Kanye West debuted his The Life of Pablo album in Madison Square Garden and simultaneously showcasing his Yeezy Season 3 fashion line. And just a few days before the release a mini documentary titled Dissertation: A Kanye West Story was released.
The mini documentary consisted mostly of journalists remarking on Kanye’s contribution to Hip Hop culture. The documentary, while well done, didn’t really offer any great insight or exploration into Kanye’s character as the journalist’s perspective was mostly objective and consisted of what most anyone can do, which is speculate about what goes on in the mind of Kanye West and why he has done some of the things he’s done.
One of the things that stood out the most to me was that a couple of the journalists settled into the notion that Kanye’s overwhelming ego and his self proclaimed status as an “international asshole.” They propose that it is an intentional creation of a persona that he meant to be controversial and grab people’s attention.
When I think on that I am not sure that I agree. I honestly think that Kanye is an asshole. I mean that in a very objective way. I use the term asshole to mean someone who is determined to say what they want to say and do what they want to do regardless of the repercussions. By no stretch of the imagination is Kanye the only or first asshole in the world or in the realm of Hip Hop and Rap music but I do believe it’s genuine.
That – and a few other comments that were made – kind of left for me a certain taste in the mouth. It to me illustrates a disconnection between the journalists that were commenting – none of whom happened to be Black – and Kanye as a product of Hip Hop culture. Because Hip Hop having its roots in Black, Caribbean and Latino culture always has a certain flavor to it. And that flavor was created from something that not everyone can understand: The Nigga Experience.
I’m not trying to assert that hip hop can’t completely embrace White people or that it can’t be universal, because that’s one of the most historic and epic things about Hip Hop is that it has the ability to reach and connect with people who have no direct connection to the culture and experience that birthed it. In true artistic fashion it took a perspective and made it universally relatable.
What the documentary did well illustrating was the fact that Kanye West did accomplish what not a lot of Hip Hop artists can do, which is to make a hugely successful cross over from being a producer to being a writer to being a rapper. The documentary also accurately captures the fact that Kanye is one of the pioneers of creating a new archetype of rapper that differed from the poor street kid or the drug dealing hustler or the gangster. He helped to usher in the acceptance of a representation of Hip Hop artist and Black male narrative that spoke to the Black youth who came from, what could be called, a middle class upbringing where they possibly attended college and didn’t have the provocative street storyline. This spoke to a generation of Hip Hop heads who had not previously seen rappers who were that close to their reality. When it comes to Kanye’s antics or personality, people may divide in their opinions. When it comes to Kanye’s talent and relevance to Hip Hop; that is undeniable.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man