So a couple of people have been bending my ear over the Kanye West comments over George Bush’s handling of the Katrina aftermath. I know they were looking for a “Negro seal of approval” on their opinion (they took umbrage and came to me, as their “lone, reasonable black friend”, to echo their opinion and feel good about whatever foolishness they were about to say next). Why, I have no idea, since my opinions rarely please many people in any given argument.

For those who are unfamiliar with Kanye West, let me direct you to Rod Garvin‘s wonderful blog entry on him:

At a time when hip-hop was plagued with oversexed M.C.’s and superficial rhymes you could say that Kanye West flew onto the scene like an angel out of heaven. His smash first single “Slow Jam” would pre-empt any chances of being mislabeled as a Gospel artist, but the inspirational, non-preachy “Jesus Walks” earned him a place next to other Patron Saints of Imperfection and prophetic reflection, such as John Coltrane (“Love Supreme”), Marvin Gaye (“What’s Going On?”) and Tupac Shakur (Too many songs with spiritual force and social relevance to name just one). Hua Hsu of the Village Voice had it right when he wrote in his review of West’s first album The College Dropout, entitled “The Benz or the Backpack?”, that self-conflict was in. With his second album, Late Registration, West proves that he is the king of cognitive and spiritual dissonance, which helps him capture the complex nature of the human condition better than any of his peers in hip-hop and perhaps better than anyone in music – period.

Kanye’s complexity is fueled by a mother who is a retired English Professor and a father who is a former Black Panther and is currently a Christian marriage counselor. Pedigree may have given him his uncanny blend of intellecualism, spirituality and revolutionary disposition, but his middle class upbringing contributed to his preppy sense of style. Sprinkle on some hip-hop pathos and you have one of the most original musical artists ever. It is this hyper-awareness of his unique stature that boosts West’s ego and causes some critics to paint him with the “arrogant” label.

Artistic contradiction, West’s masterful formula for success, is precisely what causes Time reporter Josh Tyrangiel to question the revolutionary potential of Kanye in his article, “Why You Can’t Ignore Kanye West.” “Revolutions require moral certainty, and West’s default position is doubt,” writes Tyrangiel. “What he’s up to is more like a reformation.” Another conflicted Christian by the name of Martin Luther has taught us that reformations can have revolutionary implications, but Tyrangiel does have a point. If Hsu is correct in his assessment that, “Rather than sort through his life’s ethical messes or compromised alliances, West peddles self-conflict as an end itself,” than we have reason to be cautious about Kanye’s role in a larger social movement. In all fairness, Hsu made his comments in reference to West’s first album. The question is, has Kanye become more secure in the positions that he takes on various issues (keeping in mind only one year has past between his new album and his last one)? Let’s take a look at some lyrics that touch on race and class, which are among West’s favorite topics: (Read rest of blog entry here)

As for what I thought of the comments, let me direct you to a remix of his song “Gold Digger”:

The internets have had their way with Kanye West‘s new single “Gold Digger.” An ass-kicking protest remix is now online at FWMJ — it features Kanye’s infamous “George Bush doesn’t care are about black people” quote, and skewers the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

Five days in this motherf*cking attic
I can’t use the cellphone I keep getting static
Dying ’cause they lying instead of telling us the truth (…)
Screwed ’cause they say they’re coming back for us, too
but that was three days ago and I don’t see no rescue(…)

Swam to the store, tryin’ to look for food
Corner store’s kinda flooded so I broke my way through
Got what I could but before I got through
News say the police shot a black man trying to loot

Link to “George Bush Don’t Like Black People” MP3 (8.7MB).

Remixed by The Legendary K.O, Words by Big Mon and Damien a/k/a Dem Knock-Out Boyz.

Find another Negro to Amen your opinions. In the meantime, I am hoping that the issue of poverty in this country will finally be addressed. As always, I remain cautiously optimistic.