With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 6, 2005 2:03PM
What’s the best way to cap off a week of promotion for your new album? If you’re Kanye West, it’s taking on the President during a national telethon and cementing your status as the ambassador of the hip-hop nation.
During an appearance on NBC’s “A Concert for Hurricane Relief,” West departed from scripted remarks he was to deliver with fellow presenter Mike Myers. After an introduction by Meyers, a nervous-looking West stammered “You see a black family, it says, ‘They're looting.’ You see a white family, it says, ‘They're looking for food.’" He went on to chastise the Bush administration’s slow response time, the limited National Guard deployment and the orders to shoot-to-kill any looters. As Myers looked as if he had soiled himself, he returned to the prepared statement before West followed up with “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” (video link here).
Kanye West outspoken? The hell you say! But the difference here is the subject of his rant. West’s obsession with petty concerns—like being considered the Best New Artist at the American Music Awards—is a thing of the past. Since political dissent isn’t exactly in vogue these days, West was taking a big risk at a time when his profile couldn’t be higher thanks to the release last week of his second album, Late Registration; his appearance on the VMAs and his upcoming appearance on the NFL Opening Kickoff 2005.
Of course, West isn’t the first person to voice these same feelings. The day after his statement, the Congressional Black Caucus met with President Bush following a similar statement they made last Tuesday that some residents of New Orleans were not getting help due to “poverty, race, and skin color.” And the Sunday morning talk shows were full of government officials on the receiving end of an ass-handing-to by various commentators. But West spoke without political cover about the third rail of American social policy at the risk of getting Dixie Chick'd.
In a column on Monday, Jim DeRogatis all but anointed West as the next Chuck D. Congratulations, Kanye: you just became the next “black CNN.”
Update: ABC will keep Kanye on the bill for the NFL Kickoff. Gaper's Block blogged that Twista is organizing a free concert at House of Blues on September 19th to benfit victims of Hurricane Katrina. The rappers have spoken. Rockers, it's your turn.