How do we solve a problem like Kanyé West? | VALID | #TWIBnation

How do we solve a problem like Kanyé West?

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Kanye My departure from the Kult of Kanyé was a difficult time for me. I loved his early releases and for years, my Kanyé fandom was not to be questioned. He rapped about booties and gold-diggers and also compulsive consumption and commerce over humanity and I was here for all of it.

At some point, though, it seems he stopped making cogent and rhythmic observations about those things and simply chose commerce over humanity, by which I cannot abide. His music became more experimental and artistic in the worst sense of the word; the sense that comes with pretentiousness and a grandiosity that has not been earned.

Many of us reformed Kanyé-ans are criticized for not liking his latest release Yeezus because it’s “different” or we “don’t get it.” On the contrary; I respect his right to evolve and grow and switch up his sound, and his whole genre if he sees fit. I once enjoyed his creative output to the extent that I would happily connect the dots from his decade-old appearances on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam to the raps that signaled the different lanes he was taking. But art is still subjective and quality is still a thing and I simply don’t like what he has become and what he puts into the world. I get it; I just don’t want it.

I met Kanyé West once, back in 2009 when I was still a fan. We were among a large group of guests at an extremely fancy dinner party, and I wanted to say hello as soon as I saw him. This was a private event with security outside, but a very relaxed feeling inside, and I went over. He was in a corner leaning on the wall, and Spike Lee was near him, apparently trying to engage him in conversation. I introduced myself, and Mr. Lee was as genuine and affable as he had been on the few other occasions I’d seen him socially.

Mr. West, on the other hand, dove into his phone. He stared at what appeared to be his lock screen with such intent that I thought he was doing a comedy bit. Mr. Lee and I chatted until I suppose Mr. West felt that I wasn’t a threat if Spike was talking to me, or that he had established enough detachment to now engage, or…I don’t really know. But it was weird. I’m always hesitant to frame one encounter with a celebrity or someone whose work I admire as their constant, because we are all human and anyone can have a bad day or an off moment that can seem bigger than it was because someone decides to tweet or blog about it.

For that reason, I didn’t let it diminish my fandom. What did diminish my fandom was the recent trashy music. And the public tirades that get bigger and louder with each incident. A certain amount of ego is a job requirement as an artist, but if the balance is off between your ego and your art you become something else.

I was already completely over him when he was humorlessly browbeating Jimmy Kimmel, who was all too happy to take whatever Kanyé wanted to dish out while receiving huge publicity for the viral clips of the interview and supposed (non-existent)“feud” that had preceded it.

I was already thoroughly done when Mr. West screamed at Sway Calloway on Sway’s radio show, declaring himself to be Shakespeare and Walt Disney and making comparisons to the Medici family that sounded even more asinine given his repeated, shouted mispronunciation of the name as “muh-DEE-CHEEEEEE.”

Which leaves me thoroughly beyond over him and into the realm of pure disgust at his latest display. When I heard that Kanyé had stopped a concert to demand that every single person in the arena stand up, I figured that was typical concert behavior multiplied by the power of Kanyé and I kept it pushing.

But it was so much worse.

The Insufferable Mr. West recently said, “I can’t go on with this song if there’s people in here sitting down unless y’all sitting down because y’all handicapped. Unless y’all have handicapped parking.” That was last week at a concert in Melbourne, Australia. Two days later, in Sydney, he made good on that promise and stopped his show, slightly re-phrasing his statement as follows: “I can’t do this show until everybody stand[s] up. Unless you got a handicap pass and you get special parking and shit.”

So Kanyé has found himself a comfortable bit of stage banter that he feels free to work into multiple shows, but watching this YouTube video of the incident is anything but comfortable.

Concertgoers reported that he said “Imma see you if you ain’t standing up, believe me. I’m very good at that,” stopped the show, and called people out to force them up, until two remained. One attendee waved a prosthetic limb in the air (!) to be granted a pass on not standing per Kaptain Kanyé’s kommand, and as the video begins, he has singled out the remaining seated person.

He yells into the mic “Get up! OK, we gotta wait then…” and the crowd boos loudly. I thought/hoped that they were booing him for stopping a show to scream at the audience yet again, but then individual voices rise above the boos shouting “STAND UP AND DANCE” and “FUCKING STAND UP” and the full ugliness of it becomes clear.

This man shirked his job of being a paid entertainer, while ON THE CLOCK, to instead be a rabble-rouser and incite an entire arena to boo a man in a wheelchair. Bravo.

It gets worse. Mr. West asks the crowd “What ‘chall want me to do? You want them to stand up or you want them to get removed?” The crowd begins a chant: STAND UP STAND UP STAND UP STAND UP…

He calls for a staff member to go into the crowd and assess the situation, saying “Now if he is in a wheelchair, then it’s fine.” Standing on stage pointing at yelling, apparently being told that the man is in a wheelchair, he asks three more times before starting the song.

You could argue that now that he’s revealed himself as a douche bag and an asshole (his words, not mine), Kanyé fans go to Kanyé shows expecting some sort of Kanyé mess. But this is deplorable.

And of course as he’s getting a stadium of people screaming at someone with a disability who had the nerve to possibly expect to go to a concert without being singled out and admonished, let alone by the performer they support, but by EVERYONE PRESENT, Kanyé manages to focus only on his plight, lamenting “This is the longest I’ve had to wait to do a song. It’s unbelievable.”

Unbelievable indeed, asshole.

Pia Glenn

Pia Glenn is an actress, singer, dancer, and writer who has performed on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and National Tours. Favorite stage roles include Virilla (The Amazon) opposite Nathan Lane in The Frogs, as Condoleezza Rice opposite Will Ferrell in You’re Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush , (which was also telecast live on HBO), and as The Lady of The Lake under the direction of Mike Nichols, Casey Nicholaw, and Eric Idle in the 1st National Tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot. Episodic television appearances include Law & Order: SVU, Hannah Montana, Ally McBeal, Strong Medicine, Presidio Med, oh, and let’s not forget appearances in a bunch of music videos back in the day. Pia enjoys classic films and hip-hop and dark comedy and the good kind of jazz, and can often be found in the back of a yoga class trying not to feel fat. Oh, and she won a dance award once for crumping on Broadway. She just likes to mention that ‘cause, well...crumping.

View all contributions by Pia Glenn

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