This famed Kanye West interview on Sway in the Morning is only ONE of the many Kanye interviews, which have been widely critiqued for Kanye's arrogance and ignorance.
Earlier this week, entrepreneur Damon Dash appeared on The Breakfast Club and gave the following interview:
What do these two have in common? Genius, pain, and unbridled arrogance.
Kanye has always been overly confident. It's something that emcees are taught is a necessary component in hip-hop. While his first two or three albums were a balanced mixture of bravado and substance, something was lost along the way. I think we all noticed it, but tried to give him a pass for as long as possible.
I've often tried to break down the shift in his psychosis, pin-pointing it to the loss of his mother. Everyone grieves differently, but not everyone has to do it with a million eyes on them. When I've listened to Kanye, there's a pain there. There's a fear of not being great. A desire to be accepted. Many have commented that Kanye is unrealistic and will ultimately become disillusioned in his desire to be accepted among the 1% or the privileged (especially in fashion and fine art). The black community largely feels that he has abandoned the demographic that made him who he is. The balance that we once found seems to have transformed into polarization. While I'm sure we all can respect creating jobs for youth, many of us wonder what would possess him to refer to racism as a dated concept. Isn't it this (institutional) racism that is preventing him from becoming a fashion design icon? I thought that the powers that be were keeping him out? Hmmm...
As for Damon Dash, his interview on The Breakfast Club included some of the same statements I'd heard at a professional summit where he was the keynote speaker, last year in New York City. That includes, "I'm a man, I have testosterone, I have balls, I'm supposed to want to dominate." Never mind the blatant misogyny (for now). Dame also sounds like he's coming from a place of hurt/loss or having something to prove. The reaction to DJ Envy bringing up his history with Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella (which everyone may not be privy to, especially the younger generation), showed that there's still some bitterness there.
The rant that Dame went on about how a man who isn't his own boss is essentially a chump, to me, had good intentions, but was muddled with arrogance and an inability to concisely articulate a point. Entrepreneurship is important, and something I'm passionate about, but it takes start up money, which requires working for someone else for AT LEAST a short period of time (or investment -- which is difficult to come by for those of African descent). That Dame chose to belittle everyone in his hearing who works for someone else was both ignorant, shortsighted, and hypocritical. After all, the question was asked of Dame how he acquired his start up cash, a question which he evaded for the entirety of the interview. Many took from this that Dame didn't get the start-up money in a legal way. Either way, by avoiding that question, he essentially invalidated his argument for failure to validate it, given the opportunity.
Both of these men are attempting to enter a realm of entrepreneurship and wealth that very few black folks have entered. They are attempting to make institution out of what is now rarity. They are both addressing (however inarticulate) the institutional barriers that keep our people economically, educationally, and socially disadvantaged and trying to lead in acquiring and passing down generational wealth. Unfortunately, one has to see past all of their ridiculousness to get here, and patience is a (rare) virtue.
The other problem here? Kanye and Dame are trying to use the master's tools to dismantle the master's house (and build their own). While they are both visionaries, neither of them seem to be employing cooperative economics. Dame talks about feeling hurt that he reached out to Spike Lee for help on an idea... who else has he reached out to (perhaps, less notable than Spike)? Has Kanye researched any high fashion designers of African descent to possibly collaborate with? Ujamaa, my brothers, for crying out loud!
Normally, when I write, I have a strong opinion. Today, I guess I'm Sway, because I don't have the answers. While I think that both of these icons have pieces of great messages buried in their loquacious rants, and am disenchanted with the way they choose to convey them, I also understand that they are still black men in a racist, white country. To me, Kanye and Dame have a lot to learn about what it means to leverage power in service of community success, and how, in turn -- their dreams and ambitions may actually be realized.