Post(s) tagged with "2004"
Kanye West: All Falls Down
I first heard Kanye West when I was up late one night watching MTV and they played his video for “Through the Wire”. It was new and it was fresh. The magnitude of his talent was instantly palpable. But, I first heard Kanye West on “All Falls Down”. That is to say, I heard his message, what he was really saying and why it was so important.
Today, when I hear Kanye West, particularly that younger version, I always pick up on something new that still needs to be said, but most importantly, needs ears to hear. Ears free of biases and preconceived notions about the man—the vessel—and to simply listen to a message that reflects our world today, honestly and bluntly, better than anyone else in the game.
In the first verse Kanye paints his lyrical picture of the misconstrued idea of college that so many in our society have. College has become the “safe bet” and nothing more. Fast-forward to 2011, a recession later, and it’s not even so safe anymore, but it’s better than no college, right?. Wrong. Just like those piano lessons you took as a kid were a waste of time because all you wanted to be doing was running outside playing hide-and-go-seek, what point is college if you don’t want to be there? It’s a mask for the insecurity you are unwilling to confront. You don’t know what you want to do, or far worse, you’re afraid to pursue what you really want to do. So, you hide behind the walls of the University and amongst the Business and Biology majors, who lead the herd of ambitious cattle climbing the ladder to the top of the money pile. College should be a time to not only delve into the deep waters of your heart’s true desires, but to seek out what lies inside the cave that is your mind, your heart, and your self.
In the second verse, Kanye does something that I have rarely seen any other hip-hop artist do. Off the top of my head, I really can’t think of anyone. He takes his entire argument and turns it on himself. He makes himself the evidence—the argument that proves the thesis. It’s as if he says, “society is messed up, we are insecure, scared, and shallow, and here’s how I know it…me.” And no lines delve deeper into the psychology of the stereotypical black rapper than these:
We shine because they hate us
floss ‘cause they degrade us
we trying to buy back our forty acres
and for that paper look how low we’ll stoop
even if you in a Benz you still a nigga in a coop.
Is he right? Is this true? Is it fact? I’m not sure, but, in my opinion, it’s a highly intelligent, educated, and qualified hypothesis. The problem with capitalism in our society—whether you are white, black, brown, yellow, or pink—is that no matter how rich you get and how honestly you’re doing it, you are making someone else richer who has allowed you to advance by exploiting you. I believe what Kanye is alluding to is the idea that we pick our poison, and there’s just no getting around that. If you become rich, it’s because someone is allowing you to become rich because they are going to get something out of it:
We buy our way out of jail but we can’t buy freedom
we’ll buy a lot of clothes but we don’t really need ‘em
things we buy to cover up what’s inside
cause they made us hate ourself and love they wealth
[…] drug dealer buy Jordans, crackhead buy crack
and the white man get paid off of all of that
Honestly, whoever says that Kanye is racist and hates white people is missing the point. In this case, we do it intentionally, to turn our naive attention away from the man behind the curtain. Without his antics, which take away from his message, his truths would be so revealing that they could be considered dangerous and “un-American”. After all, this is what Kanye is doing: attacking the American way of life, which he is a part of, and which none of us want altered or disturbed.
Unfortunately, it is being altered and disturbed from every angle—from within us and from outside. Eventually, as we are seeing, the warnings we should have adhered to become threats we must confront. Jobs are lost, gas goes through the roof, and the “middle class” disappears. Yet, we still consider Kanye an egomaniac, megalomaniac, racist, while he admits, “I ain’t even gon’a act holier than thou" and goes on to list his short-comings, which he has accepted and is unapologetic about, "We all self-conscious / I’m just the first to admit it.”
Since “The College Dropout”, Kanye has gone on to become, without question, the most talented hybrid of lyricist/producer/intellectual that hip-hop has ever seen. It’s just a shame that people see him more for the things he does in the limelight and less for the truths he delivers unfiltered. Truths, which in our state—whether anyone would be brave enough to admit it or not—might set us free. Call him what you will. I call him “genius”.