Saturday, February 28, 2015

What's the Matter with Kanye?

Once upon a time, pop star Kanye West said an amazing, powerful, courageous thing.  Since then, he has said many, many dumb things.  Below is the amazing thing, and just a smattering of the dumb ones.

Let's not pretend we don't know who Kanye West is.  We do, although on most days we would prefer if we didn't.  Kanye is that guy who used to be a rap star.  Ten years ago, in early 2005, he had a very funny, catchy tune called "Gold Digger."  

Personally, I think it was the best song of 2005.  I say that, in part, because it is the only song I know of that came out in 2005.  

Since that high water mark, Kanye has branched out into wearing white suits and fur coats, tweeting, bum-rushing the stage at award ceremonies, and attacking paparazzi photographers.  Apparently, in this day and age, these kinds of pursuits are quite lucrative, far more so than releasing catchy, funny songs, and deserving of more attention.

Kanye also married Kim Kardashian, who is famous for getting porked in the butt on video by a third rate pop singer named Ray-J (not to be confused with J-Zee, which would have been better).

Kim started out as a pretty (but ethnic-looking) young woman from a wealthy Iranian-American family.  Through the miracle of modern surgery, she has gradually metamorphosed into a black-haired, more bodacious version of '80s sex symbol Kim Basinger.

The surgeries had already started here, but you see my point.

Less nose, slightly more almond to the eyes, less jaw, less cheeks, more boobs.  Voila!  Classic movie star looks.  Someone really knows exactly what they're doing with a scalpel.  I wonder if they could make Thee Optimist resemble a 35-year-old Harrison Ford? 

But Let's Get Back to Kanye, Shall We?

Later in 2005, disaster struck the Land of the Free.  This disaster came in the form of Hurricane Katrina.  As you may recall, the hurricane flooded and demolished much of the great city of New Orleans.  More than 1,800 people died, possibly many more.

The response of the American government to the unfolding nightmare was, shall we say, less than robust?  It almost seemed as if the gubmint of George W. Bush wasn't all that interested in rescuing storm victims.  As a result, scenes of the predominantly Black residents of New Orleans trapped on rooftops and in other precarious situations became increasingly common.  

Conditions became desperate.  People were even running out of spray paint.

Into the breach came something called "A Concert for Hurricane Relief," which was conceived as a feel-good TV show fundraiser for the American Red Cross.  As part of that show, celebrities issued little spoken-word messages, designed to tug at the heart strings and separate viewers from their hard-won dollars.

Kanye was one of these celebrities.  He was paired with comedian Mike Myers, widely known as movie super-spy Austin Powers, and as the voice of Shrek.  Myers solemnly read his piece from the teleprompter.  

Then it was Kanye's turn.  He was clearly scared.  His eyes were wide.  His chest heaved, like he was about to hyperventilate.  He veered wildly from the script prepared for him.  It is a moment worth watching, for one because you don't get too many unscripted moments on TV, for another because it is the bravest, most intelligent series of comments Kanye (or almost any pop star) has yet made in public.  

Wow.  For a brief moment, at least in my world, Kanye was the man.  Truth be told, I didn't even know who he was.  Only after this appearance did I find out that he and the clever young rapper from "Gold Digger" were in fact one and the same.  As far as I was concerned, Kanye West was destined for great things.

And as usual, I was wrong.

Where Did Kanye Go?

Since then, Kanye has carved out an increasingly bizarre, off-kilter and self-centered path for himself.  Part of this may stem from his mother Donda West dying in a tragic plastic surgery disaster in the fall of 2007.  

No, I'm not joking.  She died from underlying heart disease during plastic surgery.  Indeed, one famous Beverly Hills surgeon earlier declined to perform surgery on her because of her heart problems.  That kind of sudden family tragedy will shake up anybody.  

A couple years later, Kanye stormed the stage at the Grammy Awards and attempted to seize the Best Album award from 19-year-old singer Taylor Swift because he so passionately believed that the award... well... that it should have gone to Beyonce.

The following year, Kanye went on the Today Show, and apologized for the comments he made about George W. Bush in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  There was no logical reason to make this apology, unless someone forced him into it.  You can make your own guesses about that.  

Suffice to say that the Bush family wield incredible power (unlike, for example, pop stars), and they run with some mean mutha-uckas.  If the Bushes like you, good things happen.  If the Bushes don't like you...

In any case, apologizing was bad enough.  But even worse, Kanye wound up doing it on camera in front of Matt Lauer.  Somehow, Kanye and his media savvy "people" missed the fact that Matt Lauer is an apologist and attack dog for the corporate-owned police state.

Afterwards, Kanye had this to Tweet:

Kanye Gone Wild

And that, as they say, was that.

Since then, Kanye appears to have gone insane.  And he has gone insane in a very specific way, which is to say, he suffers from delusions of grandeur.  And we suffer along with him.

A pop psychologist might suggest that these delusions are the result of losing his mom so suddenly, and then being made to kneel at the feet of corporate power.  Kanye, to protect his sense of self against overwhelming outside forces, has gone full-bore into a fantasy about himself and his role in human affairs. 

Here are just a few grandiose pronouncements the great man has made in recent years:


"I am God's vessel.  [M]y greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live."


"I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means.  I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of internet, downtown, fashion, culture.  Period. By a long jump."


"I am so credible and so influential and so relevant that I will change things."


"I feel like I’m too busy writing history to read it."


"Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed.  I am not a fan of books.  I would never want a book's autograph.  I am a proud non-reader of books."


"I don't even listen to rap.  My apartment is too nice to listen to rap in."


That last sentiment is actually one Thee Optimist can agree with.  My apartment is way too nice for rap music.  I'm also pretty sure I wouldn't want a book's autograph.

Kanye would rather wear fur than go naked.