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Kanye & Homophobia
Some are excited because Michael Eric Dyson simply mentioned bell hooks’ name on ‘Today’. Those same people probably won’t acknowledge Kanye’s discussion of homophobia. One is a pathetically minor victory for someone that will never be accepted by the mainstream (one moderately obscure intellectual mentions another more obscure intellectual), the other is a progressive comment from one of rap’s most popular and controversial rappers. One writes books and lectures for groups of like-minded smarty-pants-types. The other manages to sell millions of records, to people of all races, with singles that invoke the government administering AIDS along with plenty of everyman introspection. Who is more “important”? Who is actually more radical?

Those questions seem particularly relevant in this “Post-Imus” age where any misstep by a rapper leads to a Paula Zahn special. None of those hip-hop haters will embrace or even acknowledge Kanye’s comments but what else is new? It is much more problematic that those defenders of rap won’t acknowledge it either. I can’t help but think it is because Kanye tows no party lines and upsets certain “givens” among black intellectuals as well.

Everybody comes off challenged after listening to Kanye West be real and joke about his questionable wardrobe as he did on Hot 97. Since his appearance as the self-proclaimed “first nigga with a Benz and a backpack”, he has fought hard to keep rap’s borders porous and actually embrace contradiction. Kanye’s refusal to tow any party-line, his enthusiasm for the contrary and confidence in sincerity has made him unlike any rapper since hip-hop’s supposed death. What Dyson justified in Tupac’s pseudo-sensitive thug hustles is real and palpable in Kanye West.

He comes out against homophobia while admitting his own homophobia, critiques the “hood” mentality of Beanie Sigel while empathizing with it, and draws parallels between racism and homophobia that make a lot of people uncomfortable… but most importantly, he’s really fucking entertaining as he’s doing it. He has Angie Martinez and company laughing the whole time.

I said it before but Kanye has this amazing, political commentator way of speaking. This mix of insight and insanity and sincere (or what sounds like sincere) appeals to reason and humanity. He’s rap’s Glenn Beck! When it comes to political issues, how entertaining you are while discussing the issue is equal to, if not more important than what you have to say. This is in part (in part!), the reason why more people listen to Bill O’Reilly than Keith Olbermann. Both are smug pricks but at least O’Reilly is a hilarious prick. The trick of most conservative talk is they seem like they are having fun! If you can entertain, you can get away with a lot of outlandish shit. The point is, Kanye understands this and unlike O’Reilly, he’s using his powers for good.

Kanye concedes that yeah, he should get some “hood backlash” for what he is doing because it doesn’t fly in “the hood”. It’s cool that he admits his own homoish-ness and it’s even cooler that Kanye didn’t go Little Brother and take the opportunity to blast the “hood mentality”. Kanye accepts something that so many other intellectual or intellectual-leaning artists can’t accept, not everyone is or wants to be as “enlightened” as the oh-so gifted artiste…

Part of Kanye’s empathy with the “closed-minded” comes from being that way himself, as he readily admits to getting a little weirded-out when some tight-jeans guy approaches him in the store. And really, who isn’t kind of weirded-out by gay people (waiting for the P.C types to proudly proclaim “Not I”…)? This is the kind of honesty that very few speaking-out against homophobia would admit because it would present themselves as fallible and so much of identity politics hinges upon being better than those you critique. Of course, this aspect of his point is over-looked in favor of the moronically simple understanding that somehow, if you defend or speak-out against something, you have a dog in the fight. It couldn’t possibly be that he sees some sort of injustice and wants to use his celebrity to address it.

Kanye also draws simple and inarguably true parallels between racism and homophobia. This won’t settle well with many in the rap community and he knows this. Both the thug rappers and the conscious rappers benefit a great deal from absorbing and in a lot of ways, exploiting race-based politics. For the thug-rappers, their race is indeed, what allows them to “get away” with the egregious misogyny, glorifying drug-dealing, and homophobia. So many scared, guilty white liberals, out of fear of being “racist”, justify gangsta-rap and crack rap.

For the conscious set, race justifies so many actions and beliefs and any suggestion that there is an equivalent “struggle” particularly one among gay people, messes with their good-intentioned but divisive politics. There’s also the odd relationship between political rap and homosexuality (see Public Enemy’s “Parts don’t fit/Aww shit” and Mos Def’s ‘The Rape Over’). This does not negate their importance, the political/conscious rappers and even the gangsta rappers of the past are crucial to hip-hop’s evolution, but just as so many now consider this crack rap shit played-out, we should consider the reactionary naval-gazing that now passes for conscious rap equally played-out. Immortal Technique can write a million more “scathing” songs about the President but he isn’t even close to as brave or as risk-taking as Kanye West.

Kanye’s address of homophobia and defense of his bucking of “hood” trends is a challenge to almost every rapper and rap listener. Unlike the third-generation political rappers, Kanye West’s views do not breed complacency; He isn’t always preaching to the converted and actively seeks out opposition and underdog status.

Bonus! Some Questionable Clothes From Brandon’s (literal and maybe metaphorical) Closet…

-Teal and Dark Blue Puma Zip-Up Sweater.
-Light Blue Ralph Lauren Hoodie with weird-ass artsy stitching on it.
-Brown, tight-ish linen pants from H & M
-Purple Hoodie from H & M.
-Women’s XL ‘American Apparel’ Summer Shirt. (before A.A T’s went Unisex)
-Limited Edition Sweatshirt with stupid patches and shit all over it, designed by Japan’s David Sylvian.

Written by Brandon

July 23rd, 2007 at 6:09 pm

Posted in Kanye West, NO HOM0

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