Saturday, September 03, 2005

Kanye Citizen

I don't think it's true that G.W. doesn't care about black people, but I do like it when celebrities dare to disregard the cue cards and tell us what's really on their minds.

Excerpt from NBC press release:

"Kanye West departed from the scripted comments that were prepared for him, and his opinions in no way represent the views of the networks."It would be most unfortunate," the statement continued, "if the efforts of the artists who participated tonight and the generosity of millions of Americans who are helping those in need are overshadowed by one person's opinion."

OK, well, a) Mr. West didn't do anything at all to suggest that his opinions represented the views of the network or anyone else but himself, and b) The efforts of the artists had already been forgotten in a matter of hours (the footage of New Orleans was of course much more riveting) and the only thing that made anyone even notice the concert 24 hours later was Mr. West's unscripted commentary.

This is nothing against organizer Wynton Marsalis, of course, of whom I am a huge fan. Mr. Marsalis (born and raised in New Orleans) is a serious guy and a dedicated jazz (and classical) musician, and I suspect he will lead other efforts in coming months and years to raise funds for Katrina victims and eventually help reinvigorate the city he loves.

Update, 8:35 AM, 9/5/05: Follow-ups from all over the place, including The Chicago Sun-Times and The Los Angeles Times.

Jim DeRogatis (who is one of Chicago's great music writers) points to this interesting exchange in his Sun-Times article:

But Friday, West's statements were much closer to those being made by critics of the Bush administration from across the racial and political spectra. And while he is being criticized by many on the right -- and will no doubt pay a price with some lost album sales and less radio play in more conservative markets -- he did Americans a service by putting the issue on the table for national debate.

Perhaps the most striking evidence of this came on Sunday during CNN's "Late Edition" when host Wolf Blitzer quoted West when asking Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson whether the response to Hurricane Katrina has been racist. Thompson, a Democrat, said the government had failed and "someone has to be held accountable." He cited the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

The most revealing part of the exchange, however, was the fact that Thompson mistook the comments from West as a statement from Princeton University professor, theologian, author and activist Dr. Cornel West. In one fell swoop, the rapper and college dropout has earned a place in the front ranks of this country's best-known and most respected African-American activists.


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