In a recent interview with The New York Times, Kanye West talked about his new album, Yezzus, the Taylor Swift incident, his albums, and career. During the interview Kanye made several statements that are indicative of a feeling that a number of Hip Hop artists have addressed for years.
Most people are familiar with the concept of commercialization and what that has meant for the Hip Hop community. My personal critique on it is less harsh than many O.G. Hip Hop heads simply because I see Hip Hop as sort of a reflective lens. To me the commercialization of Hip Hop was inevitable because America is a capitalist country and as Americans we are encouraged to make money by any means necessary.
However, the commercialization of Hip Hop led to a loss of control for the Hip Hop community. Those instructional powers that have been — and still are — calling the shots view Hip Hop through a purely business lens with none of the sentimentality that the artists and fans have. This means that Hip Hop is treated as a commodity by the mainstream. This objectification of Hip Hop smothers artists who desire to think outside the box or are too radical or controversial or political. Artists like Kanye, I can only imagine, are a record labels worst nightmare: talented, lucrative, and strong willed.
In the article Kanye discussed how he felt his creativity has been stifled by his record label. He stated that he had been in meetings where he was told to his face that they (the label executives) were trying to figure out how to control him. His response in. The interview was, “Why do [they] want to control me? Like, I want the world to be better! All I want is positive! All I want is dopeness! Why would [they] want to control that?” I think his confusion is sincere. And the fact that he is openly verbal about is poignant. It is the struggle many artists are facing all the time. Kanye confessed that when he made 808’s and Heartbreak he was asked to do it under another name because it didn’t fit with his previous repertoire. He went on to discuss how he felt My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was actually a “backhanded apology” for the Taylor Swift incident. Kanye stated: “You know, even a Kanye West has compromised. Sometimes you don’t even know when you’re being compromised till after the fact, and that’s what you regret.” He admits that he felt pressured to win back the public by showing how talented he is but in a way that made the album less about his actual talent and creativity because of where his intention was at the time.
Despite the fact that Kanye can be an “asshole,” he is genuine and vocal about what he feels. In a time where everybody wants to be PC even at the risk of denying the true feelings, that is admirable. Because of that it has become politically correct to dislike Kanye and to viciously critique his every move but dude is talented and has the balls to speak his mind. You get respect for that in my book. And the bigger picture is that Kanye is at the forefront of the struggle to bring sincerity and creativity back to Hip Hop.
Hip Hop is not music. Hip Hop is a culture. It is the defining movement of Generation X. Our forefathers had Black Power and Civil Rights. We have Hip Hop. If we stop degrading Hip Hop and allowing it to be reduced to an insignificant commodity, we will see just how powerful the movement can be.
In general, America is coming to a point where the people are growing tired of the constant oppression. The pressure to conform is greater than ever as the power structure of the country changes and the distractions are beginning to fail to keep the masses ignorant. Because of that people will slowly begin to walk away from the delusions. This is what is already beginning to happen in the music industry. The tight held reigns of control over Hip Hop music and Hip Hop artists are being pulled away from the record labels and mainstream media channels. With the Internet, YouTube, reverb nation, cd baby, dope hood and the other musical outlets that support and allow artists to create and share their talents, the power is shifting back to the people. This is going to change the way the game is played and we have to pay attention and not miss that moment. That will be the moment to assert ourselves and our desires for the music that we love.
I’m not sayin’; I’m just sayin’,
An Angry Black Man