Kanye West: Misunderstood?

Aaah. The last blog post. Bittersweet. When it came to choosing my own pop culture pick I knew it was going to be about music or related to music somehow. I just didn’t know who or what I was going to write about. Once I got home from work & logged in I found myself searching for peer reviewed articles about Kanye West. There you have it. I decided on Mr. West because I feel the guy has a lot of negative articles written about him already that I knew there had to be more neutral articles written about him & what really matters. The music. The article that I found is titled “Can’t Tell Me Nothing: Symbolic Violence, Education, and Kanye West” which was published in February 2011 in Popular Music & Society. It focuses on different themes while analyzing a couple of his albums but I’m going to be focusing more on the education part of the essay. 

The first three Kanye albums are titled The College Dropout (2004), Late Registration (2005), and Graduation. (2007) So, you can already sense the education theme in his music based off these titles. Anyone who is a Kanye fan (such as myself) knows that his background is that he’s an only son who was raised primarily by his mother after his parents divorced. His mother was an English professor at Clark Atlanta University and the Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University. His father taught photography and media production. Kanye attended both Chicago’s American Academy of Art & later Chicago State University for a short time before dropping out to focus on music full-time. Hence the title of his first album.

The article states a quote from West’s mother, If you’re in a room full of people and everyone is speaking Ebonics and you break out with the Queen’s English, super proper, then even if you’re speaking so-called correct English, you’re not correct” (x). West writes that he “remembered that when I wrote my songs.” This was interesting to me because being a reader & writer I always notice how well or bad a song is written  & in Kanye’s music he tends to over enunciate his words but I never really thought too much about why. Or as West raps “They say I talk with so much emphasis, oooh, they so sen-sa-tive.” (Can’t Tell Me Nothing, 2007) The essay expounds this further by stating, “through this kind of wordplay, West draws attention to different ways of speaking & seeing and presents an alternative view to which audiences can view.” Interesting. I’ve never thought about it that way before & I’ve been listening to Ye since his second album was released back in ’05.

Further in the article the author breaks down more of West’s critique of higher learning. Noting that West did attend college for a brief time it’s pretty clear why education played such a central role in his older albums. Graduation is the one album that is pretty prevalent with it. In his song Good Morning off the same album, West raps “Look at the valedictorian/complacent career student/Some people graduate/but be still stupid.” West is very vocal in ridiculing the idea that obtaining a college degree automatically means success. This particular dropout has won 21 Grammy awards, sold over 32 million albums, and has a net worth of approximately $180 million. So, maybe he’s earned the right to critique the higher learning institution especially since his background is rooted deeply in academia. “West recognizes that a university degree is necessary for attaining status and the hope of a well-paying career but is also a way for the dominant culture to judge others and legitimate social hierarchies and segregation.” 

The essay analyzes further but that would make for an extremely long blog post. 😉 As I was writing this blog post I was listening to Kanye’s music, especially the songs that were analyzed further, and it’s definitely make me do a double-take. Since I have the opportunity to go to school & continue my education; I’m not advocating not to go to school or that school is bad but I do understand Mr. West’s overall message that a college degree isn’t the end all be all. Heck, the guy isn’t even 40 yet & he’s made so much money that a large majority of us probably won’t ever see in our lifetime. Not bad for a college dropout. But of course what works for one person may not work for another. 😀 


“In short, West is a contradiction who embodies the larger contradictions in American culture.” (12)

Works Cited:

“Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” Richardson Chris. Web. 14 July 2016 




10 thoughts on “Kanye West: Misunderstood?

  1. You wrote a really interesting post. Your blog is the first one that I have read so far that picked a musician for the medium to talk about. Personally, I never really cared for Kanye but that is just based off all the talk about him and how he thinks he can be “god” or whatever but I just don’t know enough about him to have an opinion. Your post was good for me to read because you shared his background/childhood life and made the point that the might have the right to put down getting a college degree or just the academic institution in general because he was surrounded by the byproduct of it his whole life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know a lot of people who don’t care for him based off his media persona & the “rants” he does which I totally understand but I wanted to focus more on his craft & that included his background. 🙂


    • Thank you. That’s all I can ask for. I know he’s off putting in how he expresses himself but there’s no denying that he’s a master of his craft & how his personal background plays a role in his music. At least his older music. I’m not a fan of his newer music. lol. 🙂


  2. I really like this! This is different. I didn’t expect anyone writing about Kanye. He is a smart guy but I feel like he’s been holding back on his intelligence. I think his image has been hurt by being associated with the Kardashians. Previous classmates either aren’t fans or because he is now , I would say conceited, thinking he can be god. I don’t like that either. I noticed how you also said you don’t like his new stuff. I also don’t like it. Maybe the Kardashians narcissistic ways rubbed onto him. Didn’t expect to see a scholarly journal about him, and his college dropout education. Great last post:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I do agree with you in that being associated with the Kardashian circus hasn’t had a positive impact on his later music. Maybe it’s all the attention mongering for anything that takes away from his music? And I think that also detracts from how intelligent he is. If anyone has ever watched his interviews he talks about very valid stuff but I think people hate on him & don’t see that unfortunately because of he he comes off & his relationship with Kim.


  3. That was a pretty great insight on Kanye.

    I gotta admit, love him or hate him, he always makes you double take one way or another. Whether its something he said, did, wrote or created.

    I always have this profound self reflection when I listen to Kanye one-on-one. He brings out the hypocrite in me, I’m always ready to judge when I hear is name but I forget the value of his creativity which is a really important quality for me when assessing artists.

    It’s dope. And in more ways than one, it’s inspired. Anything unique he brings to the table is plenty icing on the sundae. Love him or hate him, can’t look away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My point exactly! I’m glad someone caught what I was trying to get across. It’s so easy to judge celebrities off their media persona that I think it’s vital not to forget what made their famous. Their craft. And in Kanye’s case people forget he’s this really creative & awesome producer & it definitely has some kind of creative impact on me. I always feel really hyped & ready to take on anything after listening to his music.


  4. I enjoyed your approach to this — listening to Kanye while reading the scholarly work. So pleased that your experience of his work was enriched by Richardson’s writing. Thanks for your post and happy summer!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s