Let’s Have A Toast to the Assholes: Leave Kanye Alone….No Really


Google the search terms Kanye West + Asshole, and as you might imagine; you will get a surplus of returns.  Kanye’s manic form of genius combined with a decidedly lax brain to mouth filter has resulted in his name becoming almost synonymous with the insult in certain circles—amongst Taylor Swift fans for instance.

With the recent brouhaha over the Matt Lauer interview and Bush’s claim that West’s infamous black people gaff was the worst moment of  his presidency (apparently worst than Katrina itself, the domestic economic meltdown, Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Valerie Plame, Harriet Miers….I’ll stop in the interest of time), Kanye is back in the headlines again.  And the coverage ain’t good.

Lauer’s interview with West was at best poor journalism and at worst an intentional attempt to create another Kanye moment.  You know Kanye moments: insulting the Commander and Chief by implying he was a racist, interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV movie awards, as well a series of rants, interruptions, politically incorrect pop-offs, tantrums and most recently rogue tweets.  Yet it’s these moments combined with leveraging the most creative musical brain in hip-hop to make hit after consecutive hit that makes Kanye both genius and walking spectacle.

He  has been called the villain,the asshole, the jerk, the douche bag but he is more accurately described as a man in progress.  He occasionally back slides but this understandable for someone burden by an ego the size of the twitterverse. He is admittedly self-conscience and evidently a driven perfectionist—who really does love his art.  Over the years, Kanye has had a series of personal dramas play-out within the pages tabloids and on gossip blogs.  Despite a life threatening car accident, the untimely and tragic loss of his mother, and a series of public break-ups, he has continued to be a prolific and evolving artist.  I believe this is because he is driven first by a desire to create and is more conflicted and quite frankly limited in his ability to manage the fame.

Kanye is  the modern Andy Warhol.  Both aesthetically driven workaholics bound by an excess of personality, they have in common a vision to achieve wealth through their art  and an unfettered desire to see their dreams manifest. In another time, Kanye might be considered colorful or brash.  However, with a 24-hour news cycle largely padded by entertainment news, he provides the  perfect patsy for a world dominated by far less ingenious and productive assholes.  So I’m saying: leave Kanye alone.

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for Kanye.  Okay its more than a soft spot.  I date him in my mind and we are in love, but in the interest of a neutral analysis I have put that aside.  Instead I have tried to speak to the madness at the heart of his genius or the genius at the heart of his madness—depending on where you stand.  Suffice it to say whether you love him or hate him, everyone has an opinion of Kanye.

If  Kanye is anything, he is unapologetic.  He is unapologetically Black, unapologetically brilliant, unapologetically flawed, and unapologetically wealthy. “Wake Up Mr. West”, said the late great Bernie Mac in the opening of the Kanye’s classic Late Registration album and I do mean; recall Touch the Sky, Gold Digger, Diamonds From Sierra Leone. Wake up indeed and recently Kanye has woken up.  Sure he is still brash, cocky, fashionable, and manic; yet he has managed to temper his special brand of swagga-dopeness with a swig of humble juice.  He kind of apologized to the president, though he did refuse to perform on the Today show plaza in a return visit.  With an album on the way perhaps this wasn’t the most expedient choice from marketing stand point, but it was aligned to his convictions and you cannot be mad at that.

Wherever you stand, you have to respect Kanye for his what he is doing with music.  I appreciate and salute him for his authenticity even in his most ungraceful moments. My only hope is that the tedium of fame that he both craves and despises does not stifle his creativity or leave him jaded .  I want Kanye to be his irrepressible self.  Hollywood is so celluloid that it is nice to see someone so completely themselves.  Suffice it to say: Kanye I love you—flaws and all.

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What It Feels Like for a Girl: Poem and Polemic in For Colored Girls


Tyler Perry’s film adaption of Ntozake Shange’s theatrical masterpiece For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf is a commentary on the boundlessness of black genius, as much as it is a polemic against patriarchy.  The genius is found in the performances of the all-star cast and Shange’s poetry.  A self-proclaimed Black Feminist, the polemic is Shange’s—yes—but as retold here becomes largely Perry’s.

Last weekend I had the privilege of seeing the film with a group of sister friends and it is an experience that I will not soon forget.  The film is Perry’s best work yet and this is a testament to the genius of Shange’s material and the film’s brilliant cast, as much as it is to Perry’s artistic vision. For Colored Girls is examines how black female identity is negotiated, subjugated, represented, co-opted, and often times negated. Told through the interwoven narratives of nine women, the film uses the plays poetic voice to its advantage. Shange’s words drip of the tongues of Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, and Phylicia Rashad, with as much potency and relevancy today as when the stage play debuted in 1975.  Look for Oscar nominations  Newton and Elise.

Based on the narrative thread of his films thus far, Perry is clearly negotiating some issues around black male identity, as much as he is black female identity.  The narrative arc of Perry’s films usually finds a female protagonist bound by an addiction to a man, to a drug, to a lifestyle that finds her losing herself.  The films usually end with the Black woman finding redemption through an act of spiritual transformation—a divine intervention.  With this transformation, she is fully formed and in touch with the God with her.  She is then able to access worldly love with a deserving man.  Tyler has a prototype for his ideal man, he is hard working—and often blue-collar,  he is spiritually in touch, and essentially neutered—void of any overt sexual aggression.

Tyler’s critique of Black men is perhaps even more powerful than his edification of Black women. In this film, they are misogynist, rapist, philanderers, liars, cheats, and decidedly weak.  There is no growth for the men and  no redemption  Accordingly, the films powerful performances are at times subjugated to Perry’s penchant for melodrama—at times it’s not clear if this is Perry’s moment of artistic maturity or a dressed up version of his usual wound picking.  For Colored Girls continues a narrative thread in black dramatic works like “The Color Purple” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God” that explore the strange dyad that is black men and black women—a relationship historically plagued by forced separation, gender role reversal, and plainly said pain.

This is not Madea.  It is a film with an artistic voice and cultural merit; it is well-positioned  among other classics in its exploration of the black women’s relationship with each other and the men in their lives. Perry is not Spike Lee (the one who makes good films), Spielberg, or Scorsese. Yet with this film, he addresses issues and concerns that will resonate with colored girls everywhere: a need to find their voice in a world that so often seeks to negate it; the desire to love and be love; and the innate resiliency that makes Black women the survivors we are.

Mad Mel: Racist Tirades, Spousal Abuse, and the Media’s Double Standards


Its seems that we—as a cultural collective—should be a bit more angry at Mr. Mel Gibson.  The press was uniformly squared against Chris Brown for beating Rihanna.  Yet, the same media is largely neutral in reporting the recent news surrounding Gibson.  Where is Oprah on this one?  Nothing to say about Mel allegedly breaking a women’s teeth out of her head?

For those living under a rock, RadarOnline—a web gossip rag— has  released a series of vile audio tapes, allegedly starring Mel Gibson spewing  heinous, misogynistic, racist, and generally  hate-filled vitriol at his ex-girlfriend and child’s mother Oksana Grigorieva . 

 If we take the position that this is in fact Mel Gibson, which we do at The Kabosh, after listening to the tapes one can only come to a singular conclusion: the man has simply come unglued.   I supposed we can give Mr. Gibson some credit for being an equal opportunity offender.  In his most recent series of  rants, he manages to insult Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, and women, which I suppose is the big bigot cocktail for Mr. Braveheart.

Gibson has been largely irrelevant in Hollywood since a 2006 DUI arrest in which tape of him  mounting  an antisemitic tirade against an officer  was made public.  Nevertheless, many blogs are already asking , if he can  regain his career after this melodrama plays out.   Other blogs are suggesting that the recent tapes are without context and thus are unwilling to unfairly judge, decry, or condemn Mr. Gibson.   And still  other sites suggests he is mentally ill or an alcoholic or some combination of the two, and therefore needs help to deal with his particular for of mania.  

While the media is dealing with this story well, giving it the coverage and spectacle such a sensational story warrants, there something very measured in their calculus of trying to portray Gibson as a troubled and washed-up star, who perhaps may even deserve our sympathy for his mental debilitations.  We have this gem from, Whoopi Goldberg:

I know Mel, and I know he’s not a racist,” Whoopi on ‘The View’ on Monday, seeming both earnest and cautious to weigh in. “I have had a long friendship with Mel. You can say he’s being a bonehead, but I can’t sit and say that he’s a racist having spent time with him in my house with my kids. I don’t like what he’s done, make no mistake.”

Okay Whoop, what to you constitutes a racist?  Suggesting to his girlfriend that she would be raped by a gang of the “n-words”  given her selected attire, suggests to me…I don’t know, at least some notion of  bigotry in this man’s make-up.   Similarly, his remarks against Jews and now Hispanics show a similar disdain for minority communities.   Just because he may break bread with you Ms. Goldberg does not mean he is not a man with some deep-seeded issues around race and ethnicity. 

It’s strange to me that  the media was much less forgiving or open-minded just a year ago when photos of a battered and bruised young pop-princess emerged, the injuries inflicted during an altercation with herthen R&B crooner boyfriend.  By no means and I suggesting Chris Brown did not deserve to be taken to tasks for his actions, but I find that he was not given the benefit of the doubt in the same way Mel Gibson is.  Folks were not stating anything about context, they wanted Brown’s head on a platter.

The extent to which this different media treatment has to do with race is questionable.  I think photos of Rihanna’s swollen face heightened the level of spectacle and resulting public outcry, as compared to the audio tapes serving as evidence in the Gibson case.  A visual artifact of the abuse would likely tip the scale less favorably  in the media coverage.

Charlie Sheen, Robert Downy, Jr., Roman Polanski have all been smeared by controversy for irresponsible if not dreadful acts over the years, and they emerge unscathed and redeemed under the glitz of the Hollywood lights.  This time around Hollywood, the press and the public should uniformerly condemn what Gibson’s behavior.  He has shown a disdain and disrespect for women that can be called nothing less than misogyny.  His actions are deplorable and should be regarded as such.

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