Kanye West and “Placism”
Kanye West recently conducted an interview with Zane Lowe on the BBC which elicited one of two reactions. Ride or die Yeezy fans ate up every word, while a majority of people wrote it off as the rants of a megalomaniac.
I initially fell into the latter group, but some of his opinions resonated with me, so I said let me give this thing another listen and see if there is an actual message behind the madness that is the mind of Kanye West. What I realized is that this guy makes a lot of valid points, his major problem in regard to transmitting his message can be summed up in one word, tact; or lack there of.
The manner in which Kanye disseminates his point of view can be likened to using a shotgun to kill a cockroach. If one can get simply get past his delivery method without becoming immediately put off, you might pick up what Yeezy is putting down.
Kanye West is a Frustrated Man
Despite being one of the biggest rap/rock stars of this generation, he aspires to be more than that. Kanye desires to be a driving force in popular culture, not only in music, but fashion, architecture, and design as well. His talent for such endeavors has never been in question, for when given the opportunity he has proven that his ideas can be highly successful. The Air Yeezy was one of the dopest shoe designs to come along in some time. Does Kanye have an ongoing relationship with Nike? Unequivocally no.
He claims to have approached Fendi six years ago with an idea for a leather-jogging pant, and was told no. Go online today and you can find leather-jogging pants made by everyone from H&M to Versace. He seems to have some solid and lucrative ideas; so why is Kanye not able to penetrate the world of high fashion and attain the backing that other talented creative minds can?
I can’t say that for sure. Although few and far between, there have been successful black or minority designers who have made headway in the highly exclusive fashion world.
Kanye is quoted in the interview as saying “I have reached the glass ceiling. As a creative person, as a celebrity. When I say that, it means I want to do product. I am a product person. Not just clothing, but water bottle design, architecture, everything that you can think about, and I’ve been at it for 10 years, and I look around and I say wait a second there’s no one around here in this space that looks like me, and if they are, they’re quiet as fuck.“
So why can’t Kanye break this glass ceiling? Is it because he’s black? Is he not quiet enough? Placism may be the answer we’re looking for.
Placism isn’t a term we’ll find in Webster’s dictionary; nonetheless it has relevance here. It is a distant cousin of racism, mainly having to do with an individual, particularly those outside of the ruling class, color or gender, not knowing his or her place. I first came across this term in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday in the scene where Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) faces of with Coach D’Amato (Al Pacino) at dinner.
Willie expresses frustration with how the perception of him lost him millions of dollars and nearly ruined his career. He was considered a troublemaker who didn’t really want to “play ball”. Even in the sports world black men have to “play ball” in more ways than one.
This makes me think of a classic Jay Z line from his Reasonable Doubt album, on “Can’t Knock the Hustle”, Jay Z raps “At my arraignment, screaming, all us blacks got is sports and entertainment, until we even.” Only in these particular spaces is it accepted, or even encouraged for the black male to express any type of bravado or swagger. Touchdown dances, dunk celebrations, chest pounding, all are welcome on stage or on the playing field.
Fall In Line
However, you can’t let your nuts hang so to speak in a corporate environment or the fashion industry. Shave your face, tighten up, and cut out all the bullshit you’re used to doing where you come from. Follow these rules and you may get yourself a deal or a job like some of these quiet fuckers Kanye speaks about. Disobey, and you may find your self on the outside looking in, because the decision makers at these corporations quite frankly don’t have to deal with your “uppity” ass. Damn I hate that word, but it’s appropriate here.
Look At Jay
Take Kanye’s mentor Jay Z. Now don’t get me wrong, Jay swags out with the best of them, but when it’s time to cut the deal, he glad hands better than Nucky Thompson on the first season of Boardwalk Empire (for my HBO lovers).
I assume this is part of the reason Jay’s relationship with longtime partner Dame Dash soured. Dame was rumored to run wild around the the Def Jam offices talking to execs like Lyor Cohen any type of way if they didn’t see things his way.This behavior is emblematic to pissing on the money tree. I’m sure Jay’s history in the drug game taught him that you’re either about the money, or you’re not.
If you don’t want to be “controlled” to a certain degree, and play the game the way it’s set up, you may be assed out in the worlds of big business and high culture. All one has to do is look at their respective career trajectories since the split and you’ll see what I mean.
On the Yeezus track “New Slaves”, Kanye raps, “F#ck you and your corporations y’all niggaz can’t control me!” This is where his Truman Show boat hits the iceberg. He comes from a long line of revolutionaries, and this aspect of his personality will not allow him to conform or humble himself in any way to appease the kingmakers. I don’t necessarily think he should have to. Whatever ego he’s developed over the years he’s earned it. The guy has shown and proved time and again; he shouldn’t have to do a soft shoe routine to quell any fears business executives may have when it pertains to their ability to pull the strings.
The problem is that the people Kanye is trying to gain inroads with have egos too. They aren’t Taylor Swift, they’ll be damned if some (insert disparaging term here) is going to metaphorically snatch the microphone out of their hands because he’s feeling a little “turnt up”. These people aren’t team owners, or record execs for that matter. They don’t need Kanye to win the next championship, or drop that highly anticipated LP.
Why Doesn’t He Do It Himself?
Some may argue that if Kanye is so rich, why doesn’t he just fund his own dreams? Child please, Kanye needs these corporations to back him. This isn’t a line of T-shirts were talking here. This is big business: materials, distribution, manufacturing. Kanye could lose his whole fortune trying to put out his dreams on his own dime. He’s rich,(estimated net worth 100 million according to Forbes) but he isn’t wealthy, there’s a difference. Think back to the Chris Rock special where he riffs on riches vs. wealth.
“If Bill Gates woke up tomorrow with Oprah’s money, he’d jump out a fuckin’ window. I can’t even put gas in my plane!” Kanye needs these corporations; they don’t need him as much, especially if he refuses to kowtow. At the end of the day, they can steal his ideas, makes millions and tell Yeezy to kick rocks.
He’s a Passionate S.O.B.
Probably to a fault. Maybe the way he expresses that passion makes him come across like a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (look it up). It’s probably the reason he would like to slap Jimmy Kimmel around for bringing that perception to light. Should he neglect his core values to further his creative ambitions?Or keep fighting the good fight?
That’s a choice he’ll have to make. I say keep fighting the good fight. Even if you don’t get there, $100 million is nothing to sneeze at. He’s intelligent, passionate, a creative genius, and I wish him the best. So next time you hear Kanye pontificating and you ask yourself, “is this guy and egomaniac, or the ambassador of self-esteem?” Lean toward the later.