I read Kanye’s VMA speech and I must admit that I was wrong. Kanye is crazy, but a mad-genius type of crazy. There is a lot of brilliance in his banter, we just can’t hear it because of his oft outrageous delivery. He rants; we tune out. I think that happened again last night. Our sound-bite culture distilled his speech to weed smokin’ and “Kanye 2020.” But, if you try as I did, to read his speech so that you can focus on the content instead of the crazy, you may be surprised that there was some real substance there.
First of all, thank you Taylor for being so gracious and giving me this award this evening. I often think back to the first day I met you, also. I think about when I’m in the grocery store with my daughter and I have a really great conversation about fresh juice and at the end, they say, “Oh, you’re not that bad after all.” It crosses my mind a little bit when I go to a baseball game and 60,000 people boo me: crosses my mind a little bit. If I had to do it all again, what would I have done? Would I have worn a leather shirt? Would I have drank a half a bottle of Hennessey and gave the rest of it to the audience? Y’all know you drank that bottle too. If I had a daughter at that time, would I have went onstage and grabbed the mic from someone else?
Kanye reflected. People rarely look inward and admit that they were wrong. He realized that he made a bad decision, had clearly analyzed what led to his poor decision making and thanked Taylor Swift for graciously forgiving him. He showed growth. He took responsibility. That’s rare folks.
The problem was the contradiction; I do fight for artists, but in that fight, I somehow was disrespectful to artists. I didn’t know how to say the right, perfect thing. I sat at the Grammys and saw Justin Timberlake and CeeLo lose; Gnarls Barkley and the FutureSex/LoveSounds album. I ain’t trying to put you on blast, but I saw that man in tears.
Kanye is empathetic to artists and is fighting for them. Even he recognizes that he doesn’t use the appropriate words or platforms, but he cares about the success and pain of his colleagues. Most artists who have reached his level of success could care less about the ones who haven’t.
I’m not no politician, bruh. And look at that [points to screen]. You know how many times MTV ran that footage again? Because it got them more ratings. You know how many times they announced Taylor was going to give me the award. Because it got them more ratings. Listen to the kids, bruh!
He understands the game. He understands that he is a pawn in it (and oftentimes the joker in it). And he is brave enough to take “the powers that be” on. I actually think that 20 years from now, we, the American public, will be applauding him and his courageous behavior.
I still don’t understand award shows. I don’t understand how they get five people who work their entire life, won, sell records, sell concert tickets, to come, stand on a carpet and for the first time in their life, be judged on the chopping block and have the opportunity to be considered a loser. I don’t understand it, bro! I’ve been conflicted. I just wanted people to like me more.
Kanye is hurt. The public bashing hurt him. The 60,000 people booing him at a baseball game hurt him. The media coverage hurts him. He is, indeed, human. I had to reflect on myself. Would we beat up anybody but a Black man this way? If Taylor Swift or Macklemore said the same things, did the same things, would we be so raw in our dislike of him? I don’t know.
I don’t know what I finna lose after this. It don’t matter, though; It’s not about me. It’s about ideas. New ideas. People with ideas. People who believe in truth.
He cares about the art. He cares passionately. He wants artists who are not packaged and commercialized to have a real shot at success. Kanye is different, but weren’t all great artists different? Didn’t they all seem a little psycho at the time? But, he is brave enough to take a stand and willing take a personal loss in his fight for others. I dig that. I dig a warrior—a beatnik—a genius and a leader. Actually, upon reconsideration, I think I may dig Kanye.