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Kanye West: On Time and Off Discrimination

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 22, 2005 4:03PM

2005_08_22_kanye.jpgMove over, Billy Corgan and tell Liz Phair the news: Chicago has a new ambassador of cultural affairs in Kanye West, who graces the cover of this week’s Time magazine.

Writer Josh Tyrangiel turns in a solid profile of West (subscription required) that swims in the contradictions of an artist whose brilliance onstage is matched only by his braggadocio and petulance offstage. Proving that it’s not always best to dress up for an interview, West lamented the struggles he had with rap labels who didn’t believe a kid outfitted in pink Polos could be marketed in a genre that dealt mainly with players, guns and money. But after a 2002 car accident left him with his jaw wired shut, West had an origin story tailor-made for Behind The Music and an album (The College Dropout) ready to go platinum. With songs that touch on God, overspending, and class issues, West at least deserves credit for expanding the list of Acceptable Topics of Discussion in Rap for the aughts generation.

Of course, even the most well-meaning attempts to expand the dialogue can be obscured by clumsy verbiage. So it was with West’s declaration last week that the hip-hop community needs to put an end to gay bashing. At least, that’s what we think he said during the MTV special All Eyes on Kanye West. Noting that “not just hip-hop but America just discriminates” against gay people, West seemed to declare a moratorium on the use of the word “gay” as a slur by saying that “gay” is "the opposite, the exact opposite word of hip-hop." We always thought Celine Dion was the opposite of hip-hop so color us confused.

Was West trying to get all on the mainstream media and break down the new slang? Or perhaps he means that using the word gay as a slur and engaging in discrimination is the opposite of the ideals of hip-hop, which he believes to be about “speaking your mind and about breaking down barriers.” We’re going with the latter as West says he’s left his own homophobic tendencies behind him since discovering one of his cousins was gay. In the end, he says “I wanna just, to come on TV and just tell my rappers, just tell my friends, `Yo, stop it.'”

Beenie Man, Eminem, DMX...he’s looking at you.