What in the fuck was that Kanye?
I told you to do some shit for the kids
You can give me your muhfucking graduation ticket right now
You will not walk across that stage, you won’t slide across that stage
Muhfucka can’t pull you across that stage Kanye
Who told you, see, I told you to do something uplifting
I’m trynna get you out here with these white people and this how you gone do me?
You know what? You’s a nigga
And I don’t mean that in no nice way
Had little kids sing about the shit, the joke’s on you
You throw your muhfuckin’ hands in the air, and wave good-bye to everybody
Cause you getting the fuck out of this campus
Muhfucka what you gone do now?
I’m no longer confused, but don’t tell anybody.
I’m about to break the rules
But don’t tell anybody.
In 2012 Kanye West introduced most of the world to Chief Keef, via the G.O.O.D. Music remix of Keef’s local hit “I Don’t Like.” (I know, I know, you knew about Keef before Kanye, but most of America can’t touch your impeccable blog game.) This was something of a confusing move at the time, at least for me; the remix wasn’t an improvement by any means, and it had been a while since Kanye had shown significant interest in preserving his Chicago affiliations, but there he was, shouting out all the local rappers, putting on a 17-year-old kid from one of the most fucked up neighborhoods in the country. But I know why Kanye did the remix now (and I think he knows he didn’t improve upon the original either). He needed to confront white America with what they presumed at the time was their worst nightmare: a young black male who grew up in hell and no longer gave a single fuck, who used unfamiliar words and rapped about guns and money and drugs. You know, rapper stuff. (NOTE: When I say “white America” please know I am not being all-inclusive. Like, fuck, I’m white, I get that there are many white people who fully support and understand the racial and socio-political issues at hand here, and that I am being reductive by dichotomizing it into simply “black” vs “white” to begin with. Consider it shorthand for the type of non-black American unconcerned by or complicit in the perpetuation of these issues.)
In reality though, Chief Keef isn’t white America’s worst nightmare. Because while he scares the living shit out of them in person, he fits neatly into the trope that many racist white Americans need young black men to fit into: violent, uneducated, aimless. They expect this kind of character, and in turn know how to strip him of his humanity, dismiss him, and avoid him.
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.
Yes. Read also: http://dalatu.tumblr.com/post/51068780803
This is a smaller thought that I’ve been meaning to jot down at some point since about, oh, June of last year. I’ve written a couple of pieces that have ended up skirting this issue from different sides. One was a listy defense of some of the commonly held conceptions about young, hip people who live in Brooklyn, in which this bit emerged rather serendipitously as I was venting:
I have never been conscious of my enjoyment of any of these things coming from an ‘ironic’ position. Honestly I’m not even sure how one likes something ironically—is it just pretending or is it more like lying? I do not consciously like things based on how they will appear to people around me.
The other was a piece in response to a particularly vitriolic NYT restaurant review from a few months ago that got a lot of positive attention for dumping all over a very easy target in the celebrity chef world. Tom Ewing commented on my post with this point:
also it’s an expression of the high confidence of foodie culture, it’s at that popcult stage where “everybody knows” who the good and the bad guys are - long lost in music &c.
So: irony. It’s when you say one thing but mean something else, usually its opposite. In culture, as it’s popularly understood these days, irony has to do with the performance of ‘bad’ taste or older things and ideas that don’t fall within the zeitgeist. Now, whether or not this actually fits the rigid definitions of irony or whether kitsch is partially involved is, to me, beside the point. If you grow an old-timey mustache or drink Pabst Blue Ribbon or watch low-budget 80s slasher flicks on VHS, a lot of people will call it ironic. Implicit in the accusation of irony (which has been a pejorative for at least the last decade) is the very notion Tom mentions in regards to foodie culture: that “everybody knows” what’s good and bad. Someone who appears to be enjoying something we “all know” is bad can only be doing so ironically, right? To make some kind of “point” or to position themselves as counter-cultural in some way?
The level of assumption needed to make this kind of accusation—the arrogance, the snobbery, the elitism—far outpaces any such attitude I’ve ever observed in even the most hipstery hipsters. It’s not that nothing is ever ironic or that some people don’t intentionally play with irony. They certainly do. But using ‘ironic’ as a hipster pejorative in 2013 contains 1) the assumption that no one could ever enjoy these things sincerely, 2) the “everybody knows” mentality that puts the accuser in a non-existent bubble of safety and arbitration, 3) a conflation of the two that presupposes the accuser’s understanding of taste to be universal and therefore excuses their arrogance in judging the taste of someone else, and 4) an elitism born of negation: you’re being ironic and I’m not, because I’m concerned with the correct, current things, not the silly stuff you’re playing with.
For people my age and younger (‘Millennials,’ we’re called), irony just isn’t that useful. Not to beat a dead horse, but thus far we as a generation (and especially as a subculture!) have been far more concerned with ‘curation.’ It’s the Tumblr mentality everybody loves to write thinkpieces about these days: taking context-free photos, videos, songs, etc. and using them as a collage of self-definition. Doing so with an ironic intent—which is to say a winking, snarky, or possibly even malicious intent (publicly skewering things that certain people love just to upset them)—would be a colossal waste of time. Those who didn’t get it would scroll through to see if there was anything cool they wanted to reblog, and those who did get it would either move on with their own concerns or just go ahead and reblog anyway, stripping out any ‘ironic’ context and slapping the object on their own fantastical dream board. Clothes, hair, food and drinks, movies, music—anything for which one can have certain tastes—are all treated the exact same way. It’s not always irony-free, but it’s irony-resistant. In other words, if you’re grousing about ‘ironic’ hipster affectations in 2013, I have to wonder how much you’ve bothered to learn about the people and the lifestyle you’re dismissing, and whether you might be proceeding from some deep-seeded false assumptions.
All this, and also, I think terming something as irony used to be a way for other (generally older) people to categorise the behaviour of people who genuinely liked or loved something that they could not understand someone valuing, and also from the other side of the mask, as a way to continue loving something without contest or conflict. But now as these things, and multiplicities in general, become more acceptable, this has faded. But also, being a ‘hipster’ and loving (I think throughout the term’s history), does indicate detachment from the thing, a hipster is never someone within the culture or community, either the thing is something that they are reclaiming as valuable from their own past, from their culture’s past, or something outside of their experience.
ETA: popcornnoises response
Matt Taibbi, from “Zero Dark Thirty Is Osama Bin Laden’s Last Victory Over America,” rollingstone.com. (via andrewtsks)
Again the whole thing is worthwhile. It gets shouted over a lot, especially in International Politics where we got taught that whether or not states are self-interested actors what history boils down to is that the ones that do act out in violent self-interest affect the world the most, but you can create positive change and positive change rarely happens when you act at odds with the positive things you are trying to create. Cynical, ‘oh all America’s actions are just power-plays anyway’ make it hard to talk and think and act for the many people who aren’t into power plays. The whole false reading of people outside of your country as people who like and can handle death, horror and torture more than you is wrong and dangerous and creates more violence. If you have power and respect the things others value, like less death and no torture, you can win the larger war.
“Everyone’s born confident, and everything’s taken away from you.”
In my opinion, this is the realest statement Kanye has ever made. Yes, realer than “George Bush hates black people”… everybody knew that already. But this is enlightening.
It is probably worth noting that this is a real Kanye quote, unlike the many, many quotes that travel around Tumblr without attribution, and is from his interview with Peter Macia for The FADER.
The whole interview (from 2008) is good. I side-eye most people who disrespect Kanye, he can be short-sighted sometimes, but when he’s on, like most of this interview, he is on.