From College Dropout To Societal Flame Out – The Unfortunate Death Of Mr. Kanye West

What happened to the Kanye that was once the voice of an urban generation?


Originally published on The Black Aristrocat

Like millions of people around the globe, I watched and enjoyed the Grammys Monday night. Kendrick Lamar’s performance was by far the most chilling, exciting and seminal moments of the entire evening (my toddler daughter was even excitedly dancing along). The imagery of men in present day shackles (prison garb), juxtaposed with African tribal dancers on the next stage, the spoken word, the drums, the anger and passion in his delivery, brought his album to life. It also might have put a death nail in the career of Mr. Kanye West. More on that in a moment, but let me first take you back….

The year was 2004 and I was fresh out of college. Okay maybe a year or two removed, but who’s counting. The reality of the situation was just like many college graduates today, I felt the pressure of life daunting and I was full of confusion, trying to figure out my life’s direction. Then Kanye dropped his tonally ubiquitous album-of the moment “The College Dropout”. And while the title of the album presented a circumstance I was not truly a part of (after all, I did graduate from college), everything in the album spoke to what myself and many college students/graduates felt at the time—“Is my degree worthless?”  “Did I just waste 4-5 years of my life?”  “All this money spent on a college degree, and I am still broke?!?!”

These thoughts were especially highlighted in standout tracks “We Don’t Care” and  “I’ll Fly Away-Spaceship”. The album also served as narrative for the defiant young, who understood its statements on blackness, identity, culture and faith. Forcing us to acknowledge not only our internal power but also our supreme shallowness; the standout tracks that highlighted all of these feelings were   “Never Let Me Down”  “All falls down”  “Jesus Walks” and “Two Words”.  Kanye from that moment on became the voice and avatar of an urban generation. For years he spoke veracity to people’s pain ( “George Bush doesn’t care about Black People!”). Not fearing retribution, or backing away from his controversial thoughts, he was both brash and careless. Besides, he knew that if things blew up in his face and he ended up looking foolish, people would understand HIS truth and ultimately forgive his actions.  That was then, this is now.

The Kanye that presently resides in society has almost completely abandoned the person who he was in 2004. I am quite sure the Kanye in 2004 would look at the 2016 Kanye and wonder- “Who the hell are you? And what are you doing in my body?!? This Kanye rants about classicism, but proceeds to make overpriced shoes and clothing (the latter looking like it was inspired by Derek Zoolander’s “Derelict” campaign). He spazzes out on Twitter and makes awkward music choices. He went from making a record called “Jesus Walks” to naming himself “Yeezus”.  What became lost in all of this is someone who along the way stopped really representing a culture and people who supported him, and became more obsessed with representing himself and his celebrity lifestyle. I am not here to kick a man when he is down. But it is awkward to see someone you once felt strongly about, now looking like a foreign exchange student in their first semester–lost.  The Kanye in 2004 would have spoken on the reality of “Black Lives Matter” and used his commercial platform to educate those who consume black culture, yet still find a way to separate themselves from black problems (SEE: recent uproar on Beyonce superbowl performance) . However, Instead of educating culture vultures, he married one.

This brings us to Monday night and Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy performance. I have often said that life can provide its own best theatre. Whether intentional or not, one could not help but see the parallel of a young Kendrick Lamar speaking to a culture that Kanye has all but abandoned. Case in point Kanye’s newest album “The Life of Pablo”; The album cover features a half-naked woman on the cover with what appears to be his parents wedding picture…..yeah…strange.  The oddest part about the project, is that it was rumored he scrapped his entire original album concept, after listening to Kendrick’s magnum opus “To Pimp a Butterfly”. It was said that afterwards he realized he was not digging deep enough, and needed to start over, hence one of the many reasons for the delay. If this is the result in digging deeper after listening to Kendrick’s album, then Kanye 2004 is deader than I thought.  Now I want to make something abundantly clear, Kendrick Lamar is only four (4) years and three (3) major studio albums into his career, and a lot of Kanye’s career defining derails could befall K-Dot himself, if he is not careful. But it is hard not to notice that while one artist has openly stated that he will not succumb to the materialism of this world (and industry). Choosing not be fashionable or wear designer clothes. The other artist truly feels that a career in high fashion is a true expression of freedom, and societal growth.

Honestly I am not really worried about the state of Hip Hop music with artist such as Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole leading the way. What I am really worried about is who will I vote for in 2020?  Because apparently my presidential candidate is now dead, and his replacement wants me to buy $1500.00 dollar sneakers and wear $5,000.00 shirts with holes in them. Welp.

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