“I’ll never forget the day Marilyn and I were walking around New York City, just having a stroll on a nice day. She loved New York because no one bothered her there like they did in Hollywood, she could put on her plain-jane clothes and no one would notice her. She loved that. So as we we’re walking down Broadway, she turns to me and says ‘Do you want to see me become her?’ I didn’t know what she meant but I just said ‘Yes’- and then I saw it. I don’t know how to explain what she did because it was so very subtle, but she turned something on within herself that was almost like magic. And suddenly cars were slowing and people were turning their heads and stopping to stare. They were recognizing that this was Marilyn Monroe as if she pulled off a mask or something, even though a second ago nobody noticed her. I had never seen anything like it before.” - Amy Greene, wife of Marilyn’s personal photographer Milton Greene
Thugxwife by Yero Brown
Kanye West is white America’s worst nightmare. Because as much as one may attempt to dismiss him — by calling him an asshole or classless or deranged or various other adjectives that fill the comment sections of literally every article about him — you still have to turn on your regularly scheduled late night comedy program and stare him in the face. You can’t avoid Kanye. He’s made very sure of that.
Kanye is not a “new slave” in the same sense as the victims of the prison industrial complex, but he is still trapped in a world that expects him to not only be complicit with the struggle of his people, but to be appreciative that he is not one of them. And on top of all that, while he gets to exist in the world of the 1%, having the money and signifiers of success still aren’t enough to make his (white) 1% peers actually even respect him.
The ideals of Public Enemy are as relevant today as they were in the 80s, but hip-hop was nowhere near as dominant and omnipresent a cultural force as it is at this moment; to compare the reach of their messages is silly. Upper-middle class white families did not have to deal with Public Enemy if they didn’t want to. Similarly with politically-minded “noise rap” artists that have been name-dropped in reviews of Kanye’s new material — it’s all well and good for Death Grips and Blackie and even Killer Mike to espouse similar messages and sounds (and honestly, the sonic qualities of “New Slaves” and “Black Skinhead” are hardly at the top of the list of why they’re important), but none of them have anywhere near the amount of visibility and influence as Kanye, even if they did hit it first.
People in current positions of comfort and stability are so willing to dismiss the transgressive thoughts of an angry black man that they will use any convenient excuse to diminish from them; if someone says something that makes you uncomfortable, why not immediately change the subject to his girlfriend’s ass or that time he yelled at a papparazzi or that time he got drunk and embarrassed a white girl? When was it exactly that Kanye shifted, in the eyes of the mainstream, from lovable polo-wearing backpacker to perpetually and unanimously An Asshole? When, precisely, did everything he said get immediately categorized as a “rant” or “controversial” regardless of the actual content? I want to say it was around the time when he said that George Bush didn’t care about black people on live tv. Hmm. Odd.