What I love the about Kanye West and Drake, as figures in American culture and more specifically Black America is that they represent the invisible. They represent the dynamic that is not ever seen in the black male among other prominent American literature and media. They are the hulking brute or the pensive thug. They are the hot shit talking, middle class, fast times at ridgemont high school attending, weed smoking, club going, college accepted, educated drop out, dichotomy of a black man in America. They represent what King and Malcolm X as well as the many other leaders of the black power and civil rights movements were really attempting to create. They were trying to create a space were black people didn’t have to be better than anyone else to be seen as equal. They helped create a space where black people, men and women, could be normal or mediocre like everyone else, namely the predominate social and racial power base, “white people.”
Kanye & Drake represent that invisible group that Toni Morrison writes about in her landmark work “Black Matters.” In that wonderful work of persuasive argument and eloquent prose Morrison asserts that American literature posits this extremist view of African culture “Africanism” in order to help define what White Culture is in American and the world. Have you ever thought about what White culture is? How can you define it without the opposite, supposedly, of it? Drake and Kanye are part of that group of young men and woman that to many older people of color’s dismay, represent the exact thing they were fighting for. I think the biggest misconception to the Dubois & Washington argument was that through freedom we would have to be better, but true freedom allows even the best of us to “just be.”
They are just doing that, just being themselves. The last work, album, from both “artist” and I use that monicker loosely, is a perfect example of self exploration in the sense of being normal. They aren’t thugs, drug dealers, ex-cons, or addicts. They are just regular American, red blooded, young men. That is really what I love about them both. They represent, to me the dichotomy of being young, black, and rich in America. They are just like any other young rich person in America. They make bad decisions, are selfish, create a dynamic around their image, and sometimes do really cool shit. However, they aren’t Malcolm, Martin, Medgar or W.E.B. for that matter.
The change that Obama rang in during the 2009 inauguration was the old guard to the new guard. Black people could be normal, regular and just like white people. But, their is still this disenfranchisement and bias that is programmed deeply within the system. Despicable ill, and malice has been perpetrated with such voraciousness that it has been engrained in the fabric of American society for, it seems like, forever. When will we be able by both groups to be more than a Martin, Malcolm, Medgar, Hughes, Obama, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Biggie, Tupac, Gil Scott Heron, Miles Davis, Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, etc. We are bigger than that and have more facets and range of spectrum than ever before. Now is the time, and it seems appropriate to work on what is American, America and our vision of not only what is black or white, but what is right and wrong in our society.