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Kanye West, Illuminated

Kanye West, Illuminated

This past weekend, Kanye West went off on Twitter, reigniting the conversation about the events of last year’s MTV Video Music Awards and the aftermath that saw a music nation divided over whether the hip-hop superstar had merit in interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech. Some of the conversation was very simple: either Kanye was a “jackass” for not letting Taylor finish or he was correct in his opinion that Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” was better than any offering that night. For anyone who’s watched MTV awards shows, these antics come with the insanity and these discussions die down in a couple of days.

However, something interesting happened with Kanye: the discussions didn’t. A huge part of that is the 24-hour machine I’ve dubbed the media monster. Rather than letting a topic rest, they constantly discussed it, pushed everyone’s opinions about it (even President Obama), and constantly asked for feedback from people. None of the opinions were new, but they’d re-word the question anyways just to keep the buzz high. They write articles in which their apparent bias leans others to believe Kanye West is some canker sore on American society when they never made the same judgments about the other MTV “interrupters” previous to Kanye. This and the conglomerates that serve as umbrellas to the news orgs, music companies, and TV shows, purposefully let Kanye become this controversial figure because, no matter how we spin it, everyone but him will profit so long as the spin cycle is on.

Also worth acknowledging is the racial undertones of a Black man interrupting a White young lady with his “animalistic” behavior, a point Kanye West astutely emphasized as evidence of King Kong theory. He goes into seclusion for a few months, making random, sparse appearances in records and YouTube videos. Then he returns with a good leaked single “Power” and another collabo in “Monster” and his fans fight for him. It’s beautiful when that happens, but in the midst of conversation, a few people (Ed. Note – this is the earliest instance in my timeline) brought up the idea that, if Kanye wants to change the power structures that trapped him to begin with, he should start by following more than Justin Beiber and Taylor Swift on Twitter. Instead, he should follow people and movements and connect with “us” more.

I respect that opinion and the people who agree with the opinion, but why should he? How does Kanye West following @thejlv or anyone else make him more or less informed than if he didn’t? I’d appreciate it, but I don’t believe that’s how “power” works. If Kanye said, “Don’t shop at this spot because it’s cutting off local business,” how many people would follow him? The act of “following” on Twitter is more ego filler than movement builder. When Kanye followed the random non-famous person on Twitter at first, did people ask him to be a counsel to Kanye? No, they asked him “Can you tell @kanyewest to get on this record for me?” or “Will you get an interview for us?” or “Can you recommend my tweets to him?”

People intentionally put on a guise of the proletariat ideas when they’re more interested in being the key person or product in that idea. They’ll say, “Yeah, I agree … and you can rhyme over this track we have right here that talks about that” and “People really gotta listen to you … and if you wrote about it in this blog, you’d tap into people who’ll ride for you.” Not saying that that’s what everyone was doing when they read Kanye’s Saturday soliloquy, but I saw a fair amount of the pandering with my own eyes. Kanye owes you nothing until you pay that 10-13$ for your CD and the close to 100$ for your concert ticket. That’s what a business is, and the best way to say you agree with the direction of a musician is buy supporting the product that contains the message you’d like to hear.

We as fans of the music should focus on who and how we support artists and their music, and whether they reciprocate the love back to their fans. We should investigate why some people can pose as musicians and, with a little A&R and a beat from the latest producer, can garner so much attention and money for their obvious lack of effort. We should understand why someone in that position would try to swindle fans since musicians on record labels are work-for-hire agents, disabling many rights we as average Americans have in our workplaces. We should support artists that give free mixtapes before and after they’ve become successful, and give free or inexpensive shows for their most ardent fans.

Besides, the point for Kanye West was ostensibly more personal and cathartic. Twitter has no point besides whatever the user decides to use it for. If we use it for collective action, it won’t matter how big one voice is so long as the collective voice is largest. If Kanye joins in, he’s more than welcome. If he doesn’t, then we continue.

Why should one man have all that power?

Jose, who doesn’t care whether Kanye’s Illuminati or not so long as he makes good music …


Short Notes: Build Your Own Independence v.2010

by Jose Vilson on February 21, 2010

in Short Notes

Malcolm X, "Our Freedom Can't Wait!"

A suggestion on building your own independence in the new decade, but first, a few notes:

Today, many of my compatriots celebrated the 45th anniversary of the assassination of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, or commonly known as Malcolm X. His legacy and works still penetrate and influence so many of us who strive for true equality in this country. While so many remember what many consider his angry and rebellious side, people also need to remember the peace he advocated for, and the man he eventually came to represent later on in his life.

One of his central points of his legacy was his advocacy for independent ownership. Much of his body of work existed precisely because his constituency supported him outright and financially, and that’s an important part of his legacy. When the people who you wish to address support your most revolutionary work or when the monies you’ve earned support your own product, that’s following the compass in the direction of freedom.

In 2010, succumbing to ease of use and style for a small fee of one’s own person has become easier than ever. Free services have a great way of bringing the most random people together, especially ones with a common interest. However, these corporations have a bottom line, and the minute you mess with that bottom line, like asking for a little privacy with your activities or making sure your material belongs exclusively to you, they take a little back. They change your privacy settings. They block your site for “questionable material.” They change the terms of service on you.

So what does someone who wants liberation do? Get their own .com.

That sounds simplistic enough, but let me expound. Not only do you get your own .com / .net / .wtf, you pay for your own hosting, and you get some open-source software, and voila! You’ve established some sense of independence on the web! Now, the next logical step is for those of us on sites like Ning to get our monies together, buy a bunch of great servers, and start our own hosting, but the hosting world, unlike Blogspot / Facebook / etc. are much more beholden to their customers since we’re paying and our ratios are far more favorable.

Whatever your background, we who have Internet access have to consider our roles in assuring that access and equity still exist and that we’re represented in as many arenas as possible. Once we can say we own, we’re truly understood what independence means.

And none of this is free of cost. But freedom is not either.

Jose, who wonders where people get off dissing Black History Month …

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In A Complete Act of Randomosity ...

Let me lay it out really quickly. I get asked to join a lot of projects, organizations, and groups of people.  My former self used to join everything, and most of the experiences resulted in positive relationships and fulfilling moments. However, these days, I’m not the plucky socialite I once was. Rough lessons will do that to any man. Here’s the three reasons I probably won’t join your organization:

1. It’s not very innovative or interesting.

if I’ve seen it before, and that movement’s been done already, I’m really likely not to join it. It’s the reason why I don’t do Foursquare, for instance. When I feel like anything or anyone’s function has already been fulfilled, then I tend not to gravitate towards that. In a forward-oriented mentality, regressing or repetition usually serves as a hinderance instead of say, a way to reflect on misgivings.

2. It’s got leadership I don’t feel comfortable with.

I know, I know. There’s plenty of times that an organization’s purpose is much greater than the leadership it has. Even when there are stark disagreements between people, they can band together in a way that lets the purpose shine without having the leadership involve itself too much. And that’s often why I won’t join the organization. Whether it was a misplaced handshake, a negative association, or simply treating a group of people as hooligans to placate (i.e. teachers). The minute you get names wrong or look like you’re trying too hard, you fall out of favor for my attention. It’s no disrespect, but that’s how I am.

3. I don’t have the time to play a pivotal role in it. (this tends to be last for some reason)

Even with my time management skills, I often don’t have the time to play an important role in the organization. In these instances, especially when I thoroughly believe in the traits of the movement, I’ll help promote it. I’m generous with my time in that respect, and support tons of organizations even when I’m not a full-fledged member.

So why would I join? In short: it’s gotta be real. It’s gotta ring true. It’s gotta feel like it’s such a part of me, I don’t even  need to think twice about it.

What would drive you to join a movement?

Jose, who’s in constant search of the next and best …


Short Notes: Top 5 Things Irking Me Now [C'Mon Son! Edition]

December 6, 2009 Short Notes
Ed Lover, C'Mon Son

A few links: This is probably the worst story I’d ever read. It’s too real to be a movie. [The Field Negro] Here’s how one uses information design / aesthetics to tell 9/11. [Infosthetics] If you ever had the urge to speak edubabble, check this handy tool passed onto me by Chad Ratliff. You can […]

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Why I Almost Quit Twitter

October 11, 2009 Jose
Yoda says, "That is why you fail!"

Confession: I almost quit Twitter. It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things since the Internet is teeming with social media networks, including my prohibitive favorite, Facebook. I joined MySpace in 2003, Facebook in 2004, LinkedIn in 2007,  and Twitter in 2008. Needless to say, I’m an early adapter, and a big […]

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