When Rappers Speak Extemporaneously
September 2, 2005

Dear God help us all.

It's not enough that he's won the "Best Gospel Song" award multiple times for "Jesus Walks," a song with cussing in it. It's not enough that his theology is bad and he had the nerve to die and resurrect himself on stage at the Grammy Awards. Now the cry-baby of hip hop is making emotional and outlandish statements and publicly bashing the president during airtime specifically set-aside for raising money for hurricane victims.


Time Magazine's recently crowned "Smartest Man in Pop Music" displayed ultimate bad form. On last night's NBC broadcast of the Hurricane Katrina telethon and benefit concert, West had the following to say on the matter:

"I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family and they say we are looting, you see a white family and they say they are looking for food. And, you know, its been five days because most of the people ARE black. And even for me to complain, I would be a hypocrite because I would turn away from the TV because it's too hard to watch. I've even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I'm calling my business manager right to see what is the biggest amount I can give. And just to imagine, if I was down there and those are my people down there. If there is anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help about the way America is set up the help the poor, the black people, the less well off as slow as possible. Red cross is doing as much as they can. We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way. And now they've given them permission to go down and shoot us."

"George Bush doesn't care about black people. Please call..."

Then the plug was pulled. Whelp, there goes any credibility left to the valid charges of racism in this whole blasted disaster. Any validity in Kanye's comments was completely squashed when he decided to make a blanket statement and publicly bash the president. You DO NOT DO that. You express disappointment; you point out faults; but you do not disrespect authority on national television. What an embarrassment.

In many circles, Kanye will be heralded as a hero for saying what everyone else is supposedly thinking. For me this will be counted as one of those moments when you just hang your head in shame and mourn for the conversation that could have been were it not for unorderly accusations. I absolutely believe we are looking at disgraceful attitudes towards victims fueled by many things, among them race. The lop-sided media portrayal is blatant. Unfortunately, these attitudes are not new. They are simply magnified by a grave situation (more on that later). Nevertheless, Kanye doesn't speak for me (quick, somebody make a t-shirt). I am not of the belief that President Bush doesn't care about black people. I don't care if much of what West said was true, he was out of order and his credibility will suffer.

The part that really kills me is that I know Kanye's intentions were genuine, but unfortunately, very ignorant. That's what made it such a train wreck of emotion and pretension. I'll talk more on Kanye and his new album next week. I'm certain sales will go up for these comments. I guess he really is the smartest man in pop music. As far as I'm concerned, he's feelin' himself a little too much right now.

Associated parties have been rapidly releasing disclaimers to cover West's mess. The Red Cross reminds us they are a nonpartisan effort. NBC asks that West's remarks not overshadow the fundraising efforts. The AP reminds us that West has been prone to outbursts as of late.

(Update 9/3): Journalist and blogger, Chris Nolan suggests, "It's not a color thing. It's a privilege thing." Now that's an entirely different post.

Video of Kanye's remarks can be found here. You'll notice that Mike Meyers (West's co-presenter) looks like he wants to crawl inside a hole and die. You'll also notice that West may want to look into Dale Carnegie or Toastmasters. Painful.

Other bloggers report:
Michelle Malkin, Slowplay, and about 100,000 more people. Kanye West currently ranks as the #2 search on Technorati with "Katrina" being #1.

Posted by Ambra at September 2, 2005 9:44 PM in Pop Culture
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Not much more to add, and I suppose this might be considered piling on, but Warren Bell over at The Corner at NRO remembered up this nugget.


Maybe that's what's wrong with pop music. Meanwhile, Live 8 fans will remember Kanye's statement there about AIDS: "It's a man-made disease in the first place that was placed in Africa just like crack was placed in the black community to break up the Black Panther party."

Mike Meyer's & Chris Tucker's reaction were priceless.

I'm not sure if Kanye was either really nervous about what he was about to say, or just can't read, but that was extremely difficult to watch.

Kanye West is "sensitive." He's not prepared for his celebrity and let his emotions get the best of him (and I am NOT a fan of his). It's not like he said something that hasn't crossed many minds across the world. With him gracing the cover of Time Magazine last week, he's now seen as a spokesperson - when he is not - but many people agree with him. We cannot cling to the word of every "celebrity" as though it really means something and that story shouldn't eclipse the real story. In the SF Bay Area, it did impact donations as more people called in to complain about his statement than did to make contributions -- which is silly if you truly have a giving spirit or if you really care about the thousands of people in distress. I don't think people would be so upset if there weren't a part of them that didn't believe it too or even a part of them that didn't mirror George Bush in some way. As they say, "hit dogs will holla."

Anyone who now doesn't want to give because of Kanye West, didn't want to give anyway ... and will probably serve to illustrate his point.

Yeah, I pretty much cringed when I saw that "Smartest Man..." cover. Personally, I took it as an affront, sorta like, "Oh, you're so articulate...(un-spoken part: ...for a black)."

but you do not disrespect authority on national television.

No comment.

On West's credibility, ehhh... What credibility?

Yes Ambra, I agree that it was unprofessional and totally out of line. But again, I'm sick of people using any part of this disaster to push their own agendas further. It's good to call him out for screwing up like this, but leading off with your random attack about all the other stuff you don't like about him is unprofessionial on your part.

I definitely agreed with what Qusan said. He looked really nervous/emotional on the video, as if he could barely get the words out.

Alex - I'm really bothered by your comment. Those remarks were obviously not on the telepromter. The painfulness was emotion, not illiteracy. You should grow up.

Mike Meyers is just another controversy-duckin Canadian is all. I've seen quite a few flashes of Kanye outside of a video and lemme tell ya, he comes off a right odd duck, if not an outright quack. All the defiantly brilliant ones walk that line, eh? so this outburst isn't any more surprising than the fact that, as the sun will rise tomorrow, you would indeed find a link on malkin's site about this but never a whisper about any of (say) Ann Coulter's bizzarre outbursts (talk about your predictable, sensationalist blogging).

Johnnie: I never thought about that or even looked at it from that perspective. You have given me much fodder (as you always do). I'm thinking something in that theory will preach.

Jon wrote: "It's good to call him out for screwing up like this, but leading off with your random attack about all the other stuff you don't like about him is unprofessionial on your part."

Unprofessional? Well it's a good thing I don't get paid for this because I would say it all again in a heartbeat. My comments are not random but rather carefully calculated. Pointing out those shortcomings serves as a foundation for why Kanye would and does continue to make outlandish choices when it comes to the media. He is feelin' himself right now. He's on top and his ego is getting the best of him. His behavior continues to be primadonnaish and I am not. feelin. him.

Look, I would very much like to be a defender of Kanye West. You have no idea. At the core, he would be my type of rapper. A preppy, un-hood-initialized, suburban college drop-out? I mean COME ON. I think he has the potential to do big things for hip hop and in some ways he has. I have tried very hard to stay in his corner but the guy just needs to be humbled right about now. Especially considering the household he was raised in. He's making it very difficult for me to love him.

Memer: this really has nothing to do with Michelle Malkin or even the fact that she linked it. About 100,000 bloggers from all over the political spectrum were blogging about this last night. And who cares about Ann Coulter anyway? Stay on topic please.

Ambra, my comment wasn't "about" Malkin. And 100k bloggers sounds impressive (assuming they were all talking about this very specific incident and not, say, his music) til you realize there's millions of bloggers out there. If you wish to compare, there's a whopping 26.5K posts about Kanye at Technorati right now -- and 28.6K on Annie dearest. But everybody has their pet topics, I guess. No surprise there.

I agree that Kanye didn't do anyone any favours by making his comments the other day on NBC. But then, what can you expect?

He's the biggest contradiction there is.

I'm glad you can acknowledge at least that the media coverage has been less than stellar. Not that it's saying much.

09 03 05

Hello Ambra:
I agree with you about charitable giving. In fact, I hope that one day people will not give only in times of tragedy, but in times of plenty as well. I think our society will be a much better place then.

It seems like a lot of arguments about anything end up with "Bush is racist." As usual, no real intelligent, original thought there. I think people who can form independent opinions are a lot smarter than the predictable "Bush [or whoever is in power who I don't like] is racist."

edited for language -- admin

maybe he had a point, but on the fact about troops going down to shoot people, lets be real, if your in the city with guns, shooting police and national guardsmen, instead of trying to get out, or help,im sending an ounce of lead to your head,cause your life, isnt important. Our people, need to be rescued, and i dont think its about that their black, bush or the mayor can cuss all day about where are the buses? but realize they still have to get through all the water, and down roads, but they should have moved alot faster, specially since they knew 48 hrs, before it hit. Im pissed that they suffered that long,especially with out them dropping at least water to the convention, or stadium. All im saying is their trying, hell they should have bussed the poor out before it hit,having people go door to door. As for kanye, its cause there poor, the region is generally poor, yes its majority black, but thats most citys. Bottm line, we need to help our neighbor,donate, and fix this from happening again.

First, give aid not lip service. I'm donating supplies, money, and blood. I pray that it reaches those in need quickly. Do what you can and do it now.

My heart breaks for the victims of Katrina, and if you think color/class did not affect the relief efforts, you are in serious denial. Kanye was almost at the point of tears in expressing his frustration with the inactivity of 'leaders'in the federal government. He took advantage of an opportunity to speak out in a venue where he would not be censored (at least on the east coast). Bravo.

Now, for my rant: There are tens of thousands who remain, and not by choice. The parishes in N.O. held a large portion of this country's working poor. A good percentage of that population made less than $10,000 a year. And you wanted them to gas up the Beemer, pack the Louis Vuitton and head for high ground?

Evacuating a large city takes an inordinate amount of effort. And yes, the mayor started mobilizing local efforts and asking for help on the Saturday before Katrina hit. Not only for transportation of evacuees, but also assistance in stabilizing infrastructure.

The federal government has known that N.O. needed assistance long before 2005. This summer, Bush voted for the third time in a row to cut funding to N.O. to assist with levee stabilization. Let's get real - if the levees had been in Palm Beach, San Diego, or South Hampton, the Army Corps of Engineers would have received a check like yesterday. But that's water over the bridge now.

People are talking about the response time in terms of areas covered. FEMA responded within 48 hours when the Tsunami hit. And that was halfway around the world involving several countries. Are you seriously trying to say we couldn’t assist a few states in our own backyard?

Let's talk about why the vote to augment the FEMA budget wasn't held until Friday? When it came time to vote on Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, senators were called back for a special session and burned the midnight oil. Please tell me the inequity of response angers you.

Now for everyone's favorite topic - looting, raping, and pillaging: A percentage of people were not mentally stable before Katrina, and are still off their rockers. The same is true for thugs and drug addicts. Even so, If I had been without food and water, trudging through chest-high fetid water while bodies drifted past for 5 days, I might take a plasma screen tv and smash it on the ground just because. However, the vast majority of those in N.O. are unbelievably patient and law-abiding. BTW, have you seen the photos with captions that depict black people LOOTING food/water while white people are FINDING provisions?

There are camera crews in New Orleans shedding light on the devastating effects of inaction. However, differential treatment happens DAILY in this country. God bless us all, especially those who speak out.

I was wondering why the heck he felt a need to promote his own ignorant and selfish agenda. Why couldn't he have just read the teleprompter? After all the good publicity he has gotten from his new album, I wonder if this will tarnish it any? Maybe he just wanted to keep it real, too bad this turned out like "Chappelle's Show," "When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong."

Ambra, I liked what Kanye West said. While everyone could wish that his ever-present anti-intellectualism could have disappeared just this once (passionate or not, he was publicly inarticulate, something none of us can afford), I really enjoyed his point of view.

All week long, CNN and other twenty-four hour news outlets asked whether race and class played a role in the Katrina devastation, and most pundits and officials refused to provide distinct opinions on the subject. Meanwhile, on-the-scene reports as far apart ideologically speaking as Anderson Cooper and Shepard Smith noticed that the poor and the Black were dying in large numbers without help and openly wondering why.

Kanye West plunged that question deep in the minds of every American willing to ignore that dynamic to 'focus on the suffering'. If anything, this is the one public comment Kanye West has made that Americans can support.

Whether it was sheer ignorance of the severity of the situation, or incompetence, or malice, or apathy, or whatever, some people now believe that the United States federal government will not help them in their time of need, just because of who they are.

American public authority either did not help Americans; why should any citizen 'respect' that authority with silence? Kanye West respected his government by publicly airing his views about governmental conduct. We need more of that courage in the coming months as we discern exactly why American citizens were left to die amongst civic disorder and rising floods.

Ambra, I thought your perspective on Kanye's comments were insightful and very much describe the challenge with allowing celebrities to champion the call to action.

Yea, hip-hop/rap's gonna save the world.

Stealing someone else's music and say stupid things over it is not art.

Given the party I held when that inane Seattle crap called grunge died its horrible death, I may OD on happiness when Kayne and his ilk are filed in the back of the music store right along with polka.

Oh happy day!

This website always gives stupid advice and even more biased opinions. I think that you are doing a real disservice by trying to act like everything in the world that you disagree with is not good. Set a clue and stop being so uptight about everything! All of your blogs seems to have a "holier than thou" air about them. Kanye is a genius...its just too bad that u are so blinded that you can't see that. You probably voted for Bush. Loosen up a little and have fun. You sound very boring. Never visiting this site again!

It's a shame that so many people are focusing on Kanye West's comments in such a context...if the man was one of the victims, down there in Louisiana, saying exactly what he said, would it be different? There wouldn't be that Grammy Award tantrum to latch to, there wouldn't be rap lyrics--or Hip-Hop music in general--for you to use as a crutch for your opinion. There wouldn't be jewelry, or fame or fortune...none of these things would apply if it was a starving, weakened, wounded, depraved individual standing knee-high in muddy water and floating dead bodies talking to Geraldo Rivera.

You people disgust me...you're so quick to attatch whatever you see or hear in the media to what you believe, that you see past the truth of the matter.

"I don't care if much of what West said was true, he was out of order and his credibility will suffer."

I can't believe you said that, and for that matter, that you'd even care enough to think about that at this time...

again I ask...who are "you people"?

Good Lawd, Karen! Don't hate. Do-nate. (To the Katrina relief effort, and to the education of some young black man so that he won't appear live on the telly and ramble on inarticulately and then cap it off by saying something unbelievably stupid and inappropriate and embarrass his momma in front of her Bridge club.)

I think calling Kanye's comments "ignorant" was a mistake to say the least. He is a black man who watches the disaster unfold on TV, of course he's going to be mad like the rest of us, so you cant say he was wrong or that his comments were "embarrassing". Why did it have to take five days for the President of the United States to realize people needed to be saved. And why didnt they evacuate the city knowing that katrina was comming? Now the Florida Keys has already been evacuated now that there's a storm brewing again. Why, I'll tell you why, there are alot of Rich Caucasions that own homes in the florida keys.

thank you for your time.

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
Oh parent Where Art Thou?
Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
Gonorrhea and the City