I might never be a celebrated writer. But I was a good father, a good partner, a decent friend. Fame fucked with all of that. I would show up to do my job, to report, and become, if not the scene, then part. I would take my wife out to lunch to discuss some weighty matter in our lives, and come home, only to learn that the couple next to us had covertly taken a photo and tweeted it out. The family dream of buying a home, finally achieved, became newsworthy. My kids Instagram account was scoured for relevant"s. And when I moved to excise myself, to restrict access, this would only extend the story. It was the oddest thing.paper
It was small literary fame, not the kind of fame that accompanies Grammys and Oscars, and there may not have been a worse candidate for. I was the second-youngest of seven children. My life had been inconsequential, if slightly amusing. I had never stood out for any particular reason, save my height, and even that was wasted on a lack of skills on the basketball court. But I learned to use this ordinariness to my advantage. I was a journalist. There was something soft and unthreatening about me that made people want to talk. And I had a capacity for disappearing into events and thus, in that way, reporting out a scene. At home, i built myself around ordinary things—family, friends, and community.
My mother my idol Age Smart
And so to those who had been toddlers in the era. The Blueprint, he became a god, by pulling from that generation raised in hip-hops golden age, and yet never being shackled. (Even after the events of the week, it would shock no one if Wests impending was the best of the year.). West is 40 years old, a product of the Crack era and reaganomic years, a man who remembers the. Challenger crash and, the cosby Show before syndication. But he never fell into the bitterness of his peers.
He could not be found chasing ghosts, barking at soulja boy, hectoring Lil Yachty, and otherwise yelling at clouds. To his credit, west seemed to remember rappers having to defend their music as music against the withering fire of their elders. And so while, today, you find some of these same artists, once targets, adopting the sanctimonious pose of the arthritic jazz-men whom they vanquished, you will not find yeezy among them, because yeezy never got old. Maybe that was the problem. Everything is darker now and one is forced to conclude that an ethos of light-skinned girls and some kelly rowlands, of mutts and thirty white bitches, deserved more scrutiny, that the embrace of a slaveholders flag warranted more inquiry, that a blustering illiteracy should have. Glenn Harvey i about want to tell you a story about the time, still ongoing as of this writing, when i almost lost my mind. In the summer of 2015, i published a book, and in so doing, became the unlikely recipient of a mere fraction of the kind of celebrity kanye west enjoys.
And he is a god, though one born of a different time and a different need. Jackson rose in the last days of enigma and wonder; West, in an accessible age, when every fuck is a tweet and every defecation a status update. And perhaps, in that way, west has done something more remarkable, more amazing than Jackson, because he is a man of no mystery, overexposed, who holds the worlds attention through simply the consistent, amazing, near-peerless quality of his work. He arrived to us with Bin Laden, on September 11, 2001—life emerging out of mass death—and I guess it is more accurate to say here that he arrived to me on that day, since west had been producing since at least five years before. All i know is when I heard his production. The Blueprint, i felt that he was the one i had been waiting for.
I was then, still, an aesthetic conservative, a vulgar backpacker who truly and absurdly believed that shiny suits had broken the cypher, scratched the record, and killed my beloved hip-hop. My theme music alternated between Commons i used to love. E.R., The roots What They do, and. Slick ricks admonition—Their times limited, hard-rocks too—was my mantra, so that on that day of mass murder, when Kanye west greeted me, chopping up the jackson 5, drawing from Bobby Blue bland, pulling from david Ruffin, arrived with jay-z, an mc who dated back. This was insane, and it has been the great boon of my life that Twitter did not exist back then, to come of age in the last days of mystery, because lord knows how many times I would have told you hip-hop was dead, and. Forgive me, but that is who i was, an old man before my time, and all I can say is that when I heard Kanye, i felt myself back in communion with something that I felt had been lost, a sense of ancestry in every. That was almost 20 years ago. It is easy to forget just how long West has been at this, that hes been excellent for so long, that there are adults out there, now, who have never seen the sun set on the empire of Kanye west. And he made music for them, for the young and futuristic, not for the old and conservative like me, and so avoided the tempting rut of nostalgia, of soul samples and visions of what hip-hop had been.
My mom my hero
Here is a country that specializes in defining its own deviancy down so that the criminal, the immoral, and the absurd become the baseline, so that even now, amidst the long tragedy and this lately disaster, the guardians of truth rally to the liars flag. Nothing is new here. The tragedy is so old, but even within it there are actors—some whove chosen resistance, and some, like west, who, however blithely, have chosen collaboration. West might plead ignorance—i dont have all the answers that a celebrity is supposed to have, he told Charlamagne. But no citizen claiming such a large portion of the public square as West can be granted reprieve. The planks of Trumpism are clear— the better banning of Muslims, the improved scapegoating of Latinos, the endorsement of racist conspiracy, the denialism of science, the cheering of economic charlatans, the urging on of barbarian cops and barbarian bosses, the cheering of torture, and the. The pain will of these policies is not equally distributed. Indeed the rule of Donald Trump is predicated on the infliction of maximum misery on Wests most ardent parishioners, the portions of America, the muck, that made the god Kanye possible.
And, like trump, west is shockingly ignorant. Chicago was the murder australia capital of the world, west asserted, when in fact Chicago is not even the murder capital of America. Wests ignorance is not merely deep, but also dangerous. For if Chicago truly is the murder capital of the world, then perhaps it is in need of the federal occupation threatened by Trump. It is so hard to honestly discuss the menace without forgetting. It is hard because what happened to America in 2016 has long been happening in America, before there was an America, when the first Carib was bayoneted and the first African delivered up in chains. It is hard to express the depth of the emergency without bowing to the myth of past American unity, when in fact American unity has always been the unity of conquistadors and colonizers—unity premised on Indian killings, land grabs, noble internments, and the gallant General.
awakened, recently, from a long public slumber to embrace donald Trump. He hailed Trump, as a brother, a fellow bearer of dragon energy, and impugned those who objected as suppressors of unpopular questions, thought police whose tactics were based on fear. It was Trump, west argued, not Obama, who gave him hope that a black boy from the south Side of Chicago could be president. Remember like when I said I was gonna run for president?, kanye said in an interview with the radio host Charlamagne Tha god. I had people close to me, friends of mine, making jokes, making memes, talking shit. Now its like, oh, that was proven that that could have happened. There is an undeniable logic here. Like trump, west is a persistent bearer of slights large and small—but mostly small. (jay-z, beyoncé, barack Obama, and nike all came in for a harangue.) like trump, west is narcissistic, the greatest artist of all time, he claimed, helming what would soon be the biggest apparel company in human history.
Thriller until I was a grown man, who no longer believed in miracles, and knew in my heart that if the black mans God was not dead, he surely was dying. And he had always been dying—dying to be white. That was what my mother dream said, that you could see the dying all over his face, the decaying, the thinning, that he was disappearing into something white, desiccating into something white, erasing himself, so that we would forget that he had once been Africa beautiful. Because when I think of that time, i think of black men on album covers smiling back at me in Jheri curls and blue contacts and I think of black women who seemed, by some mystic edict, to all be the color of manila folders. Michael Jackson might have been dying to be white, but he was not dying alone. There were the rest us out there, born, as he was, in the muck of this country, born in The bottom. We knew that we were tied to him, that his physical destruction was our physical destruction, because if the black god, who made the zombies dance, who brokered great wars, who transformed stone to light, if he could not be beautiful in his own eyes. And he was destroyed. It happened right before.
My mother, my idol; University of Florida; meaningful event
I could only have seen it there, on the waxed hardwood floor of my elementary-school auditorium, because i was young then, barely 7 years old, and cable had not yet come to the city, and if it had, my father would not have believed. Yes, it had to have happened like this, like folk wisdom, because when I think of that era, i do not think of mtv, but of the futile attempt to stay awake and navigate the yawning whiteness. Friday night Videos, and I remember that there were no vcrs among us then, and so it would have had to have been book there that I saw it, in the auditorium that adjoined the cafeteria, where after the daily serving of tater tots and chocolate. And I would have been there among them, awkwardly uprocking, or worming in place, or stiffly snaking, or back-spinning like a broken rotor, and I would have looked up and seen a kid, slightly older, facing me, smiling to himself, then moving across the floor. Nothing happens that way anymore. But this was 1982, and Michael Jackson was God, but not just God in scope and power, though there was certainly that, but God in his great mystery; God in how a child would hear tell of him, god in how he lived among the. So the legends were all I had—tales of remarkable feats and fantastic deeds: Michael Jackson mediated gang wars; Michael Jackson was the zombie king; Michael Jackson tapped his foot and stones turned to light. Even his accoutrements felt beyond me—the studded jacket, the sparkling glove, the leather pants—raiment of the divine, untouchable by me, a mortal child who squinted to see past Saturday, who would not even see. Motown 25 until it was past 30, who would not even own a copy.