Kanye West, Illuminated

The Illuminated Series: Why Should One Man Have All That Power?

Jose Vilson Jose

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 …