Episode 10! From Kendrick’s performance at the Grammys to Beyoncé’s “Formation” and Kanye’s latest Twitter rants, this was a really Black week in pop culture. In this podcast, Chanelle Adams (@nellienooks) takes over the airwaves with guests Shay (@they_berian), Lenée (@dopegirlfresh), and Raina (@RainaWrites) to discuss Grammy reactions, Kendrick’s use of Africa, how sexism affects “Formation” responses, and mental health in the community. Get ready for it, because there’s so much ground to cover!
Full transcript below!
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Chanelle: Hi, welcome back to the Black Girl Dangerous Podcast! Today, we have a great show in store for you. We’ve brought on Raina, Lenée, and Shay to talk about what is going on in pop culture right now related to Kanye, Kendrick, The Grammys, and Beyoncé.
Chanelle: Welcome back to the BGD podcast! This time around, I have Lenée and Shay, which I feel so blessed to have, on the show to talk about what just went down at the Grammys and this Kendrick moment, especially after all of these #OscarsSoWhite hashtags and what we just saw was so black. So just to dive right into it, what was your initial response when you saw Kendrick’s performance?
Shay: My first response to it, I was hype for it because I saw the article earlier in the day where he’s talking about he’s gonna be pissing some people off. So I was excited to see what it would be.
Shay: When I did see the performance though, there are there were a number of things of course; parallels in regards to Beyoncé’s performance but the one thing that really stuck out to me about the performance was the themes he utilized to travel across the stage. Going from imprisonment and slavery then sliding through into the more African indigenous dance and then the image with the continent of Africa with Compton stamped on it. So there was a number of interesting things within that. For me, I thought my response to it- I appreciate how black it was. That was nice. My favorite part about the performance was the crowd. [laughs] The white people. There was a mix of fear, anger, and there was a good bit of “haven’t we given you enough? Why are you doing this?” There was a lot of that in their faces. That was the best part of the performance for me. But when it comes to the imagery from the other components to his performance, I feel like there’s some stuff that people can’t just- you can’t just assume. The imagery can be interpreted in a number of ways but I thought those were the most significant things. To be completely honest, I was not a big fan of Kendrick’s album. I had a number of issues with the theme. I thought it was interesting though. It was interesting to say the least.
Lenée: Okay, that’s real. I didn’t watch it live, I saw it after the fact. I saw it once it was up on Facebook, et cetera. So my response was filtered through a lot of initial responses, which were “these white people are mad as shit!”
Lenée: Which is great, for me, I was in it for the white terror, I was in it for the frustration. I was in it for all that because if white people are uncomfortable that’s all they’re feeling versus black people feeling way more than uncomfortable; feeling stalked, hunted, et cetera. So that’s one part. But the performance itself, it wasn’t outright derivative, but it was very “I just took my first performance arts class”. [laughs] “And I took a bunch of AfAm studies classes”, which is not a terrible thing. When I was Kendrick’s age, I was borderline Hoteppin’ too. It’s cool. I will give him that space, he has his respectability thing. But also something I picked up on: when they left the jail scene, which was powerful imagery, but he also used black – I’m assuming – masculine people’s bodies to tell that part of the story. He did not use black feminine bodies to tell that story, which is kind of telling to me. When we think about black people being in chains, chain gangs, et cetera; black women were in chain gangs. Black women did work release. Black femmes were doing prison labor back in the day too. So there’s that. Then the movement into the more ambiguously African, though I recognize some of the dance moves, I notice that the black women’s bodies were more as dancers and they were dressed starkly differently from the masculine people’s bodies and I didn’t feel so good about that. I was like, why can’t everybody be African as shit? But it also felt a lot like the big dance scene from Coming To America for me, where it was a big general “It’s African so we’re gonna say yes!” kinda thing. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, but someone who’s more advanced studies of the continent, or West Africa specifically, might not get the same things from it, clearly, as those white people in the audience. Or as someone who really come into any kind of consciousness of themselves as part of the diaspora. I wasn’t in love with the whole performance but the best part of it for me was the performance of All Right, with the fire and like Shay said, the white people. They were terrified! It made the cockles of my icy cold heart very warm. It did. But Kendrick overall, he feels like someone that I’ve grown past as a connoisseur of music. At the same time, if that’s what’s working for him, if that’s the lane he’s in that’s cool. There’s just some stuff about it that does not work for me.
Chanelle: Yeah, I mean, even down to the outfit that he wore to the Grammys, was very respectable and I noticed that it was not very different from the outfit he wore in the chain gang. It almost looked like he just put a different top on and so I think part of that was meant to demonstrate that he could move between those realms, kind of, to say “look at me, you think I’m this respectable person on the red carpet, and look at me I also fit in this scene”. It just seemed really about respectability politics and almost like what he was talking about was in the past tense, when a lot of what he was performing on stage is very present and right now.
Shay: I know, for me, the biggest thing that grabbed me, because I really was trying to put it all into context was the underlying theme of Afrocentrism. Now, the danger of Afrocentrism, I think, is best described by Stokely Carmichael later – later known as Kwame Ture – Afrocentrism makes the mistake of taking European history as world history and then it reacts. There was this bursting out theme of kinda we’re all exactly the same. But the thing is, Africa is a continent, not a country. Like, it’s an entire nation of over 8000 languages [laughs], people of different cultures, backgrounds, social structures, histories. What we have in common, is not just the continent but also tied histories. That theme, that did not come to the forefront and that’s what I thought was kind of dangerous because he already made a very problematic comparison between gangs in Oakland and tribal wars in African nations. He did that before in “The Blacker The Berry” and it made me uncomfortable because this notion that we can just keep blanketing over: “Oh, we all black!” No, we’re all racialized as black. That’s the thing [?????]. Blackness and then ethnicity are not the same thing. Ethnicity in regards to nation and other forms of culture, we’ll find things and similarities but I was like this kinda homogeneous representation is a little bit problematic and then the prison scene and the chain gang scene was a little disturbing because I’m looking at all the black masculine bodies. And I’m going, black women have been one of the fastest growing prison populations in the United States for a very long time. So its part of this very male-centered and nationalist-centered orientation of what black is and can be and what Africa is and can be as a continent, and our histories as well as our cultures. In a lot of ways, his performance it was the kind of “I just African-American studies 201” [laughs] And it was, that’s one of the things too. It bothered me.
Chanelle: Yeah. [laughs]
Shay: And was it was interesting because there was a whole bunch of layers within that.
Lenée: Because it strikes us as very African Studies 201, Performance Studies 101, to a certain point I was like, “I can’t engage with this too much”, if that makes sense.
Lenée: It would be like expecting February in New York to be warm and balmy, it’s just not going to happen though it technically just did, like, yesterday. [laughs] You know having the expectation versus that thing just happening on its own. I think, Kendrick, if I didn’t know what I know, right, if I weren’t the person that I am with the understandings that I have, I think I would still be raving about Kendrick. I just really super appreciate it. If I had to grade him on it, he’d get a solid D+ out of me. He put forth is best effort, I can sense – rather – that he put a lot of thought and time into it. He said I’m going to be pissing some people off. You know already, I think that’s part of blackness. We know when we do anything that affirms us as black people, automatically there’s going to be backlash. Automatically there’s going to be some hurt white feelings, there’s going to be some tears to swim in or bathe in and that’s cool and I think that’s part of the understanding that you have at a certain point. I don’t know where he was so revolutionary that I have to name all my babies after him, I don’t know where that part comes from. That’s some of the things I’m seeing. Some of the outgrowth of that has been, “oh man, we need more like Kendrick”. We have plenty like Kendrick and then they turn into Kevin Banner, so what’s up? They are like Kendrick and then they turn into Umar Johnson.
Chanelle: I feel you. It definitely felt very 101, making Cell Block Tango from Chicago. [laughs]
Shay: That’s accurate.
Lenée: That was expert shade, alright! [laughs]
Shay: Painfully accurate, that’s what that was.
Lenée: It was.
Chanelle: I think for me, it was that my expectation was not really high for Kendrick he’s the one who defended Iggy after she stole his lyrics changed it from runaway slave to runaway [slave master]. I kind of given up after this new album. It just, on a musical level it sounded very overproduced. Like I say that on his track “Alright”, he sounded like a rapping Bob Dylan, which he didn’t sound like when he was performing and I appreciated the sound quality that I heard at the show but the album itself, I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t even listen to it.
Lenée: That’s real. I found To Pimp a Butterfly to be not bad, but not good either, for me personally. What I got right away was you love OutKast, you love jazz music, you and Bilal are homies, and y’all make good music together. I would love to experience this as a jam session or an improvised song. That being said, All Right is a party starter for me. It’s on my workout playlist. I think he has his moments. He, not unlike a lot of other artists, have their moments where they’re like, yeah okay I fucks with this! Yeah! But then he goes off the deep end and calls Iggy a blessing and stuff. I’m like, you don’t have to call everybody that spits in your face a blessing or a tool for your edification. But that’s, again, that’s to me part of blackness. To take someone harming you and doing fucked up shit to you and calling it a blessing or a tool for your edification. Because what we’re socially, what socially are we allowed to call it anything but? Where are we safe to name it as what it really is?
Shay: I know for me, even though the performance make something different versus a lot of people’s reactions I’ve seen, which is just, you know really just hype about Afrocentrism and very Hoteppy things. [laughs] “There are Hoteppy things to come! Get ready!” and I’m like “Oh, God no”. For me, it was just kinda like I’m glad he made somebody mad, you made yourself of use. It was kinda that notion but it was also the component to where I’m like, “this is the representation of blackness that we’ve been seeing for a very long time”. And to be completely honest it doesn’t dismantle or really upset much of anything.
Lenée: And maybe that’s not what he wanted.
Shay: Exactly! That’s what I thought about.
Lenée: It could also be that’s what he would hope for, but he just may not have come to that understanding yet, of dismantling or removing. I think a lot of us who are in the conversation of dismantling and undoing, we’ve had the time to figure out that what we were doing before didn’t work.
Shay: We’ve had this idea to realize that Afrocentrism and the culture of nationalism is not a destination, it’s just part of a longer process.
Lenée: Yeah, it’s one of many tools. It’s one of many things that we have available to us and I know that sounds really [/////] but I’m not gonna rip Kendrick. First of all, I don’t have time. [laughs]
Lenée: Second of all, ripping him doesn’t dismantle shit anyway.
Shay: Anyway. No it doesn’t.
Lenée: Maybe the conversation we need to have, and I think this conversation is a good one, about what happens when someone’s just not at the place where we are and giving them space to figure it out is good. I also think Kendrick don’t know I fuckin’ exist, so it can’t be that deep for me anyway.
Shay: Yeah, forreal.
Lenée: I mean, that’s just I am where I’m operating from. But I generally appreciate that he did hurt the white people’s feelings and has gotten some people thinking. I think there are a lot of people who may not have been exposed to imagery like that before. Something I said earlier today to a friend, my experience as a Black American is that we belong to each other whether we like it or not. And that’s through oppression and some of that may also be through community building, it may be through intentional building and maintenance of connections. We belong to each other whether we like it or not. For some people, Compton written over the continent of Africa might mean that. I have to give people space to find whatever meaning they’re going to find in it. And there’s gonna be some people, “Man, I ain’t messin’ with him no more, he’s talking that Afrocentric shit.” Okay, cool. He went home to his lightskin girlfriend though and that’s cool. I guess. Whatever works for him and whatever works for her. I just, I’m just clear that after a certain point I can’t engage with it.
Chanelle: The part that seems so wild to me is that it’s not even like the song “Formation”, where you can’t get the images from the actual lyrics, but Kendrick’s performance wasn’t anything new in terms of his music. He’s been saying the same thing. He just added some images. He added Compton over the entire continent of Africa whereas I don’t know it makes me feel like the people who voted have never really listened to the lyrics. Like, they just put on the music and then they were shocked when they saw the visuals of it.
Chanelle: That disconnect is so bizarre for me. They just looked so shocked. They’re like, “we didn’t pick this, we don’t know what this is!” [laughs]
Shay: That’s like the equal of getting a diversity hire! [laughs]
Lenée: It’s very much like they went to Popeye’s did not know what a 10pc spicy was hittin’ for, and were like “Oh my God! This is hot! It’s burning my mouth!” [laughs] I think that’s very normal. Especially for institutions in general. With the RIAA is like that, we know the Academy is like that, we know that our schools and our workplaces are like that. So I’m not surprised at all that it showed up that way. But those people, there is something to be said about a song that has the hook, “Nigga, we gone be alright” and these white folks have paid ZERO attention to any of that. [laughs] They invested themselves in not one part of it. And I’m just like, what? The hook is “Nigga, we gone be alright!” What did you think was gonna happen? [laughs] I just don’t…
Chanelle: What I’m still trying to figure out is why Kendrick’s lyrics didn’t get the same kind of response as the lyrics to Formation, which people have been all up in arms saying that she’s causing this revolution, that she’s telling people to be violent, that blue lives don’t matter, that everyone should go out and harm the cops, when Kendrick’s lyrics about survival are just as potent, if not more potent when it comes to the messages.
Lenée: If Kendrick used feminine pronouns and had a uterus, it might be a little bit difference.
Lenée: I think the hardest thing for me to digest about all this is that Beyoncé, her blackness is under scrutiny in a way I’ve never seen in regards to someone who does not give a ton of personal information. Right? Like, in this song she talks about being Creole and Black American and if anyone knows anything about the racial politics of the South. The unique universe of the Southern US, especially the Gulf Coast, Creole is a special kind of black because that was what it took to not be lynched or treated as poorly as other black people for a certain period of time and the legacies that come with that. Nobody can blame Beyoncé for colorism. Has she benefited? Of course. Does she know that? Most likely. And so there’s this level of scrutiny know. At one point she says “albino alligators” and the shit doesn’t do anything but rhyme with the line before it. There’s this jackhammering of that song, there’s a jackhammering of her. People want her blood for affirming blackness and it’s bullshit. It’s amazing and astounding and frightening to me that a pop song that affirms blackness is getting so much flak from black people especially. As if she was like, “nah I’m not black til I’m black”. Beyoncé’s been black the whole time. She doesn’t use a different name. She uses her name. And it don’t get no blacker than being named Beyoncé, I’m sorry I’m sorry. It is a cultural tradition, in my experience, in black Southern families to have a family member’s surname as your first name. And that’s what her name is. That’s black. She’s made Get Me Bodied. That’s a New Orleans Bounce song. People don’t know that, but it’s a Bounce song. It’s call and response. It’s dance music. You do it at every black wedding and at every black family reunion. And it’s like, her blackness is under scrutiny in such a way that I’m astounded if I’m being honest. I’m astounded because I didn’t know it was like that. I just had no idea. Meanwhile, she’s putting money towards assisting and uplifting black people. It does not compute. Nobody’s asking Kendrick where is money is. I know he ain’t got Beyoncé money, but nobody wants to know where his money is and I can’t help but notice that while these conversations are going on.
Shay: In a lot of ways I think that, I know for me, when I look at the responses, because Kendrick I saw pretty much get nothing but praise. I think it’s more of a consequence of what happens when people are confronted with imagery of blackness that does not center black men. I think that’s what people were, in a lot of ways, reacting to. Because Formation is not a song for black people who are cishet black men all like that. Talking about hot sauce in my bag swag. In the same way that we saw the SNL clip “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black”, Formation was a big problem for a lot of patriarchal black men because they didn’t see themselves in it and you are not allowed to discuss blackness that does not center black men.
Lenée: This is true!
Shay: I feel, from what I observed, the way black men responded to that? You would have thought the world was ending the way they was responding. They were making Facebook pages against Beyoncé. It just doesn’t add up and like I said it’s one of those things that’s extremely unfortunate because, and I commonly say this and it’s unfortunate, but the way black men responded to Formation is the way you would expect of white women feminists to respond to formation. It was just odd.
Lenée: Well, they did! They all had the same reaction. They all had the same reaction. They were all mad as fuck. [laughs]
Shay: Exactly [laughs]
Lenée: You would’ve thought that Beyoncé walked up to every last one of them and called they mamas hoes, like it was bad. It was bad. I’ve never seen anything like it. I think because, I don’t wanna say I minimize the impact of misogynoir in my day to day life, at the same time I’m so used to it that I have a low level underlying rage that I’ve kind of plateaued with, but that shit woke me up in a specific way. Here’s the funniest part: Beyoncé has never said she wasn’t black. She doesn’t discuss body augmentation, she doesn’t discuss whether or not she gave birth to her child vaginally or through C-Section or through alien or whatever. She doesn’t talk about any of these things because it’s not none of our damn business, first of all.
Lenée: Second of all, she doesn’t talk about these things because she knows anything she says or doesn’t say is going to be fodder anyway, so why wouldn’t she hold close to herself the things that matter to her? Right. I would have imagined that her blackness matters. She’s from Houston. I’ve seen and spent time in 3rd Ward, Houston. It’s not a place for people who don’t wanna be black. It’s just not how it works. It’s not how the Gulf Coast works, it’s not how the Southern US works, and it’s definitely not how it worked when she was coming up in the 80s and 90s. She and I are roughly the same age, that’s not how it was when we were kids. And I would argue that that’s the case with most cities that had sizable black populations in the 80s and 90s when crack hit, when hip-hop was starting to grow. And we, blackness, was not something you could walk away from and do that comfortably without forsaking a lot of community and care and just identity in general. So just the reactions: “how dare she say she’s black”, “how dare she say she’s black”, “how dare she be black and a woman at the same damn time”, “how dare she have the power to make white people scream and faint when they see her concert”. She’s Michael Jackson-level, just to be clear. We haven’t had anybody like that since Michael Joseph Jackson and this is another black person. This is a black person. A black woman. A black femme. That shit matters. And she also smart enough or together enough or street enough or clever enough, whatever words you wish to use, to use the momentum of people who can’t stop talking about her and claim not to like her against them and for herself. There’s a wisdom she most likely has gained from performing from the time she was 10 years old. It’s not regarded as useful because it’s for entertainment purposes, but how else could she have pulled this off?
Chanelle: I feel like she called up PBS and she was like, “Listen, I’m gonna put my girls in the Black Panther outfits and then everyone’s gonna say there were no women in the Black Panthers and then release the documentary, release it! Let ‘em know!” [laughs]
Lenée: I would not be surprised! The way she hires people is she hears about you and then she tells you she wants to interview you. So, I wouldn’t be surprised. And I’m okay with that. Let her Oprah, let white people Beyoncé ain’t black until she’s black. That’s cool. Go for it.
Shay: The whole thing just like, I was expecting for this to be kinda like a similar reaction to when she dropped that album and ruined- I didn’t sleep for two days. [laughs] I already had insomnia and the album dropped and I was up all night listening to it. I spent so much of my time just staying up all in the morning texting people going bitch! Like, bitch! Bitch! That’s pretty much what I did. I mean, I was expecting the same kinda response. I didn’t give a fuck. Finally got something that you could say, this is definitely about the contemporary politics and experiences in the lives of black people in the United States at least in the last three years!
Lenée: Right, right!
Shay: But all the black men freaked, “Man, I ain’t like that! I don’t think-!” I’m like oh my God. And I know for me, when I looked at the responses, let me just not. I’m just gonna avoid this. I’m gonna try to avoid all this at all costs. But it was one of those things that just kinda, they wouldn’t. A lot of, predominantly who I saw mad was cishet black men. I was just like y’all not gonna let black women have anything? Black femmes can’t have anything? They can’t have nothin’?
Shay: They do all the work, they can’t have nothin’?
Shay: Don’t you think we got enough songs?
Shay: I was just like, let them have this! I don’t get what the problem is. There’s really nothing wrong with this song. It’s amazing! It’s catchy, the video was lit. Like, I don’t know what is wrong with y’all. Like chill. It’s not that serious. Then the Super Bowl. It just got worse.
Lenée: Yooo! First of all, she came out there dressed like Michael Jackson, let’s talk about that. She showed up to that shit dressed like Michael Jackson. She said okay, fuck that! I’m gonna give y’all the blackest-! Legit, like, lowkey it don’t get no blacker than Michael Jackson anyway. So, she was like, “I’m gonna put on this Michael Jackson jacket and then my dancers gonna be dressed like the fucking Panthers and they all gone have afros and they all gonna be visibly, undeniably, racialized as black and we gone dance in an X formation. And what? What?” Then Bruno Mars comes in and does the fuckin’ heel toe. I’m like, so we got diaspora things happening?
Shay: Black on black on black on black on black on black on black on black on black!
Lenée: You couldn’t get no blacker! There was a meanness that Beyoncé and Bruno Mars and her Uber driver did a good job at at the Super Bowl. [laughs] Yep, yep, it’s lit.
Shay: It was so wonderful. And the fascinating part is just how, I’m just like, this is something that was really nice. This is why we can’t have nice things, because you had the audacity after something as glorious as that performance to be ungrateful. I was just like, if we wanna cherry pick and pick things apart, there’s always a context of something you can’t pull it out of. Including the context of the rest of the song. I don’t know why y’all miserable. Y’all need to calm down.
Chanelle: Hi, welcome back to the BGD podcast! This is Chanelle and today I have Raina Johnson on the podcast to talk a little bit about what is going on with Kanye and his latest Twitter rampage and all of the social media about Kanye right now. I don’t know if you remember, but Raina wrote a piece on BGD. So Raina, what do you think about all of this?
Raina: Well, definitely – first of all – I’m not surprised that Kanye has been ranting on Twitter. Everything from Amber Rose and her child to everything in the music industry I’m really not surprised about Kanye at all. I feel like a lot of it is just his larger than life personality and he just had an album come out, too. So it should help – hopefully – his album sales which – hopefully – help him get out of debt. He won’t have to ask for money from other billionaires for his lifestyle and all of his ideas.
Chanelle: Right. And as you just said, this is not the first time Kanye has done this. He’s known for doing this at his shows live, he’s done it at the Grammys, he did it when he gave that speech about how he was gonna run for President in 2020, this is definitely not the first moment but I feel like this time around it’s maybe more of a sustained moment and for that reason it’s receiving a lot of attention.
Raina: Yeah, I would agree with that. I just feel like a lot of people are surprised at how long this has been going on. It seems to be really Kanye. It’s just really a lot. There’s a lot of layers there and he just keeps going. I feel like someone should just take over his Twitter account for him.
Chanelle: Yeah, I actually just saw a tweet that he’s tweeting like Kim only lets him use his phone for 30 minutes a day.
Raina: Yeah. It is. We see it. It’s super constant, nonstop random tweets. He’s also, I don’t know if it’s just the way he is but, I know it’s getting him a lot of attention and we’re all talking about Kanye West right now.
Chanelle: Right. And for lots of reasons. One of them being that he did just released this album where on one of the songs, he talks about the use of Lexapro – which is an antidepressant – I don’t know if that’s a lyric he put in himself or somebody else but I think that while we’re paying attention to Kanye the publicity stunt, there may really be some conversations we could have about mental health in the community right now.
Raina: Yeah, absolutely. I really hope, just because of Kanye’s celebrity and just who he is, I really hope that this will spark the conversation to really talk about mental health in the black community. Specifically how it manifests itself in black men and how black men – just like black women – are taught to be strong. I wrote about that in my piece that you published in December. So I think we really need to have serious conversations about how we look at black men and mental disease and kind of, too, like you talked about earlier just kind of sustaining and how long those moments last. It could be a day, it could be just one thought. But often it is kind of, you see it a more sustained issue and that is something we need to talk about in the community and not be afraid to talk about it and have everything be so stigmatized and when you’re talking about antidepressants there’s another kind of conversation we can have as well, let’s talk about access in terms of just health insurance and providers who understand the cultural differences.
Chanelle: Absolutely. And another reason why I think it’s getting so much attention now is because it’s come to light the line he says about Taylor Swift and it seems like every time he comes for Taylor Swift people start pathologizing him.
Raina: Why do you think that is?
Chanelle: It seems like, well obviously she’s you know Miss American Sweetheart, and it’s always gonna sell: this story about there’s a [black] man bullying or stealing or accosting a white woman. That’s an age old story.
Raina: Absolutely, and I think too, Taylor Swift she’s been getting a lot of attention as well too. Just recently, you know with the Grammys and her acceptance speech. That is something, the age old story that just keeps on repeating itself. But I feel like Kanye just might need something else to do. [laughs]
Chanelle: Kanye has been talking a lot about how people who are geniuses are often called crazy and I think he’s really running with this idea of being almost manic in order to be inspirational or creative. What do you think about that story?
Raina: I feel like that is something that’s a very kind of fine line, I think Kanye is really playing with right there. Talk about being creative and I’m writer so I understand, you know, where that can come from. Where you need the inspiration and you might sometimes feel manic. I don’t like in that context but I feel like he should just really be careful and really understand like the implications of his of his words and actions because I mean he’s Kanye West right he’s not like the average young African-American rapper this trying to make it from Chicago. He’s already made it. He he’s out of the struggle except for his $53 million dollars in debt but for the most part we see that he’s doing just fine and I feel like he really needs to just be careful and understand the implications of using those types of words and I get that he may think he’s a genius and he’s the greatest rapper of all time – I don’t agree with him – he has his own opinion about himself and fine but I think he needs to use as a platform in a way that also shows, yes he may be a genius and he may have these really, really good moments where he’s feeling good and he’s writing his music and doing whatever else and he’s producing but also understand that there are other times he might need to seek some serious mental health services.
Chanelle: Right, which he certainly would have access to with the sort of money he has.
Chanelle: I think as you said there’s so many layers to it. So one moment he’ll be saying that he could run the world and the next moment, he’ll say only God can be the king. I can’t, I’m not better than anybody else, it’s just all of us out here trying to do it. And that kind of swing between confidence and those humble “we’re all the same” vibe. And when it comes down to it, I think he’s really lonely. I think that has a huge thing to do with it. I mean, obviously I can’t imagine what it would be like to have that much money and be of his status but I imagine that there’s a lot of people who just give him shit and take stuff from him and use him all the time.
Raina: He might need to tighten up his circle. [laughs] Seriously, he might just need to find some people that really understand him, and also take a real break from Twitter. I know he’s talked about it in the past, you know no more tweets. But I think he really just needs to spend some time figuring out what his next step is that is actually beneficial to him and won’t hurt him.
Chanelle: Right, because a lot of what we’re seeing is harmful. In the moment it is giving him a lot of views, but also if you read any of the comments on his Twitter right now a lot of people are saying just stop, please.
Raina: I think, too, you’re right. I mean, you’re right. These are, you know, real people who follow him, who pay attention to what he’s saying, and if he wants to use his status to talk about mental health, then he needs to get real about it and use that status to make a change. And not make regular people feel terrible for having a mental disorder.
Chanelle: Yeah, what kind of message do you think you sending to people?
Raina: I think he’s sending, first of all, the wrong message. The message is basically saying he is extremely confident and it’s almost arrogant and it’s unattractive but I think really, he can just kind of live in this sort of manic state and just create all these things but they don’t really have any real meaning at the end of the day and I think that’s when he’s going to figure out that he’s gonna just crash and burn because that could happen very soon. He has a lot going on, he just released an album. You know he’s got small kids. I feel like he really needs to get it together, to take a break, but that message is really harmful for people who are out really struggling but also to function in a world that stigmatizes mental health.
Chanelle: Yeah, that’s super real. I’m thinking about how the things that he’s talking about experiencing are on this really massive scale things, like debt things like feeling inadequate, trying to find self- confidence, trying to reassure himself, and his self-worth and what he can do.
Raina: Yeah, his purpose, right.
Chanelle: Yeah, he sounds very lost trying to figure out what life is about and because he’s under this microscope is we’re seeing it in really massive waves and that’s the day-to-day reality for a lot of us.
Raina: But then too, the other side of that as well, when you look at the smaller level of people who have mental health concerns, is that they might not experience them in the same way that Kanye is portraying it be. It could be very well masked, very well hidden, and not every day and that’s something too that we need to add to the conversation. A lot of people experience mental health concerns but they may not experience them in that same kind of grandiose way. It can be very slow to progress, it can just change literally day by day so, just kind of showing. I think he also could you bring it down a notch and really get real people so that people can not just say like stop talking about this in this way. But maybe get him to see the smaller moments where he might be feeling alone, or sad, or just truly depressed and lost.
Chanelle: That was something I really appreciated about the piece you wrote. Was talking about how it’s not about how someone appears from the outside when it comes to mental health concerns and that asking for help is not always the easiest thing and there’s people who might want to seek that help but they have a facade that everything’s okay because they’re not expressing themselves or their concerns are revealing in the same way that someone like a Kanye West would.
Raina: Right and I feel like to along those same lines, just asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s really just a sign of strength. That it shows that you are seeking out some help because you know that you need it, right? And I feel like maybe if Kanye did that, that would change a lot of people’s minds about the stigma around mental health. Especially in the black community where, you know, we just don’t talk about it.
Chanelle: Yeah and the help he’s asking for is begging Mark Zuckerberg for $1 billion dollars.
Raina: I don’t think that’s really getting really to the root of the problem. [laugh] That amount of debt, there’s some other things going on there as well that he’s not putting on Twitter.
Chanelle: Yeah, I can’t even imagine.
Raina: I’m worried about my little student loan debt. I’m like, $53 million dollars? I’d feel really sad all the time.
Chanelle: I think you’d have to have some sort of money in order to get into that type of debt.
Raina: Yeah, absolutely. And that too, that goes back to the people in his life. Who, where’s his circle at? Where are the rational people that tell him, you gotta slow down, you can’t buy everything that you see? You know every good idea is not a good idea to invest in. So, you know everything is not gonna give you the highest return on your investment. So I’m just trying to figure out, where are his people? Who is really in his circle? And that might be something he’s also trying to figure out right now, reaching out to other celebrities who may be able to assist him in whatever his next endeavor is.
Chanelle: Putting Kanye aside for a minute, I know that Facebook has started offering advertisements to people that they’re worried about the content they’re posting or sending people. Do you know anything about that?
Raina: I haven’t seen anything like that but I know that just the prevalence of social media a lot of people use it just to kind of air out all their business whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. And that has its pros and its cons. A lot of people they want to see, you know social media is supposed to be like your other fake life that’s not real but then a lot of people just get really real on social media, Facebook, and Twitter. They’re just kinda using it as a platform because they might feel lonely or they might feel like they don’t really have anyone in real life to talk to. And I’m always kinda reminding my friends. You know reach out, in real life, to the people that you’re Facebook friends with. Just check in make sure they’re okay. Ask them if they need anything. It’s not because you are expecting anything to be wrong but just to be there, in real life, to let them know that you’re not just liking every photo or every status that they post. It’s that you actually generally like them and are concerned about their wellbeing.
Chanelle: Right, I actually read spending more time on Facebook actually leads to more feelings related to depression.
Raina: Yeah, absolutely! I could see how totally how that could happen. I feel like, you know it’s so easy. We’re always on our phones, we have our laptops, and our tablets and it is. It’s really easy just to get disconnected in real life when you’re, you know, using your thumb all day long just to scroll through everything so quickly. And I can definitely see how people will get more depressed looking at people, their lives developing and growing and they might feel stagnant, you know in their careers in their personal/professional lives.
Chanelle: So, if you could if you could give Kanye any advice right now, like if you were gonna reply to one of his tweets and he was actually gonna read it, what would you say?
Raina: If I could give Kanye some advice, I would tell him to take his wife and his kids and go on a vacation, like a real vacation. Do no work. Sit out in nature. Sit out in the sun. Relax. Don’t bring any electronics when you go on that vacation and stay there for a week. Journal. I would definitely recommend that he bring a book, a journal and just write out those thoughts before he actually publishes them online.
Chanelle: Hey, it’s Chanelle again! That’s it for this episode of the BGD episode. Be sure to tune in next time, you won’t wanna miss it. Thanks again for listening.
Chanelle: The Black Girl Dangerous Podcast is a production of Black Girl Dangerous Media.