Do Not Risk a Myopic Opinion of Kanye’s Character for the Sake of Etiquette

“People talk about the number of viewers the Brits get, or the number of viewers the Grammys get. They need to do award shows for the Nobel Peace Prize, but I guess that doesn’t sell as many MasterCard commercials.”   — Kanye West

I tried to avoid the Grammys, because I’ve grown to hate them and I really did not want to try to rationalize the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences decisions when most of them are bollocks to begin with.  When Beyoncé did not win, my opinion solidified.  I became slightly intrigued when I heard Kanye West stood up during Beck’s acceptance speech and then sat back down without saying anything.  Still, I was not too concerned with it and did not think too much about it.  But I’ve heard some things and held conversations that have made me upset and I would like to address them.

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Comparing apples with oranges makes a lot of sense, so we may as well do it with music too!!!!!!  Let’s talk about how a Pop Diva’s VIDEO ALBUM is more or less artistic than a SINGER-SONGWRITER’S.  There are more people on Queen Bey’s album simply because it is much more complex than Beck’s.  If anything, the extent of the collaboration is monumental given the fact that her album was surprise released and NEVER LEAKED.  Beyoncé also wrote, produced and arranged all fourteen of the songs on her album.  There were a total of ten producers on Morning Phase and every single one won a Grammy for Best Album.  If Beyoncé had won the Grammy for her Self-Titled Masterpiece, then every single producer would have won a Grammy.  Therefore the point about Beck’s production is irrelevant.

I am going to keep going on this rant, because this is important to me.  To say that Beyoncé is only a performer and not an artist is filth.  Art is a diverse range of human activities and the products of those activities, usually involving imaginative, creative or technical skill.  Beyoncé and Beck are both artists.  The number of instruments that either one plays might make them more or less proficient, but not more artistic.  That’s right, I minced words and am now done addressing this vaguely sexist photo.

One more thing.   A lot of the internet (youth) have responded to Beck’s win with “Who is Beck,” and I have never heard of Beck.  He has written twelve studio albums (four of which have gone platinum) and is responsible for one of the biggest singles of the 90’s, “Loser.”

I would argue that he has deserved a Grammy since Beyoncé was 15 years old, but that does not mean he had the best album of 2014.  Beck even said later that Beyoncé should have won because her album is simply better.  For me, both albums are superb, but if the Grammys were truly a fair process, Beyoncé would and should have won.  I won’t crunch the numbers or talk about sales, but I think the biggest reason she lost was because her supporters split their votes with other nominees.  Furthermore, the bigger Grammys are completely and utterly ridiculous.  “Best New Artist” is usually given to someone who has been around for years and a white dude almost always wins in the Rap category.  Rarely do the artists who deserve it win.

Kanye West knows that, so he walked on stage as if to say it, but then left.  The most common response to this most recent interruption (or lack thereof) is one of anger and resentment.  On the surface, this is a good thing because it means that most people are aware of proper etiquette.  However, I believe that there is much more to be discerned from this event.

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“The worst thing to call somebody is ‘crazy.’ It’s dismissive. ‘I don’t understand this person. So they’re crazy.’ That’s bullshit.” –Dave Chappelle

He has since apologized, but Kanye’s history of making his opinion known at awards shows is notorious.  The most infamous occurrence was at the 2009 Video Music Awards when Taylor Swift won Best Female Music Video for “You Belong With Me” over Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).”  Placed in this context, Kanye is almost making fun of himself by walking on stage in silence and changing his mind.

Make no mistake, I believe that Kanye is egotistical and rude.  But I recognize that in doing so without looking further I risk having a myopic view of his character.  Exploring the methods behind his calculated intrusions helps understand his persona and this essay does a wonderful job in delving into the themes that Kanye’s serial interruptions signify.  If you had to name one person who was the face of African American music today, who would it be?  Most people I’ve asked respond with Kanye West or Beyonce, therefore, should it not be their obligation to create spaces for the marginalized groups they represent and identify with?  Criticize me all you want for “making a non-race issue a racial one,” but it is no accident that all of the discussions I have had about this usually ended up in white men telling me Kanye should kill himself and Jay-Z and Beyoncé need to respect real art.  If I manage to get a last point in, my response is this:

Mr. West uses a lot of samples in his songs (as is prevalent in his genre), and this involves paying the artist who’s music he’s using.  Depending on how much of the song he samples and depending on the loaning musician’s permission, Kanye will give that person(s) co-writer credit.  That’s not only art, but also generosity and synergy.

“My goal, if I was going to do art, fine art, would have been to become Picasso or greater.  That always sounds so funny to people, comparing yourself to someone in the past that has done so much, and in your life you’re not even allowed to think that you can do as much. That’s a mentality that suppresses humanity.

“This humanity that I talk about, this civilization that I talk about…it can only happen through collaboration.”

Kanye West, Oxford Lecture, March 2, 2015

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