Monolith

So the other day I'm perusing Kanye West's blog -- which you might think would be just another celebrity self-promotion machine filled with concert dates and appearance information, but is actually pretty cool.

Of course I have no real way to prove that Kanye himself is the author of this thing, but if he is -- it only serves to feed into this whole conundrum I have about the guy. First of all, I'm about 40/60 with his music. My tastes in hip-hop (such as they are) tend to lean more towards the Public Enemy end of the spectrum, and as talented as Kanye clearly is -- his work generally lives more in the pop and dance world.
That being said, the Kanye songs that I like are more like songs that
I love -- the kinds of tunes that I will probably never get tired of.
And I think that's an important distinction -- especially now when there's so many different kinds of media, music, and art available for people to enjoy that it becomes literally impossible for a large part of it not to become kinda disposable.

In other words, there are songs that you hear and you love right now, but then you sort of wear out on them and eventually skip them whenever you hear the first couple of beats of it on your iPod. Summer songs that become really annoying when you're in a blue winter mood. High-tempo numbers that you love to listen to in the gym, but can't stand anywhere else. Classic rock favorites that you feel are really important to have in your collection -- but you've heard so many times that you don't really want or even need to listen to anymore.

But then there are the songs that instantly become part of your personal soundtrack. The ones that sound new every time you play them. The ones that pop into your head without any sort of external prompting.
The song that first made you want to pick up a guitar.
The song that you can't really listen to without crying.
The song that once got you laid, or was playing that one night when things got a little
freaky -- the one you can't hear without thinking and almost feeling that exact same way.

The song that no emo band or beer commercial better never ever remake
unless someone wants to lose an eye like Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill II.
You know the songs I'm talking about -- the ones you sorta put on every mix CD you make, regardless of who it's for or why. The kind of song you hear on the radio and suddenly have to call that one friend you haven't talked to in years..
..Those songs.
The Kanye songs I like fit into that category. I blame j for this -- because she was the one who refused to hear my complaints about Kanye's media personality and insisted, no flat out demanded that I actually listen to his music before writing him off.

And while I can't tell you that I really love every song he does, and can absolutely say that if I never hear "Goldigger" again I'll be just fine (regardless of how much I loved it when it first came out) -- the simple fact is that Kanye West is one of the most intruiging and exciting artists working in pop music today.

But here's the thing -- to me, there's the Kanye that does magazine interviews; you know, the same guy that does speeches at the VMA's -- and then there's the Kanye that you see in candid photos playing backgammon with Beyonce. The guy that sort of emerges from the shadows when you start to get a feel for his blog.

It's sorta like when I started realizing that as much as I loved listening to Public Enemy's music -- there was a certain point where I was really more interested in Chuck D's social and political commentary. Not because I always agreed with all of it (because I didn't), but because the man that began to appear behind the words was the kind of guy that I really wanted to get to know.
Sure I love his music and respect his opinion, but what would be cooler
than sharing a flight with a guy like that and talking Knicks basketball?
It's the same way I felt during a short period in the mid-90's when Prince experimented with blogging on his NPG website, and he was posting things like "Have you seen that Serena Williams? Dayum!!"
And part of you is like, "Wait, did ..Prince really just say that?" -- but the rest of
you is saying, "I know, right?! And those really short skirts she keeps working?"
It's like you feel connected. Like you've bridged some sort of gap (even if you really haven't). As if you've tripped over some sort of secret entrance that has put you face to face with the real person behind the name, the song, or the movie.

Kanye's blog is like that a bit for me. Mainly because even if the majority of his songs don't reflect it -- we seem to have really similar tastes in music and art. His blog was one of the first places I was able to get more information about Takashi Murakami, who's work I first fell in love with when I saw it in person at MoMa, but seemed at the time to have woefully little information available about him available on the web.

It's kind of the trap that comes with the cult of personality that surrounds celebrities, especially larger-than life ones like the Kanye's, Missy Elliots, or Jay-Z's of the world.

The day I found out that Jada Pinkett was not only a Slipknot fan, but was lead singer of a touring metal band featuring the original drummer from Fishbone -- I felt as if I'd made a little connection with her.

But when you get right down to it, Jada Pinkett is a millionaire Scientologist who lives in a completely different world than the one I know. I love her to death because of the little things I've read about her -- but if the opportunity ever did present itself where Jada and I had a chance to actually sit down and wax poetic about how much better Iowa was than The Subliminal Verses (and of course she'd agree with me) -- how long would that conversation really last?
And really, once we got past that tangent -- what would we talk about then?
So even though I find myself scrolling through Kanye's blog and thinking that we seem have all these things in common (modern art, Japanese electronica, a deep-seated desire to see Gabrielle Union naked), it's impossible to ignore the fact that Kanye's blog -- like all blogs -- represents only a part of who the author really is as a person.

It's the sort of thing that we deal with all the time -- especially when it comes to public figures. We want to know who they really are, but we treat the process of trying to find that out the same way we do the guy who sits next to us at work, or the waiter that has the pretty-boy haircut and the nose ring who can't seem to be bothered to refill your drink in a timely manner.

Think for a minute about Barack Obama and John McCain. Think about the way we need them to have real stances on the issues, but in the end their successes and downfalls almost invariably come from our personal impressions of who they are as people.
Is George Bush ever gonna be thought of as anything more than stupid?
Is Bill Clinton ever gonna be thought of as anything more than horny?
I hate typing this, because I really don't like what the guy stands for -- but it is scientifically possible that at least one moment in his life George W. Bush maybe knew what he was talking about or was able to make a business or governmental decision that was pretty good.

Of course this simple fact will never be enough to replace the absolute mountain of stupid-looking things he's done on TV or the executive-level ideas and platforms he supports that I personally disagree with -- but does that really give us enough information as a society to conclude that the guy is incapable of tying his own shoes?
The fact that Dubya's kind of a dolt makes it a hell of a lot easier to dislike him and doubt his effectiveness as a leader, but I'm pretty proud to say that I thought the guy was an asshole long before I ever started to suspect he was an idiot.
Which is what makes this upcoming election so tricky. I really like what I'm hearing from Obama about his policies, but to be honest -- I'm kinda having to dig a little to find it. No doubt I think he's a lot more likable and progressive than McCain could ever be --
But honestly, how much effort does it really take in this day and age to make a
handsome African-American appear cooler than some crotchety old white guy?
So yeah, if I'm picking a kickball team or looking for a table to sit at in the lunchroom, then Obama is the one. But we're picking a President here --
And we really do kind of need to get this one right.
I know who I'm planning to vote for -- but honestly, I think the coolness war has already been won, so if it's all the same to you I'd really like to start hearing a little bit more about your plans for education and healthcare rather than see you taking shots at a rich guy who doesn't know how many houses he owns.

Because here's the thing. Just because I'm gonna vote for you and want you to be our next president doesn't mean that I'm always gonna agree with everything you want to do. But I do feel like if we can have discussions and debates about your platform there's a better chance for dialogue and possible compromise than there ever would be with the other guy.
Or to put it another way -- just because you look cooler than than someone else
doesn't mean that you can't still get your ass beat when shit starts to go down.

[Listening to:  Jemapur"Maledict Car" ]

Comments

The Ex said…
Total, total truth. I was disappointed when the Obama camp starting make a big deal about McCain's house thing. I mean, so he doesn't know how many houses he has? That doesn't mean anything really. Plus it would be virtually impossible to run for president if you weren't rich in some way. So why are we making a big deal about this?

BUT – truth be told, I was more disappointed in the McCain campaign for turning it around and saying that Obama lives in a “mansion” (as if the McCain’s don’t….).

I’m still trying to figure out how exactly eating arugula makes one elitist. Or even WHY elitist is a bad thing. Don’t we want our FUCKING PRESIDENT to be elitist? To be better than the rest of us schlubs?
Werdna said…
There are all mansions on Coronado (where McCain's wife is from), unless you live on the Navy base.

But really aren't both of them just Cult of Personality material. I really liked Obama, but he voted for immunity for the telecoms for wiretapping. I don't dig immunity for violating the constitution.

On the other hand I can't vote for McCain no matter what (unless it was versus a Bush of some stripe). So basically it once again comes down to which one sucks less.
Heff said…
Wow. That video clip is really making the rounds. I saw it somewhere else first thing this morning. I know what you're sayin' though, dude....


Kanye West for President.
unMuse said…
A long time ago I stopped listening to what actors and musicians said outside of their movies and songs. I don't care about the hype of how good, bad, crazy or whatever. I don't care about their political affiliations, either, and I'm tired of the democrat vs republican drama as well. I'm sick of the "he said/he said" and paris-freakin-hilton's supposed point of view. But there's really no way to stop candidates from muck-raking until the population as whole, a majority, decide to ignore it - not even if we abolished the 2 party system. And just like the whole celeb-addictions, it's not going to stop. No one is going to take the high road. All we can do is vote for the one we think is going to (hopefully) cause the least damage, whatever that may be in our own individual minds.
whatigotsofar said…
See, that's what's wrong with democracy. It's a popularity contest.

...

I actually see things completely different as you on the coolness thing. Not to say that I think McCain is cool. But I think I would rather spend five minutes of my life with Sen. John McCain than Sen. Barack Obama. I think McCain has the ability to turn off his campaign mode. I get the feeling from Obama that he's always on; always trying to convince somebody to follow his vision of whatever. To use the "Who would you rather sit down at a bar and have a beer with" question, I pick McCain. The way I see it, the only reason McCain isn't cool, is the fact that he's pretty freakin' old. Otherwise, he's a pretty cool guy. He was soldier (fighter pilot I'm told), a POW, he's married to a woman whose job it is to get us drunk (can you say "free beer"). To me, that stuff and this feeling I get that he can be a guy when he wants to be makes him cool.

...

Looking back in recent US Presidential elections, the cooler guy wins.
Dubya vs. Kerry: Dubya was a cooler guy, regardless of how many rockstars attached themselves to Kerry. Dubya's got the Ross Perot crazies with the coke-background of Kerry's supporters. Face it, Dubya is a cool guy.
Dubya vs. Gore: Most people don't know how cool Gore really is because he spends too much time scaring us with tales of dying polar bears and penguin invasions.
Clinton vs. Dole: Ain't nobody cooler than the Horny Bomber.
Clinton vs. Bush: Clinton was cooler and we didn't even know the full extent of his cool at that point.
Satorical said…
On Kanye: There's "Gone," which fucking kills, and there's "Golddigger," which is crap. There's also the guy who pitched a fit at some festival this summer (Bonnaroo? Ask Leach.) and treated his fans like a bunch of bitches. Whatever. It's like Prince: I'll pick and choose ("Sign of the Times" kills kills kills), but dealing with the whole package is annoying.

As for Obama, he's full of shit (see FISA, lack of spine), but there's no way in hell I'm voting for More of the Same. The scariest was when Pat Buchanan said that McCain would make Cheney look like Ghandi. That's all I need to know right there.
Adam Bernard said…
You're totally right on the money that once a person has been deemed to have a certain quality they retain that aura about them no matter what they do.

If we really think about it, how many of us actually thought that McCain was a bad guy until the media kept pounding it into our heads? I'm no McCain supporter, but the last thing I remember him doing was cleaning up the steroid issue in professional sports, possibly saving a lot of kids lives.

Truth be told, now that Obama has selected Biden, a man who has a track record I cannot support, as a runningmate I am left looking at third party candidates again.