I see the blood on the leaves.
Once again, the world has been hit by Kanye West’s race consciousness, and while “the blacks” seemingly get Kanye’s gripes with Western society, “the whites” are, well, confused.
Continuous discussions of black vs. white, us vs. them, black America vs. white America, rich vs. poor, truth vs. lies, and Kanye vs. the media, seem to be reoccuring themes within the Chicago rapper’s music.
And while most African-Americans appreciate Kanye’s willingness to share his black angst, the white media is confused and indifferent to why a rich black guy like Kanye West is complaining.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote an editorial piece discussing Kanye’s disconnect from most black Americans, accusing him of not actually living the life he raps about on “New Slaves.”
Richard’s dismissive attitude toward Kanye’s complaints are most apparent in excerpts like this:
“Not that Kanye is the first wildly successful pop artist to continue playing the part of the underdog…But if you take “New Slaves” literally, it’s hard not to call B.S. on Kanye and his “problems” and complaints. Sure, the paparazzi are leeches — but come on, buddy, you’re with Kim Kardashian, whose family practically sends out holiday cards to the jackals and hacks that “hound” them every moment. She’s in love with the paparazzi. So stop bitching.”
Like most Americans, particularly white Americans, there’s this notion that once a certain level of success has been achieved by a black individual all of their problems seem to disappear, and quite frankly, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Kanye breaks down the direct correlation of America’s classism issue and it’s interchangeable relationship with racism:
- “You see it’s broke nigga racism
- That’s that “Don’t touch anything in the store”
- And this rich nigga racism
- That’s that “Come here, please buy more”
- What you want, a Bentley? Fur coat? A diamond chain?
- All you blacks want all the same things”
There’s even a negative tone behind Roeper’s examination of Kanye’s clamors, with statements like “come on, buddy” and:
“I’m just wondering if the Ricketts family knew about this or saw the lyrics for “New Slaves” before someone signed off on the outside surface of Wrigley Field serving as a theater screen for Chicago’s own Kanye West rapping lyrics such as: ‘f*ck you and your corporation, y’all n*ggas can’t control me’.”
Obviously, Roeper isn’t Yeezy’s biggest fan, but it’s his coded rhetoric highlighted above that prove the validity of Kanye’s “new slave” theory.
Crediting Kanye’s wealth as the solution to his “black man” problems seem to be the typical response of white people who “just don’t get it.”
And while I give Kanye West credit for being aware of issues like the privatization of prisons and the business behind locking up young black men, with lyrics like: “meanwhile the DEA, teamed up with the CCA/ they tryna lock niggas up, they tryna make new slaves;” it’s also his knowledge of historically important songs like Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” that discusses the lynching of black people in the south.
- “Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
- Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
- Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
- Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”
With all that said, it would be misguided if I ignored the obvious contradictions Kanye grapples with.
The fact of the matter is, Kanye West is conflicted soul distracted by the things that distract us ALL – money, fame and the opportunity of capitalism.
No one wants to be poor, and sometimes, to avoid living a life of mediocrity filled with commonness, one must choose.
And it’s the burden of having to choose what we know is right over what our mind desires, which plagues so many of us “successful” black folk, including Mr. West.
It’s the issue and the unforseen flaw behind W.E.B. DuBois’ Talented Tenth theory of “the best of this race (black race) may guide the mass away from the contamination and death of the worst.”
Kanye is the anti-consumerism consumer.
Kanye is annoyed by the prejudices of white America, yet he is in a relationship with the most popular white American – Kim Kardashian.
None of it makes sense, and I think it’s evident that Kanye at times feels conflicted and guilty for his blatant contradictions.
The beast of Kanye and Kim’s relationship is a complex one to understand.
Although Kim Kardashian seems to love falling in love with talented and successful black men, it’s hard to believe that she understands and is conscious of the plight of the black man.
In some ways, I feel like Kanye’s relationship with Kim Kardashian is his sick way of torturing white America by confirming stereotypes of black men “taking” America’s “revered and beloved” white women once becoming successful.
He kind of pokes at this idea when he raps:
- “Fuck you and your Hampton house, I’ll fuck your Hampton spouse
- Came on her Hampton blouse and in her Hampton mouth.”
There’s so many layers and deep-rooted issues within “New Slaves,” that it could take weeks to break down and examine, but Kanye got what he wanted because we’re all talking.
Kanye’s grandiose proclamations seem illogical and at times irreconcilable, but it’s Kanye’s indifference on how to solve America’s issues of racism, classism and media propaganda that play into the notion that we are all plagued by contradictory forces and tendencies.
Despite the contradictory forces that sometimes rule his life, Kanye West’s brilliance transcends far beyond the music, far beyond the egotistical rants and far beyond his fascination with materialism.
Let’s not forget, as the child of an inspiring black intellectual, Dr. Donda West, and a former Black Panther turned psychologist, Ray West, Kanye is conscious of his blackness and he’s conscious of the way he makes America uncomfortable with his bold rhetoric and blatant disregard for the perceived norm.
There’s always been an undercurrent of fear in America directed towards smart black men and women.
As “New Slaves” bold rhetoric plays in 66 cities across six continents, Kanye’s quest to explore society’s darkest injustices could be perceived as problematic by middle America.
It’s Kanye inherent need to find the absolute truth and ability to live without fear that makes him dangerous, but “what the f*ck they gon’ say now?”
Brittany Lewis is the Music Editor at GlobalGrind and a Howard University Alumna. Brittany considers herself seasoned on all the pop culture ish that matters. Follow her on Twitter @Buttercup_B.