THE BLOG
03/25/2014 05:07 pm ET Updated May 25, 2014

On 'Table Seats' and Validations: An Open Letter to Kanye West

Dear Yeezy,

I have deeply appreciated your additions to the constantly evolving black sonic canon. Creating and re-imagining what rappers/black men/sad men/queer men can sound like. You reminded us of the screams and moans in the echoes of black music in America. These accolades can be found in other parts of your discography however, believing Yeezus is their culmination. But we have problems: the grief-driven misogyny, the obsession with goods as signifiers of legitimacy, framing particular women as those goods and for having a devastating fixation on some mythical seat at a glass table surrounded by gate-keepers of cultural social order. Your aspirations are real but what/who are you aspiring to be?

In your time with Kim Kardashian, and joining the larger mom-and-pop operation of the Kardashian family, your cultivated flavor or taste or desire for a particular class validation you thought their socioeconomic status could satisfy. As I believe you are noticing, even the Kardashians do not have a seat at the elusive glass table, and the validation you seek is impossible. Yet, you press on. You have attempted to foray into cinema, fashion and design arts. While you have gained notoriety and acclaim in your attempts to sit at these tables, your biggest public frustrations seem to stem from not feeling like you are being taken seriously. You critique popular systems of validation, at award shows, in paparazzi lenses, but for your own personal gain not for large critiques of cultures of policing. To re-visit your recent work, "New Slaves" serves as a critique of the consumption of black bodies and the things they unconsciously consume. How, then, can you position yourself as someone who is consumed and actively revels in that consumption?

As a large-scale validation of class and art (unfortunately), your Vogue cover is a statement. People have already stated that you, along with girlfriend Kim Kardashian, have "finally received Anna Wintour's seal of approval." Rhetoric of wearing Wintour down and public tantrum throwing has clouded this potentially high praise. Several culture vultures have already tried to dismiss "haters" or "critics" of the cover. Praising the couple for taking their distinctly different controversial fames and gaining such a variety of cultural capital. Vogue covers the likes of white women, and presidents' wives and "exceptional" women of color. And now your girlfriend has occupied a cultural space no woman like her ever has. In a great tweet from CinnaBae, she clearly states a concise and resounding critique: I'm annoyed with the idea of Kim K because I know a black female celebrity can't follow the same trajectory because of misogynoir." There are particular intersections of Kim that would on other bodies be condemnable at the attempts to "other." Mrs. soon-to-be-West has failed at this moment. We see her as the focal point of the cover in wedding day Desdemona white with her man, the 21-century Othello himself. These classes and gendered signifiers of inequality on her body seem to pass. Brienne of Snarth mentions the fact that Kim K. is unwed, twice divorce, with a sex tape and a multiracial child yet can be read as pure and domestic in her cover. Not even Beyoncé can claim this; she has adopted many normative and consumable performances of womanhood and binary partnerships. Bey on the cover of Vogue signals types of acceptable forms of blackness.

What is particularly interesting about this is that she can owe a majority of her success to you -- not to discredit the work of her mother in running their family like a Fortune 500. But much of Kim Kardashian's critical acclaim comes from becoming linked to you. While I can easily imagine your relationship being healthier than people give you credit; because if you and Kim share any understanding, it is being fetishized by celebrity. But you sort of position this terrifying narrative of the power of assimilation. For Kim, she can perform classed versions of whiteness, benefit on body standards/connotations of women of color and traditional performances of femininity. She can get away with certain things because of her perceived, though notably exotic, whiteness. However, she is far enough from whiteness so her being with you is in many ways acceptable. Your desire to be considered a cultural gatekeeper/ genius/ innovator by learning from the feet of Euro-western theaters reveals aspirations for a seat at the table (that continually eludes you). In the behind-the-scenes video of the Vogue photo shoot, we see you all in utter domesticity and reproducing (in some ways) queer family dynamic: unmarried, interracial, inter-class backgrounds. Yet we see you in oppositional white and black outfits, in what appears like wedding drag. I can only imagine what this means to you.

Kanye, if this is what you were waiting for, I hope that getting here gives you time to learn how much larger your imagination could be. You have the potential to completely re-imagine the spaces you want to enter. You already have ruptured so many spaces by sheer loudness and cacophonies of philosophy, humor and pride. Is this really your end goal? Cinnabae again illustrates the tension in how you position yourself:

I think Kanye's actions in recent years are a manifestation of what happens when black people in higher levels of society are caught in the throes of maintaining a degree of authenticity to your cultural group and wanting to somehow assimilate into the world of the gatekeepers.

Kanye rapping with 2Chainz and signing underground artists and doing remixes of trap songs maintains the cannon you want to be remembered for, but you also have this desire to enter elite (white) artistic spaces not yet validating you.

I hope you seek to create counter-cultures and use your charming ability to rupture and truth tell to show people more than just your person talent. You and your aspirations for particularly white-nesses are the center of your work, and you are relying on a canon of resistive sonic blackness to only project yourself and your exceptionality. While your dreams are real, can you not imagine bigger? Is Vogue your end game? Also interrogate how you are using your girl / how she using you.

What do you plan to be as one half of the #TheWorldsMostTalkedAboutCouple?

Love, Jay, fan since "Drive Slow"

PS: "Say You Will," "No Church in the Wild" and "Spaceship" saved my life.

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