Talk Back

How I Loved, Hated then Celebrated Kanye

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I fell in love with the musical genius of Kanye West back in 2003. His music was refreshing and new. He spoke of real life issues that most of us could identify with. He was not afraid to talk about being self-conscious and using material things such as gold chains, Rolex watches and fancy cars to fill the void where his self-esteem should have been. At the same token, I also respected that he was a socially conscious artist in many ways. He rapped about how the attainment of wealth and material possessions for Black people did not make us free. Besides what is wealth when “even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe.”  That was what I loved about Ye. He was hip-hop and unafraid to be himself with his pink polo, popped collar and Louis Vuitton backpack on. He found a creative way to speak on two very different, but interdependent topics, racism and materialism, without demeaning anyone in the process. All women weren’t relegated to b*****s in his music and he didn’t have to kill or rob a “nigga” to get by.  So for that, I was thankful for him.

However, over time, my love for Kanye West started to fade as I saw him change. He became what I perceived to be this cocky, arrogant and ignorant person. He was no longer what I deemed him to be, which was the people’s champ. Apparently, he had been too far removed from the man who sang, “I been working this grave shift/ And I ain’t made s*** /I wish I could /Buy me a spaceship and fly.” He began calling himself Yeezus, making Rock-and-Roll like records and going on “crazy” rants about how great he was. He was so high on himself and mainstream, that I didn’t know if he could ever be “coming home again.” They say that money is the root of all-evil and I felt as if Kanye allowed the money, fame and power to get to him.

I had missed the man who I felt understood the common (wo)man’s struggle. The man, who I saw in concert with Fantasia back in 2005 on Mizzou’s campus, the College Dropout man. The Kanye who promised Mr. Rainey that he was going to marry his daughter, but married Kim Kardashian instead. But the truth was that I simply misunderstood him and his purpose. I did not accept the laws of nature in that all things change and evolve. I had changed from the naive 17-year-old listening to him back then, so why wouldn’t he change as well? I was wrong, and I did not realize it until last year.

It was September 2014, and I was attending Common’s AHH! Fest. There was suppose to be a “special guest.” Of course, we all figured it was Yeezy himself, and I was talking stuff right up until the moment he came out. Then something clicked and it was magical. As he rocked the mic with all of his soul, all of my ill feelings towards him faded. Music has a way of touching the soul in ways that only the metaphysical can explain. He was home and you could feel the love and passion emitting not just from him, but the crowd as well. So I decided to take a step back and see what it was that I had been missing. I began watching his interviews and really listening to his music in order to learn who he really was, and he is amazing.

I have begun to understand what he represents and I love it. What I perceived as pure ignorance and arrogance was really just his confidence. It was a Black man saying to a system that was designed for him to fail, that I will succeed and that I am great. I walk amongst the kings of the jungle and the world will hear me roar. If I have to kick, scream, run into a “wrong way” pole (no pun), be told that I am just an entertainer and therefore cannot make clothing by every high end designer in fashion, pick my head up, and arrange another meeting until Herman Denniger of Adidas sees the creative genius that I am and gives me a chance, I WILL break that glass ceiling.

That’s how I imagine Kanye.

Kanye West represents a sense of creative and spiritual freedom in a society where we do not know what free Black men look like. He has not been broken. Instead, he has worked tirelessly to break down every barrier that the world puts in front of him. He is telling the 99% that you can do WHATEVER you put your mind to. He is telling us to recognize and understand that we are controlled by our thoughts and our perceptions of ourselves, and how that can make or break us. He also encourages others to realize, maximize and actualize on their dreams and not run away from them, because someone else discourages it. While many great teachers, philosophers and spiritual leaders have for centuries been teaching the power behind our thoughts manifesting in our lives, Kanye has a platform to push that thinking into mainstream society. So when he calls himself a “creative genius,” the truth, is that he is, because he manifested it. So I celebrate his genius and encourage others to start celebrating their own.

A Native of St. Louis, Erica Wright (Amari Rene), is a true citizen of the world. While she currently resides in Chicago, she has lived in New York, Washington D.C., Mexico and Ghana. Erica considers herself a social artist. She uses her talents and love of writing, poetry and photography to connect with everyday people around her, to tell their stories, through their own unique lens. Having a masters degree in counseling psychology and being a natural humanitarian has given Erica the skills to connect with people on a global level. For more of Erica’s work, visit