Friday, September 27, 2013

Yeezus v.s Kimmel : What it Really means


The next clip Kimmel plays shows West claiming that he brought the idea for leather jogging pants to Fendi. The punch line is supposed to come when Kanye says, “How many motherfukkers you done seen with a leather jogging pant?” Kimmel responds, “I don’t know, none? Is that really a thing?” The short answer to that question is yes, theyare. In fact, in hip-hop and R&B, they’re a pretty big thing, worn by names like Rihanna,BeyoncĂ©, and yes, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. If Kanye really did come up with that idea and no one listened, it’s understandable that he would be upset about it.

The next part is important. Kimmel adds, “That seems impractical to me, but I don’t know fashion. And to be honest I don’t follow a lot of what Kanye West has to say.” This is the point at which Kimmel, instead of assuming everything West has to say is laughable on its face, should at least have tried. After all, I didn’t know what Kanye meant by “leather jogging pants” either, but I did know that Kanye is an extremely intelligent person. All I had to do was Google it.

But instead of trying to understand, Kimmel does the opposite: He revels in his lack of comprehension, and puts Kanye’s words in the mouth of a child, in order to infantilize him. The point of the joke is clear: I don’t understand these remarks, so clearly they are the nonsense talk of a small child.

I’m not going to defend everything Kanye West has ever said. I’m not even going to defend everything Kanye West said in his angry response. But the real problem here isn’t Kanye, it’s Kimmel. If you don’t know the fashion world, then you shouldn’t try to tell Kanye West, who’s rubbed elbows with many of the biggest fashion designers in the world, about fashion. More importantly, if you’re a 45-year-old white dude who apparently doesn’t understand a thing about pop music, you shouldn’t try to tell one of the biggest hip-hop artists in the world about hip-hop.
Let's talk about what Kanye actually said in his interview with Zane Lowe. He said that he feels he's not respected as a designer by white executives in the fashion world. He contrasted his shut-out from corporate branding and designing deals to those worlds' embrace of Lady Gaga. He noted that he's the biggest rock star on the planet.

Where did he lie? Which one of those statements is not only true, but obvious to anyone who doesn't force themselves to believe in the myth of a post-racial America? Are we really mad because Kanye thinks black creatives have a harder time being taken seriously than white creatives, or are we mad because Kanye is confident enough to say it out loud?

Kimmel's spoof was insulting because, as Ayesha Siddiqi noted last night, the sketch "didn't even change his words, they literally replaced him with a child. That's how White America sees Kanye and that's his battle."

"Kimmel did everything Kanye kept explaining always happens to him, not being taken seriously as a black creative," Siddiqi continued. (Her whole set of tweetsfrom last night should probably be required reading.)

West's anger must be considered in its full context: The rapper has been a lightning rod because he has repeatedly spoken his mind on his own timetable. What has West done to turn so many people against him? He gave voice to a common sentiment about George Bush, interrupted Taylor Swift and occasionally lashes out at paparazzi whose job it is to ruin his life and have fun doing it.

We live in a world where countless celebrities have engaged in horrific acts of domestic violence and continue to work, and yet America is upset about a visionary creative who doesn't always say the politically correct thing.


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