Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”- Audre Lorde.
As journalists, bloggers, and online media haters salivate at the chance to discredit Kanye’s contributions to music, fashion, and society by minimizing his body of work to pure narcissistic drivel, he continues to redefine what Black self-love looks like in public spaces.
From the early days of the College Dropout to the bombastic Yeezus album, Kanye has spewed a kind of populist politics that is far too often overlooked or oversimplified due to his dandyism (which I will touch on later) or his brashness. Early on in his career, he addressed the trajectory of Black youth who were faced with institutionalized oppression and real world responsibilities at a young age:
Sitting in the hood like community colleges/
This dope money here is Lil’ Trey’s scholarship/
Cause ain’t no tuition for having no ambition/
And ain’t no loans for sitting your ass at home/
So we forced to sell crack, rap, and get a job/
You gotta do something man, your ass is grown
While addressing these issues, he encouraged Black youth to unapologetically assert themselves in a world that was designed to keep them marginalized. In the chorus of this song children sing: “We wasn’t supposed to make it past 25, jokes on you we still alive.” This is not just a lyrical middle finger at the establishment, this is a moment in which reflects on the resilience and strength of young Black resistance. Is Kanye being a blowhard? No, he is merely calling on Black youth to manifest their own destinies in spite of the odds stacked against them.
Truth Telling: Not Just Shucking and Jiving
He ain’t no Malcom or Martin, but he speaks the truth. Part of being a genuine revolutionary as opposed to a self-righteous braggart is understanding how to actually use your influence to create a better world. If you want to have a meaningful impact upon society, you should be gunning not to make people do what you want them to do, but instead make them think how you think. Far too often, Black folks are told to bite their tongues about real issues because it might upset the powers that be and ultimately undo the progress that we’ve made. When Kanye called President George W. Bush a racist or even stole the microphone from Taylor Swift he was defying the notion of respectability, yet many talking heads chalked it up as “crazy” or “inappropriate”. Is it inappropriate to express what you fundamentally believe in a public space? Is he supposed to just shut up and entertain you because he is an artist, or does he have the right to challenge your preconceived notions with boldness and bravado?
A Black Man Consumed With His Image Must Be Conceited Right?
Kanye’s penchant for fashion has undeniably pushed the boundaries of the sartorial imagination for Black men. Yet, his homage to dandyism has been construed as a sign of vanity. As a self-identified heterosexual Black male rapper, Kanye has broken down fashion barriers by designing dresses and other women’s garb. Yet, his keen sense of design has been publicly degraded because critics can’t fathom how an individual with a gold-plated bottom grill can rap and articulate arcane fashion concepts simultaneously.
Recognizing Our Own Genius Is Political
On the Jimmy Kimmel show Kanye stated that, “For me to deny that I’m a genius, I’d just be lying to you and myself”. Black youth are told on a daily basis, both implicitly and explicitly that they don’t have the intellectual capacity to compete and succeed. What’s wrong with a person of color believing that they are, indeed, young, gifted, and Black? What’s wrong with recognizing that you have a unique talent or skill-set that could potentially change the game?
Self Love > Self Hate
Self Love= Awakened Consciousness
Awakened Consciousness= Liberation