So I had this lengthy, epic post in my head for the last couple weeks- A Defense of Kanye West. Because I like Kanye West. He’s one of the most fascinating and interesting people in public life right now. But frankly I couldn’t make it happen. I started and stopped a couple of times and in the end the whole idea was just too daunting. So I thought I’d break it down into more manageable posts and see what I could do.
A few things- Kanye West is an interesting man. That’s not to say I always agree with him or that I can always make sense of what he’s trying to say. Often you can tell he’s working out ideas in real time, when he’s giving interviews or even in his songs. He’s a flexible thinker, incorporating different viewpoints into the thinks he says. He’s not afraid to speak his mind, even when he knows he’ll take shit for it. And few people take more shit for just having an opinion than Kanye West.
And in the end, why are people upset with him? Unless you’re George Bush or Taylor Swift, he’s probably never insulted you personally. I don’t get it.
I’m starting with Gold Digger, not just because it’s a great song, but because it’s an interesting one.
The basic synopsis of the song is this:
Verse 1: he meets a pretty girl at a beauty salon, she’s interested in him for his money and makes him take all her kids and their friends to dinner.
Verse 2: he talks about how young men should be careful with this type of woman.
Verse 3: he gives young women advice on how they should behave.
So starting off with the premise of the song- some women are just after men for their money. It’s probably the case that some women are, but this plays into a fairly nasty stereotype about women. Especially with verse two:
Eighteen years, eighteen years, she got one of your kids, got you for eighteen years
Holla we want prenup, we want prenup, yeah
It’s something that you need to have, cause if she leave your ass she gonna leave with half
This is basically the Eddie Murphy Raw act from the 80s. I don’t think it’s a very positive view on women.
Verse 3 is the turnaround. Kanye advises a young women who is “mopping floors” to :
Stick by his side, I know there’s dude’s ballin’ and yeah that’s nice
They gonna keep callin’ but you stay right girl
Annnnd the turnaround:
and when he get on he leave your ass for a white girl
Ouch. So there are no winners. Men are terrible because they’ll drop women whenever they get money. Women are bad gold diggers who will try to trap you by getting pregnant. Or so it seems.
This is my favorite set of lines in the song
From what I heard she got a baby by Busta
My best friend says she use to fuck with Usher
I don’t care what none of y’all say I still love her
Busta= Busta Rhymes, the rapper, and Usher is the singer. I’m sure he just used those names because they rhymed, but the point is that, this girl has been with other famous men. Which is kind of a big deal, right? Men with “traditional values”, which many rappers are, don’t like the idea of their girlfriend being publicly tied to other well-known men, especially if they’ve produced children with them. Because it means someone else got there first. “I had her before you” is one of the oldest insults in the book of rap insults.
But Kanye doesn’t care. “I don’t care what none of y’all say, I still love her.”
What really makes this song though, is how Kanye’s life has played out since it was released in 2005. Kanye got married this year. To this lady:
I don’t know much about the Kardashians. But to paraphrase- we all know the kind of dudes Kim’s messin’ with. We also know that she’s been with other dudes before. Anyone with an internet connection can find definitive proof. But Kanye’s never hid from this:
Break records at Louis
Ate breakfast at Gucci
My girl a superstar all from a home movie
Bow on our arrival the unamerican idols
When I first heard that line, I was blown away. What? Did he just say that? I guess the idea of getting money by any means possible goes for everyone- Gold Digger reads like a condemnation, but it doesn’t always sound like one. But I never thought anyone would proudly call attention to his own girlfriend’s sex tape.
And that’s the thing. Kanye seems genuinely happy with his wife and child. He proudly talks about them in interviews. He even made this:
I don’t know him personally. Maybe that video is a sign that’s he’s really in love or maybe it’s an act. I tend to lean towards the former, because… well just watch it. Who knows.
What does all this mean? I don’t know. Was Gold Digger prophetic? Was it a mean song making fun of women? Was it a cynical take on men? Again, who knows. I like questions with no answers, and Kanye gives me those.