Don’t Let Kanye West Fool You: A Psychoanalysis
by Bavu Blakes
Kanye West says his favorite song from his ever-growing catalog is “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”. He wants you to think that he doesn’t care what you think about him. But don’t let him fool you.
At the Sunday, September 13, 2009, MTV Video Music Awards, Mr. West spontaneously hopped on stage and took the mic from multi-platinum country superstar, Best Female Video winner and little white girl Taylor Swift to basically say that Beyonce’ should’ve won. Assuming this spectacle was not a planned publicity stunt, like Bruno flying his naked butt into Eminem’s face, the general public is correct (again) in wondering, “What’s his problem?”
Lesbi-honest: many people are saying much worse than “What’s his problem?” Kelly Clarkson and Pink cussed West out on Twitter, Donald Trump has called for a boycott and Joe Jackson says he should be blackballed. But I don’t want to judge this big-headed teddy bear, so please allow me to psychoanalyze him instead.
I understand the mindset of a black man with an African name born in mid-70’s America to educated parents. Have you ever seen the Cosby Show? On “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”, Kanye says he’s not a Cosby, but don’t let him fool you. He’s one of them, applying his will, intelligence, cultural pride and knowledge to show you that a black man can be a genius and king despite what society or TV says.
Kanye’s self-worth and ability to assert himself were reinforced throughout his life. No matter how much pop appeal he adds to his image over the years, he is still another brilliant and uppity Negro born in the Kwanzaa era. With that comes a justified insecurity about mainstream acceptance. Mr. West is trying to be the world’s biggest celebrity to prove a point, more or less “FTW! I’m black and I made it to the top”.
But like 2Pac his journey to the top has made him so worldly – so much like the others – that it has almost become a moot point. It’s simply too easy to shoot the messenger. Remember how hard it was to take Michael Jackson seriously when he raised a black fist, or called Tommy Mottola the devil?
Now picture Kanye rapping “I know the government administered AIDS” in the first verse of his 2006 single “Heard ‘em Say” featuring Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Ironically, that was halfway through his four-album transition from soul-sampling conscious prep to autotuned blogger and fashionista in a Pee Wee Herman suit who briefly wore a Billy Ocean haircut.
By trading in the black-centered aspects of his public image from his first two albums (“The College Dropout”, “Late Registration”), Mr. West made a calculated move to become a global mainstream icon in his latest two (“Graduation”, “808s & Heartbreak”) by infusing elements of modern alternative/emo, dance/electronic and rock culture. But he still wants you to know how “hood” he is; don’t let him fool you.
In early September 2005, Kanye said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” on live TV, and his brand grew. With every subsequent awards show outburst and a hilarious Saturday Night Live self-parody, his brand grew. In early September 2009, Mr. West the showman hit the VMA red carpet with a bottle of Hennessy and an exotic white lesbian. I don’t know how well he handles his liquor, or his Amber, but most people would’ve made their comments from their seat. Not Kanye West. He saw an opportunity, again.
For at least half of his life this cunningly resourceful artist has worked tirelessly to become an A-list producer, director and performer/actor known for seizing the big moment. West has studied the 80’s MTV era that he reminds you of more every day. He knows how fashion, music, fine art and controversy drive popular culture. Like it or not, he used free MTV airtime to become this week’s top American media topic, and then sat down as a “surprise guest” on the debut of Jay Leno’s primetime show the next day.
In summary, Kanye cares more if you think about him, than what you think about him. So even if you can't tell him nothing, he's paying close attention. He apparently has no life outside of entertainment. You, the audience, may be his best friend. His mother and ex-girlfriend are gone, but you listen and you care. He talks to the screen, through the spotlight, to mainstream middle America when there is no one else to talk to. So, as sure as he blogs to you in all caps, Mr. West also must care what you think, or he would sit down somewhere.
Perhaps he's emulating his “big brother” Jay-Z, who also cares what you think, according to how much of his new, Kanye-produced album “The Blueprint 3” he spends addressing his critics, including a duet with Mr. West called “Haters”.
Kanye has carefully aligned himself with Jay, Beyonce’, Rihanna and even the new American diety Lady Gaga, who is signed to Akon. Notice how low-profile Akon is? It’s because he doesn’t care what you think! Can you imagine how Mr. West would behave if Lady Gaga and T-Pain were his artists?
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