her reactions to that on a deeply personal level that I think a lot of black women can relate to in a way I, as a white woman, can't. I can relate to other aspects of her songs, though, like the unrealistic expectations and the drive for invisible perfection.

Taylor, like Kanye, deals with prejudice at essentially a single axis (age is another interesting axis to analyze with these three, as they are each in slightly different developmental stages) and deals with the peculiar prejudices about White women, an assumption of vulnerability and value that includes a negation of her as the active agent in her life. Both she and Beyoncé have to deal with a negation of their agency, and their worth being diluted down to their bodies.

In the context of Kanye and Beyoncé, Taylor also plays into a lot of the longstanding prejudices against Black men in the context of White women - I think it does a disservice to the entire situation to ignore that one of the major narratives of lynching was a Black man who "dishonoured" a White woman, and that one of the damaging prejudices against Black women is that they suffer in comparison to White women (this also plays into colorism within the Black community). While these three people exist independent of these stories, I feel like a lot of the movement of disparagement between the three hinges on the idea that all three cannot simultaneously be good and valuable and have agency because the historical narrative doesn't allow for that.

One of the really interesting things I see in how each are responding to how they are talked about by people who don't know them is that all three seem to be really interested in both exploring and subverting what is said about them. I wish them luck; we need better stories.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:00 PM on February 19, 2015 [13 favorites]



Can you speak for yourself on this, not every South Asian (American?)woman had this experience. I certainly did not.


Absolutely. Sorry. I forget that some didn't have really strict parents and I'm jealous. You can imagine my jealousy. If your parents are looking to adopt a single woman in her mid thirties, MeMail me.
posted by discopolo at 6:03 PM on February 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I read at the time of the Innocent/Runaway VMAs that West wrote a song for Swift to perform, if she wanted it, but she did her own thing instead.

I would LOVE to know ALL of the backstage stuff connected to that, and also hear that song. So many questions!
posted by onlyconnect at 7:33 PM on February 19, 2015


Sorry but - by all means say people have racist opinions about Kanye West, by all means say they think he's "uppity," but "thug" or "violence" narratives specifically have so little to do with his persona that I think they are tangential to the bulk of what goes on. I mean, maybe my perspective is distorted by the fact that most people I know have at least a vague idea who Kanye West is - "young and restless" har har - but I think that's a little off base about how he's percieved.
posted by atoxyl at 2:36 AM on February 20, 2015


(I usually really like Kanye but goddamn he's showing his ass with the Amber Rose stuff.)
posted by kmz at 9:01 AM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


While these three people exist independent of these stories, I feel like a lot of the movement of disparagement between the three hinges on the idea that all three cannot simultaneously be good and valuable and have agency because the historical narrative doesn't allow for that.

Excellent comment.
posted by josher71 at 9:03 AM on February 20, 2015


(i am backing away slowly from his persona for a bit i think. i still fuck with the music - but, oh man am i not on board with whatever mess he was talking this morning)
posted by nadawi at 9:04 AM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


He's on some indefensible shit today, for sure. What the hell.
posted by naju at 9:28 AM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


In Taylor Swift news today, her Scottish fold kitten, Olivia Benson, jumped into the bathtub and Taylor had to use a hairdryer to dry her. Warning: pretty cute kitten!
posted by discopolo at 6:57 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ew. It's just flat out slut shaming, right?

So Amber Rose and Kim Kardashian's sister were having an argument on twitter and Kanye got involved saying in a radio interview: "She's [Amber Rose is] just soaking in the moment," West said of Rose. "If Kim had dated me when I wanted, there would be no Amber Rose." Ugh. And then: "It's very hard for a woman to want to be with someone that's with Amber Rose," he said. "I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim." So that was gross.

Amber Rose responds.
posted by onlyconnect at 7:53 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


This, from that same interview, was also pretty hard to swallow. (I guess I never earned a swallership.)

With our position of power, we're not going to accept the physique that was told to us was the proper way to look. My daughter has a chance of being shaped like my wife, so between this age and the age where she's like that, I'm going to be fighting for that shape to be considered the highest of class. Or not the highest, but at least equal to what someone considers a skinny model.

I had sort of hoped that having a daughter would open up West's eyes to the problems women face and the problems with how he talks about women in his music, but mostly what he's thinking about is will standards have changed for his daughter's physical beauty to be prized sufficiently. Yuck! He is just so clueless.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:53 AM on February 21, 2015


the amber rose stuff actually starts before the khloe argument. amber rose went on the breakfast club - talked about a lot of things, including calling out 26 yr old tyga for dating 17 yr old kylie jenner (and seemingly probably dating her at 16, and maybe 14). she also had some things to say about how she feels that kim k. is fake/corny and tries to pretend she's not doing the same instagram antics as amber rose.

then khloe called amber rose out for being a stripper at 15 (which she did to support her family) and amber rose pointed out that her and kim were in a very similar boat as far as pasts were concerned. then tyga went on the breakfast club and said he wasn't dating kylie but that she has a really great spirit, and age of consent in new york is 17 (they all live in california). which...well. that's what all the adult men say who are fucking with teens.

that brings us to the kanye interview, where he says gross stuff about amber, weird stuff about his wife and daughter, talks about the problem with race is that we keep talking about it, and saying that tyga is smart "to get in there early" and that kylie and tyga are in love (a thing that was then edited out of the interview before it was posted online).

so, yeah, he was basically super duper disappointing on a whole bunch of fronts and i hope he finds his way again soon.
posted by nadawi at 9:25 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


oh and amber rose has bee absolutely killing it in all of her responses and general social media life. she'd lay a royal smack down on twitter and then go twerk in a hot tub, another smack down, and then post some videos from carnival. if she gets her preorder for her book up soon she'll likely be rolling in cash from it.
posted by nadawi at 9:27 AM on February 21, 2015


I suspect that Amber Rose is right that the Kardashian machine will not be good to him if the couple ever part ways (and I am sad to say it but a high profile relationship like that doesn't iften last -- there was some study about high divorce rates when you're in the tabloids a lot). Good luck to them in beating the odds.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:25 PM on February 23, 2015


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