First of all, I want to acknowledge Kanye West’s genius. Even if you refuse to give him his props, he’s an integral part of today’s hip-hop community, on several levels. Even beyond the music, he’s an outspoken artist that doesn’t give a damn what people think about him or his shenanigans. That, in essence, is the core of what hip-hop is supposed to represent.
From his strange choice in clothing and his fixation with macabre imagery, to his public cries of injustice and his seemingly relentless need for attention, Yeezy is never one to bore the Hip-Hop population. Even on his romantic ventures he strays outside of the proverbial box, further personifying what it means to be a rap celebrity. Face it; Kanye West is always on the minds and in the mouths of contemporaries, fans, critics, and “haters” alike. Why? Because he’s the quintessential pop star.
Ever the consummate trendsetter, Kanye’s latest grab at mankind’s objective attention span was the release of two new songs, entitled “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves,” respectively. And while the songs themselves are nothing spectacular or particularly mind-blowing, the insinuation of “New Slaves” presents quite a conundrum. The song, which premiered on the sides of sixty-six buildings country-wide, is based around the theory that people are essentially slaves to mercilessly material world, subsequently giving in to our desires of acceptance.
This is the same dude who dismantled a Maybach on camera and laughed in our faces afterward. This is the same cat that professed in his interviews that his house is literally all white on the inside and that he doesn’t allow rap music to be played in it.
Brandy’s little br Ray J made a song reminding the world that Kim Kardashian literally rode him to superstar status, and he responded with a dollar amount. (Truthfully, Kanye should’ve taken that opportunity to show the world that he’s not a punk and challenged Ray J to a fight. Even if he lost, he would’ve earned some much-needed urban respect. Sure, some cats had sex with my wife first, but none of them made it a harmonic public spectacle. That’s grounds for an ass kicking where I’m from.) Kanye seems to have forgotten that he was once the skinny rap dude who recorded a song with his jaw wired. Now he’s rocking kilts, leather sweat pants, and shirts that expose his belly button. That’s a far cry from the MC who slapped paparazzi in the face on film and called George Bush racist.
Kanye has become a cutting edge visual arts musician, who tiptoes the border between rap and electro-goth rock ever so gently. And it’s difficult to put a finger on who he is because he doesn’t like to do interviews anymore. But when he does crap like yell and scream belligerently at the end of a semi-political song, like he does on “New Slaves,” it confuses the public even more about what his message truly is. Is he “for the people” or is he using the people for self-promotion? Nonetheless, if we are indeed “new slaves,” vehemently chained to our leather and woodgrained lifestyles, Mr. West had a hand in making it happen. At least, culturally speaking.
To an extent, I understand that there is an undertoned message to the song. Kanye, per usual, is attempting to hold a mirror up to Urban America’s desolate dystopian demographic, the same way he’s done on songs like “Murder To Excellence” & “All Falls Down.” By pointing out the obvious identity crisis’ and emotional breakdowns that plagues many minority communities, he attempts to uplift us from its fiery smolders like a Phoenix. But, by the time the listener deconstructs the interlocking analogy of “New Slaves,” Kanye suddenly – and somewhat expectedly – breaks left, into a rant about himself, in his true-to-form egotistical fashion. And this isn’t the first time Kanye’s shot himself in the imaginary foot because of his seemingly incessant need to glorify his name.
I believe Kanye West to be the type of radical-thinking, outwardly mobile spokesperson that
Black people humanity needs to further the causes of our downtrodden brotherhoods and secretive societies. But as long as he’s patting himself on the back for a job well done before the job is complete, the point of his purposeful pontification will always be moot. If we are slaves, then we need to be freed, not coerced and manipulated into more false idol worship, Mr. West, word to Harriet Tubman.
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