By Erin Moyer || Opinion & Editorial Editor
I am here with a message from the future: There is this artist named Kanye West, and he just saved the world.
Well, perhaps that is not what the fate of our nation holds. I’m willing to cede that one. Just don’t ask the man himself, because I’m pretty sure Kanye’s already addressed his plans to rescue humanity from itself in a Twitter rampage or two.
But though I don’t expect Kanye to deliver us from evil (despite his “Yeezus” moniker, funnily enough), I’m writing today because I think it’s time I put my foot down. I like Kanye West. I think he is a talented, sharp, engaged, and criminally underrated artist. And please note that I am using the word artist. I am in awe, I am a fan, and I would like to be a friend. (He’ll return my emails soon, I am sure. He’s been busy.) In this op-ed, I would like to address the fact that relatively few people respect Mr. West’s work. And I would like to explain why this disregard for America’s premier “raplithic priest” (classic Yeezus, am I right?) is kind of crazy.
I was particularly spurred to compose this piece because Kanye West has recently been targeted by the “hacktivist” group, Anonymous. This fittingly nameless group of computer crusaders has turned their electronic indignation against the Westboro Baptist Church, child pornography sites, and all of sudden now, yes, Kanye West. The group claimed in a YouTube video that West has exploited his wife, hijacked awards from “those who work equally hard for recognition,” and himself become a “new slave” to an industry that perpetuates a cycle of “stupidity” and “distraction.”
Anonymous’ campaign to bring West down is, for one thing, kind of a bizarre decision given their far more serious past take-downs. You’re going to put Kanye West on the same priority level as a website sexually exploiting children? Is this man really that offensive? Surely we can be directing our Guy Fawkes-esque fury toward a more valid cause, no?
I agree that, decorum-wise, storming an award show stage is not the most elegant way to make an impression. You have me there, Anonymous. But the award-show-stage surging, and how it’s misunderstood, is really the most perfect encapsulation of Kanye’s character: yes, running onto a stage and seizing the microphone from someone is an impressively egotistic move. But it’s something Kanye West has done one and a half times (looking at you, Beck) because, in his own, Kanye-logical way, he’s standing up for what he believes. As Kanye said in his interview with The Breakfast Club, he was offended that, in his opinion, Beyonce was only being nominated for awards to be propped up in the front row to lure in viewers. He may have been sort of an asshole, but he, in a perhaps egotistical view, stood up for what was right.
And this higher pragmatism actually extends to his work as, yes, an artist. He is more than the man in the meme. He is more than an egotistic, over-exposed performer. His music is, and has always been, about real issues. He wants us to be engaged and angry. He wants us to talk about women, sex, politics, gender. power, race, inner-city strife, the true role of art in our society. Listen to “New Slaves,” listen to “Black Skinhead,” listen to his interviews. Yes, the man may have an ego. But he is making us think. He is making us talk.
This article has been one in a series of love letters to Kanye West. Look out next week for Erin Moyer’s next edition of the Kanye Kolumn.