Kanye West is ranting again and most would ask: “what’s new?” This is a valid question, for the well-dressed rapper that is known for his obnoxious outburst, such as “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” during a Hurricane Katrina telethon and “Beyonce had the best video of all time” at the MTV Video Music Awards. Yeezy’s latest rants during his European tours, has the world calling him an a**hole again, but it’s got me to thinking, maybe Yeezy is a genius. Simply put he is asking a question that so many are afraid to ask: Can something as abstract as music, continue to coexist with something as structured as business?
As his “impromptu type performance” at the Hammersmith Apollo in London came to a close, Kanye decided to let a few things off his chest. Letting us all know that he hates business people, and creativity cures everything. He also went on to ask, “Since when was making art about getting rich?” From a man that’s worth close to 100 million dollars, it’s almost impossible to take this message seriously, but Kanye West’s acknowledgment of this issue is quite commendable. Someone who is obviously about making his paper, has found the balance where art and business can coexist. Creating five great, if not classic albums, with five distinct sounds, straight hip hop on College Dropout, to the innovative game-changer that is 808 and Heartbreaks proves that Kanye is an artistic genius. Also having no problem with serving us free music on GOOD Fridays, often with collaborations with artist you would never think he would work with, because they are not as high profile as himself: “Christian Dior Denim Flow” with a great Lloyd Banks verse, and “Don’t Like” with the young rapper Chief Keef. Still taking time out to learn the craft of fashion, by interning at Fendi. Allowing him to create his own fashion line for women, featured at Paris’ Fashion Week, having the models walk to Waka Flocka, never forgetting his hip-hop roots. Not to mention his sneakers Air Yeezy for Nike, and Kanye West for Louis Vuitton. His actions show that he is not taking our money by having his face plastered on products just so we can buy it, but instead he would rather create and curate, truly giving us a piece of him. Proving his creativity was never compromised, deserving every million he owns from it. Yeezy’s genius of mixing creativity and business so effortlessly is something so many artist lack, and allows him to state he has had enough…and you know what so have I! Asking “remind me again why we in this sh*t?” has got me wondering if it is to give us mediocre records with countless mentions of your products and put on mediocre shows; while we sit back and decide should we drink Diddy’s Ciroc, or Hov’s D’usse.
Rappers such as Ludacris, Lil Wayne and Jay-Z have become heavily involved in business, for a long time now, from clothing lines, to headphones to alcohol. While there is nothing wrong with expanding your brand, the problem begins when artists start straying away from the music. Nicki Minaj is the perfect example of this; a woman that was supposed to be female hip-hop’s savior has become a pop princess, who is now an American Idol judge, with her own perfume and clothing line for K-Mart. She also refuses to give her fans a mixtape, instead she’d rather repackage her second album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded with a “mixtape feel” so she can continue to make money from it. Business is so political and to the point, and music is so complex, many artist fail miserably when trying to do both. The rap game’s latest artists seem more concerned with getting a quick buck, by making radio friendly jams, for money rather than staying true to themselves. Leading them to endorsements, and other endeavors separating them from their artistry.
What music fans and most importantly hip-hop fans across the world should take away from these most recent harmonized rants is not that Kanye is being obnoxious, or that he doesn’t like Justin Timberlake and his big brother Hov’s “Suit & Tie” or the frequently quoted one-liner “remind me again why we in this sh*t.” We should be using this rant to remind us that we need to challenge our hip-hop artists to give us the art that we crave, not only the products that they endorse.