Kanye West: Awards Aren’t the Only Measure of Art (OR Celebrity in the Age of Celebrities)

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s, Dennis, had a hard time a few weeks ago when he found himself being rated (very low scores) by women on a group-dating site. Dennis is usually a charming sociopath; he is witty and charismatic before ultimately disappointing any possible paramours by avoiding contact or outrightly disrespecting them. But now, completely overcome by a desire for good ratings, he forgot how to be charming, and was solely focused on his one star rating. He finds himself very wounded by the low ratings and questions his previously offensive behavior regarding women. The episode was particularly rough because he kept screaming at women during dates, “I’m a 5 star man!” Eventually, he frivolously realizes that self worth comes from self-delusion. Here enters the 5 star man of delusional reality—Kanye “I feel like I’m too busy writing history to read it” West.

In 2009, he stormed the stage and seized the microphone mid-speech from a then 20-year-old Taylor Swift who had just won Best Video of the Year for “You Belong to Me” at the VMA’s to praise Beyoncé’s (admittedly great) black and white booty pumping “Single Ladies” as “one of the best videos of all time.” West stole Swift’s moment to offer an unnecessary and meaningless opinion. Many people voiced their baffled disapproval including 50 Cent, Pink and Barack Obama among others. His name was in the headlines, not for being an artist, but rather for being a “jackass.”

Now, 6 years later at the Grammy’s, Kanye “I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means” West is married to a babe, father to a healthy child, a successful producer, rapper and designer and he turns what could have been a cute, self-deprecating yet still unfunny stunt of pretending to take the stage into a rant about industry stealing or mistreating “artistry.” His post-show foolishness is needed to provide context: (quote)

“I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t gonna play with them no more. “Flawless,” Beyoncé video. And Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé and at this point, we tired of it. Because what happens is when you keep on diminishing art and not respecting the craft and smacking people in the face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you’re disrespectful to inspiration. And we as musicians have to inspire people who go to work every day. And they listen to that Beyoncé album and they feel like it takes them to another place. Then they do this whole promotional event, that, you know, they’ll run the music over somebody’s speech, the artist, because they want a commercial advertising. Like no, we not playing with them no more. And by the way, I got my wife, I got my daughter, and I got my clothing line so I’m not going to do nothing to put my daughter at risk, but I am here to fight for creativity. That’s the reason why I didn’t say anything tonight. But y’all know what it meant when ‘Ye walked on the stage.”

Putting aside the horrible grammar, which was certainly not taught to him by his English professor mother, we find a personal stream of consciousness punctuated with subjective opinions and artistic delusions of grandeur. Why does he care so much about who wins a category where he wasn’t nominated? Beyoncé won Best R&B Song. And why does he consider Beck’s artistry so inferior that he should relinquish his Best Album to the Queen B? Beck made a chill album and the voters decided it was best. Why must we hear Kanye’s opinion? It’s because of his self-righteous self-delusion that has now become a force of society. His self-indulgent, selfish, self-centered, self-aggrandizing quotes are easy to find on the Internet, and somehow, millions of people love it! 11 million followers on Twitter, hundreds of thousands of FB likes, sold out T-shirts and sneakers. If the old saying of 50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong, what is to be said of West’s narcissistic mess? Does interjecting opinions mean you can be relevant or influential? Yes, when you are a celebrity. (Ask Jenny McCarthy.) Right or wrong, celebrity is power. And Kanye “My greatest pain in life is that I won’t be able to see myself perform live” West is most certainly a celebrity. He and Jay-Z are tied with 21 Grammy’s apiece, he’s sold millions of albums worldwide, three of which were included in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest, he was included in Time’s 100 Most Influential, West designed Nike’s sell for thousands on Ebay, a plain white T-shirt bearing his name sells for 120$ and he’s married into the family famous for fame. His fame delivers a vessel for his ego. His fame keeps him relevant. His fame makes him visible to me. And I am bored of it. I’ve got some opinions of my own Kanye “I am the number 1 most impactful artist of our generation” West. I think your music is mediocre, your shoes are ugly, your t-shirts are exorbitant and bland, you’re exploiting your young and/or poor fans with clothing at such ridiculous price points, your girlfriend is hot and dull, your face is creepy, your personality is forced antagonism, your rapping talent is specious, your behavior is ignorant and obnoxious, your attitude is contrived, your life is tedious self-promotion and you offer less to the world than you think. In fact, his charity disappeared after donating no money toward the foundation. His foundation, co-sponsored by his mother, was to help curb rampant teenage dropout rates in urban high schools, yet his first album was called “The College Dropout.” It’s a real twisted message you’re sending to the young kids Yeezus. I’m aware of my envy for his lifestyle and power of promotion. But it’s a disgusted envy, much different than my delighted envy for Jimmy Fallon.

What Kanye “I am a proud non-reader of books” West misses in his misguided torrent of twaddle after the Grammy’s is that losing or winning an award doesn’t provide or detract merit from the piece of art. Van Gogh never won an award for Best New Painter, Picasso has no Best Sculpture Statuette, Bob Marley and Led Zeppelin have never even been nominated for a Grammy and Snoop Dogg, Bjork and Mos Def have been nominated several times but never won. Does their deficiency of gold reduce their impact? Awards are just opinions of influential people; much like your inconsiderate words and insipid tweets.

The harsh truth is that Kanye “Michelle Obama cannot Instagram a bikini pic like my girl Instagrammed the other day” West might have a point. Yes, Beyonce could also have won. Beyonce’s “Flawless” song isn’t the best beat, but the words are inspirational. A poem about gender struggles by a Nigerian woman is incorporated to fantastic results within Beyonce’s call to women that they are all beautiful, although she confuses me by telling other bitches to bow down to her. I might have missed that point.

So, Beck deserves any artistic credit he gets, as does anyone who endeavors an artistic undertaking. Unfortunately, that goes for you too Kanye “You should only believe 90% of what I say” West. Just because I dislike you, your music and your brashness doesn’t mean you aren’t an artist that others can enjoy. But I still only give you one star.

Kanye West


To: Ice Cube: RE: “Today was not such a good day.”

“In my younger and more vulnerable years” my mother used to read me a book called: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Paraphrasing, it was about some punk kid who was having trouble tying his shoes, stepped in some poo, got yelled at by the teacher, his sister took his favorite lunchbox to school and perhaps some other little kid problems. At the end, I think he got a hug from his mom, and everything was better because tomorrow is another day. I used to like the story because kids seem so able to shake off bad days, which somehow, they actually have. They don’t have distressing worries like bills, bosses, or how to cook dinner with the 3$ in your pocket, unless they do, which I know some did from my days of SPED in Austin. Those kids didn’t have anyone at home most nights, and certainly no food in the cabinets and rarely clean clothes; they were forced into self-reliance. A bad day for them was a really awful day. But otherwise, kids with responsible parents should not be having bad days. It seems like childhood should be a long skip through the fragrant, blossoming forest of youth. But we all know that forest seems never-ending, and completely claustrophobic when you are stuck in it and have no idea of the pastures, meadows, beaches and sparkling sunsets through the other side. Is it possible a bad day is capable of striking even the most confident, capable and cheerful people? Will a bad day sucker punch even those annoying souls who respond to your, “How are you today,” with the irrepressibly exasperating “Never had a bad day in my life” routine?

If you listened to pop, rap or R & B radio in the 90’s, you are familiar with a song by Monica entitled, “Just One of Them Days.” She was having one of those days where she just wanted to be all alone, and don’t take it personal, it’s just a bad day, so steer clear. There are countless other songs about bad days. It’s an interesting phenomenon, the idea “when it rains, it pours.” Why, sometimes, do the fates spit on you? Why, sometimes, does life’s curveball curve right into your groin?

I’ve known a few people in my life who maintain their smile through all kinds of weather, injustices, irritations and tragedies. They all tell me they “don’t have time for negative thoughts, people or moments.” Can you really control the world that way? Are you merely controlling your own world, and the way you view it? Are you being so rude to the malicious gods of the world as to never allow the emotions of life to drive you to cursing that 80 year old who cut you off, or to hating on that goofy looking guy with the hot wife by rejecting your true feelings? Is it possible that other people are not like me and sincerely have 365 good days a year, every year? Is it possible that all those “think positive” mantras can affect a global contrivance of goodwill, all toward you, just because you wake up every morning, stretch and breath in the air of bliss because you call it such?

I’ve been being more positive lately, I’ve tried to cancel those bad thoughts before they form, but it’s hard. I think of Pat Croce and his motto of, “I feel great.” I think of how lucky I am, how blessed I am, and I’m immediately filled with the gratefulness present in those exhortations.

Today, I woke up, brushed my teeth, grabbed my milk from the fridge, pulled out my favorite cereal, began pouring it into my clean bowl, and a thumb size cockroach fell out of the cereal bag into the bowl. (This is a cereal with raisins in it, so at first, in my morning daze, I remarked to myself how lucky I was to have gotten such a big raisin in my cereal.) Of course, I shrieked, “What the f#$%! Are you kidding me?” He struggled in my cylindrical bowl, dusty with oats and bran trying to escape before I finally grabbed a tissue and ended his days. The problem was, I had eaten this exact box of cereal the day before and no cockroach, so I was left with the problem of: did he crawl in last night and sit on top, or had he been living in there for an extended amount of time? I lean toward the latter based upon his lean, wiry look, as though he had spent a fair bit of time eating only lean bran protein for many days. Appetite surprisingly undisturbed, I just picked up my other cereal, inspected it and poured it into my yogurt for a new, cleaner breakfast. Verily, you cannot expect to handle kindergarten on an empty stomach. Twenty minutes later, I was telling the story to my Korean and American co-teachers, grossing them out as much as possible (with fabricated details) describing the raisin wrapped around his antennae or the eight skinny legs pushing around the tiny oats, and one of them mentioned that you could have eaten cockroach eggs and they can live in your stomach. I had recently watched the original M.I.B. with the bug who takes over Vincent D’Onofrio’s body and concurrently, roaches are always falling out of his sleeves and jacket pockets, and I didn’t want that to be me. So, I went to the local pharmacy and bought the Korean pill that they take every year to kill any and all bugs in their stomach linings. I had also just watched the original Alien to prepare myself for Prometheus, so it was an easy jump for me to see something disgusting gestating in my bowels. They say cockroaches can live through the nuclear apocalypse. But, who would want to be a roach just to make it into the terribly depressing (and I imagine food-free) post-nuclear bleakness that would be the world? It’s like the non red-meat eaters who mention that they have an average life span of 5-10 years longer than most carnivores. I stand by my trite response of who needs 5-10 more years of salad? I enjoy salad too, usually a nice Caesar before a steak or served as a bed for a big, tasty fish.

I made it through the day, it being Friday before a stressful Saturday of teaching the children a class in front of all their parents, something we have been preparing endlessly for the last month, a structure called: Open Class. I mentioned to my friend that I just needed a dinner that I know and love and can still appreciate despite the morning debacle. We went to my “Korean Mom’s” place, which is merely a hole in the wall with good food. On my penultimate bite of my dongas (fried pork chop covered in a sweet brown sauce) I crunched into something and squealed quite audibly. It was not the juice filled mess that a roach must be like (they were sold in stalls in Thailand and some were palm sized.) This was a ruthlessly hard substance that grated and scratched through my jaw, teeth and into my brain. I removed and dug through my bite and found a piece of glass the size of a baby tooth. My teeth, I believe, are intact, my soul and disposition are understandably shaken. We went to the batting cages and hit balls to end the day on a positive note. I got a few dingers in there and felt better.