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Kanye West vs Jimmy Kimmel: The Aftermath

First let me say: I am extremely proud of Kanye West’s career.

As a fellow Chicagoan and lifelong hip-hop aficionado, it gives me immense pleasure to see this talented lyricist and producer loom so large in the celebrisphere.  I’ve had the pleasure of talking with him a few times as a journalist, and even interviewed his cherished mother, Donda West, for an interview when I worked for Tribune’s RedEye paper.

Still, like any proud fan, I also feel at least a little embarrassed when he runs off the rails, including his infamous interruption of Taylor Swift’s VMA acceptance, slap fights with the admittedly annoying paparazzi, and about 99-percent of his all-caps Twitter rants.

But for the record,  among those gaffes, I do not count when he sonned George W. Bush, and subsequently Matt Lauer, over the former President’s woeful response to Hurricane Katrina.  In fact, I was willing to don his signature bear suit and represent for him on the streets.  He was 100-percent in the right to express what many felt, but dared not say.

Recently, the award-winning entertainer found himself again drawn to speak out for what he felt was justice denied.  For those who have learned to ignore West’s tweet tantrums along with stories about Miley Cyrus twerking, here’s what happened.  West gave a (now) rare four-part interview to Zane via Radio 1, during which he displayed flashes of brilliance, biting humor and, yes, the cringe-inducing hubris that has helped him go from behind-the-scenes producer to chart-topping rapper.

As usual, some of his remarks — particularly the back-patting about self-ascribed genius– attracted at least a measure of mockery.

Yet no mockery got under ‘Ye’s skin as much as this skit by Jimmy Kimmel, whom he considered a friend.  Kimmel getting a child to act out highlights of the interview infuriated him so much that he went IN on the host (whose wedding he recently attended) calling him names via Twitter, insisting, among other things, that Kimmel has never had good sex and pointing out that his ex-girlfriend Sarah Silverman far surpassed him on the funny scale.

Kimmel responded calmly and with a slew of “who me?” jokes, even when Kanye went so far as to call him Spongebob Squarepants’ twin.  (Well, at least he didn’t say Patrick.)

I was actually a little scared when I found out that the flap would yield an actual on-air  encounter between the two on Kimmel’s show.  And so, this happened last night:

In my humble opinion: I think ‘Ye did a decent job explaining his rage against the machine.  It really just boils down to the fact that he was very passionate about his Radio 1 interview, which also included his views on how racism and classism has affected his creative outlet as an aspiring designer.  Also, and perhaps more importantly, he thought that Kimmel was someone who liked him…who saw through the Hollywood smoke screen, and the skit seemed (to him) to say differently.  I’m sure we can relate on some level.  Who hasn’t felt betrayed, even humiliated, by the words of a friend?

Full disclosure: What I didn’t relate to was that he believes his girlfriend Kim Kardashian deserves a star on the Walk of Fame (for what, exactly?). But it’s okay.

West showed considerable restraint, maturity and even the humor that creeps through his lyrics (sweet brother Numpsay nod, anyone?) on the show.  And I definitely support him being a hip-hop artist trying to break barriers, as well as standing up for creatives.  I do wish he wasn’t such a ranter (he has nearly ever celeb other than Alec Baldwin faded on that point), but as they say: it is what it is.  Everyone can’t be relatively silent, mysterious and subsequently beloved, like Prince, another genius.

I walked away from the viewing with my pride for him still intact, and perhaps even a desire to re-watch what he told Zane to see what had him so stirred up about societal rules.  Guess we can consider that a win.

What do you think?