Sure, the multi-Grammy-award-winning hip-hop icon breaks records and has rightfully etched his presence in pop culture history, but what he has continued to show society is that fame can only take you so far.
Even at age 23, I still find myself watching Kanye on interviews and transforming into my mom looking at the hot mess that has become of my generation. I want the "good times" back, even though I haven't experienced the era where there were very visible and outspoken black intellectuals that weren't tabloid litter. No matter how much the blogs and industry experts want to project him as one of the most influential black men in America to follow, I know there has to be better.
For one, what Kanye says about social issues isn't remarkable or groundbreaking -- it's lazy, misguided and tactless. His recent interview on The Breakfast Club was filled with foul calls that went from misogynistic to embarrassing.
But one line that many fell asleep on during that interview was when he tried justifying his lack of activism during the Eric Garner protests by stating that he "can't run in front of every bullet."
The truth of the matter is, Mr. West, you never have and most certainly never will.
In the past, I have had bloggers, social media influences, and colleagues in my profession tell me that I am too hard on Kanye. Many of my white peers tell me how incredible he is and how genius he is as a black man to be able to connect various races together through his vision. They even go so far to tell me how much his music inspires them and how much they have learned about my culture from him.
With all due respect, Kanye West is a talented celebrity -- but not an intellectual.
All that black excellence has given us this Black History Month, yet we still ascribe to allowing mainstream media to conflate all of our various leaders and movements into commercialized figureheads.
When I think about black power and academia, I don't go to celebrities for that. I look to the many black inventors and scholars who have paved the way for me to have graduated from college and succeed in my personal career. As I have gotten older, more of my generation has become disconnected from going to the real thing and now expect those who are in the limelight to possess it all.
The problem with Kanye isn't just Kanye, but the value that society has placed on him. He is overpriced when it comes to actual expertise on social justice, race and gender politics because he doesn't have the experience or energy to properly run in front of such bullets. Outside of just talking out loud about politics or interrupting award shows... where has Kanye actually been at in the trenches? Oh yeah, he was too busy getting his fashion line together.
The political correctness he has in order to protect his reputation, finance and legacy suits him as a celebrity, but knocks him out of the canon of being anything more. Let's not forget that real movers and shakers like Bayard Rustin, the late, gay, black activist, stepped away from the limelight in order to let the Civil Rights Movement proceed with less distraction. Kanye makes it a point to insert himself for a cause (regardless of how insignificant it is to the rest of us) at his own convenience and attention seeking.
What we have allowed Kanye to do to us for years is deceive us into believing that what he does for culture is actually serving our lack thereof. But instead we have recently gotten overpriced shoes, reminders that black beauty is still not the standard compared to his white wife, and that fame and wealth is an aspiration that should inspire us all. Yeah, I'll pass on all of that.
To my white peers who think Kanye is the voice of my generation because he is the only black guy you know on TV that is cool enough to embrace your culture and allow you to embellish in his rebel immaturity: You can have that. What I desire is a return to variety. An elevation of black scholarship and merit that is not constantly being downplayed by larger-than-life entertainers who are expected to have all the answers.
Just like Sway, Kanye "don't have all the answers." And he shouldn't.
As a community, we need to start keeping it real with ourselves and set conditions on expectations and standards. For every tabloid and post we continue to showcase of celebrities and how they feel about social causes -- that should not be the paramount and voice of the movement. Especially when they are not on the forefront protesting, mobilizing or educating our generation on these matters.
There used to be an era where entertainers did do more than just talk and jive. When Harry Belafonte was seen publicly arm and arm with the people and stood up for civil rights. When Ice Cube and NWA were publicly uniting with LA during the police brutality riots. And today we have do have J. Cole and a few more entertainers who step up to the plate, but there need to be more with us in solidarity and not just monetarily.
For all the calling out Mr. West does of other entertainers, it seems quite coincidental that "Yeezy Season" only makes an appearance when there is a fortune to be made for him.
We will forever wonder what that would have been like during the rise of #BlackLivesMatter. But then again he had a fashion line to start and new music to produce. Not a bullet to run in front of.
That's fine because as a loyal influence to black culture, Marcus Garvey, once said "a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots."
It's clear our current reliance on celebrities to strengthen our movement is hanging, but we shall not fall.