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