It’s Not Kanye, It’s Me

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I’m not sure what compelled me so irresistibly to click on Kanye West’s video for “Bound 2” when I came across it on my daily morning Internet news blitz. I find Kanye to be insufferably obnoxious (as I got into here, and I’ve never liked his music at all (which I discussed here).

I also have a distaste for the public persona of Kanye’s wife and costar in the video, Kim Kardashian (which I explored here). So why did I so eagerly watch a video starring two people I don’t like?

I don’t quite know, but I did, much the same way I can’t stop myself from probing a sore tooth with my tongue every 20 seconds, and with similar results.

So many reactions to this piece. First among them: exactly how long has it been since Kanye heard the word “no”? Or even any kind of constructive criticism? Judging by the comments section below the video, Kanye’s fans think this is every bit as amazing as everything else he does, that anyone who doesn’t get it is an idiot, that the video is loaded with subtle social commentary and powerful imagery.

Which is weird, because I thought it was just a home movie of a dude boning his lady on a parked motorcycle.

Also, Kanye, if you’re looking for reasons why you’re not being put in charge of the entire fashion industry, putting one plaid flannel on top of another would seem to be a clue.

As bad as the video is, though, it doesn’t even compare in terms of artistic bankruptcy to that song. Holy crap. A couple of samples of other songs, haphazardly stitched together with not even an effort at transition from one to the other, or any kind of beat to pull the whole thing together — and what is hip-hop if it has no beat? — plus Kanye’s trademark lazy, singsongy drawling rhymes. Let there be no confusion: of all the things Kanye West is bad at, he is first and foremost a bad MC.

When Seth Rogen and James Franco posted their re-enactment of the video the other day, I found it very funny, but was still not able to stop myself from closing the browser window about 45 seconds in, because no matter how hilarious Seth Rogen’s back hair and O-face are, they are still accompanied by that horrible, beatless, pointless abortion of a song.

But no matter how eloquently I might describe all of Kanye’s musical shortcomings as I see them, that doesn’t change the fact that he is probably the most popular musician in the world right now, and that like everything else he does, his fans absolutely adore “Bound 2” (the song, if not the video). And that somehow bugs me even more than the song itself.

And what’s up with that? There is plenty of popular music that I don’t care for, but none of it ever made me almost (almost) angry at people for liking it, or question their sanity. I don’t much care for Rihanna, but I can see why people dig her stuff in a dark, sweaty club. Nicki Minaj is a little too interested in out-boasting the guys in terms of her bathroom area for my taste, but she has an undeniable flow on the mic. I don’t see the point of wearing a meat dress, but I wouldn’t deny the power of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” on the dance floor.

So what’s different about Kanye? I thought a lot about it the last few days and the best answer I can come up with is: it’s not Kanye, it’s me.

Like most people, my musical tastes coagulated right around high school and college, which in my case was the late ’80s and early ’90s. I remember one occasion in particular, when I was a barback in college, it would have been 1994 I think, I was setting up for the evening, bringing out the beer and the ice and everything. The place was split in half: a fine-dining restaurant on one side, overlooking an airstrip (so you could watch planes land and take off as you ate), and a bar on the other, separated by a long hallway with a hostess stand and coat check in the middle. Since I was alone, I put on the new CD I had just bought to keep me company: Ill Communication by the Beastie Boys. I don’t think the disc had gotten more than two or three songs in before the GM of the place came running — literally running — across the restaurant and into the bar, his tie flapping over his shoulder. I have no idea why this memory has stayed with me so clearly, but he came in and said quietly but firmly, “Turn this SHIT off.” Heavy emphasis on the SHIT. “Turn this. SHIT. Off.”

I remember thinking, Jeez dude, what’s your problem? It’s just the Beastie Boys! Just because you have a bad moustache and pleated slacks and a perm and a pinkie ring, does that mean you can’t get with the B-Boys? The most beloved band of the era? Everybody likes the Beastie Boys, and if you don’t, well that’s your problem, old man!

What I’m realizing now is, now I’m the one in the pleated slacks and the pinkie ring. It’s not that everyone else likes Kanye because they’re crazy; I don’t like Kanye because I’m old, because what he’s doing isn’t aimed at me, because I’m not supposed to get it. And if I was running a restaurant and someone put “Bound 2” on, it would be my necktie flapping over my shoulder as I hurried to make them turn that SHIT off.

So that’s it for me. It’s over. My severing from youth culture and what’s cool is complete. Nothing left to do but wrap up in a nice shawl, turn on a “CSI” marathon, and hope that the hearing loss my bartending job has been slowly but steadily bringing on will be complete by the time my son is old enough to break away from the steady diet of classic rock and early-90’s hip-hop I’ve been laying on him and start blasting whatever happy horseshit is at the top of the charts.

For real though: hip-hop with no drums is not hip-hop.


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