I don’t watch the VMA, BET, GRAMMY, or OSCAR awards. Most likely I won’t view the next ones coming, ever. My soul can’t digest the vulgarity or pomp. What I can’t help but witness are the viral sound bytes sent boomeranging around the internet afterwards. Kanye West’s recent “state of Yeezy address” caught my attention briefly, two days ago. He squared his shoulders with his chin high above a mosh pit of entertainers, groupies, and executives, and exclaimed his disdain for the state of pop culture. He also inspired every malnourished artist looking for somebody to lean on to keep going “bro”. The crowd hung on every syllable, simile, an gaudy prophecy West made. And, for the most part he did it again. By again I argue, he successfully used the platform of a Music award cesspool to endorse the brand known as Kanye West. I believe it was Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) who wrote the ruthless political bible for kingdoms and now fortune 500 companies that coined the phrase, “any publicity is good publicity”. Machiavelli didn’t meet Kanye. I’m sure if he did he would have to rephrase the statement to “any publicity isn’t Yeezy publicity”.
Before entering the arena Kanye West stood for 15 minutes on the red carpet with a beige sweatshirt of his brand and his Adidas backed Yeezy Boost sneakers, being machine gunned by camera flashes with his pop icon wife in hand. What I saw was a man skillfully hiding disgust for paparazzi, but at the same time, accepting what was necessary to enrich his family for generations. The lesson here for the Black/Brown/Red/Yellow community is that one very effective way to successfully get ahead in the economic chess game of capitalism we must monetize, systemize, and weaponize our cultures. West has done that through hip hop and persona. His shoe, the Yeezy boost, has retailed for as much as an absurd $1,000. If the market plays out right be prepared to see it go higher. Juxtaposed to Kanye was Myley Cyrus who as far as I’m concerned, needs Freud himself to complete a psychosexual analysis, sporting a head full of blond locks that same evening. One can only wonder how many european women will buy into this culturally based hairstyle now. Furthermore who will they go to, to purchase it? This is the dilemma. Most likely, that money used to appropriate black culture will not go into black hands.
The goal is to get behind the wheel of consumption by being intentional. It means we make something pop culture after we build the infrastructure to monetize it on purpose. We have that power. 20 inch rims would then have to be bought immediately from African American rim manufacturers when the trend kicked off in the 2000s. Tom Ford is replaced with a Black clothing line in Jay-Z’s critically acclaimed song. “Fleek” gets copyrighted. More analogies can be made, but to not expose the genius behind what West does is to handicap all of the people he attempts to speak for. In February he made it gravely plain for every minority in the world, specifically black children, and said, “Our oil is our expression, it is our influence. Don’t ever let them take that away. And when we have the chance to express it and to influence, don’t only just do it for us, do it for the human race.”
Through the minutia of ramblings and dancing at the VMA’s he painted the same picture. This time however the metric that should be calculated is exactly how his brands sell during the proposed 2020 presidential campaign. Remember, every incident equals dollar signs. West walks in the light of Steve Jobs and Tupac Shakur playing both sides of the field on critical issues garnering lovers and haters alike. But Kanye most resembles them in being bold entrepreneurs that leverage their minds, seize moments and turn them into corporate titans. I don’t agree with shock and awe marketing in the manner that he does, but I understand the business behind it. We could all take a lesson in that.