I have been down on Kanye West since his narcissistic antics turned him into the mad genius who seemed to put himself on the same platform as God, but after watching Kanye on Ellen, I changed my opinion about him a bit. If you have not seen Kanye on Ellen, then I suggest you watch the 8:00 minutes of entertainment below, but if you don’t have time for that, then let me sum it up for you. Kanye went on a rant, where he started reciting Rakim and talking about everything from fashion to Mark Zuckerberg to ending bullying. Ellen sat there quietly, allowing him to continue to rant, knowing very well that the video was about to be as viral as chicken pox in a third grade classroom. What I found was that what may seem like an absurd mad lib from a man who had lost his mind actually was quite beautiful and profound, and I wanted to try to share my interpretation of something he said about bullying.
Yes, some of the other headline grabbing quotes might catch someone’s attention, but what I found interesting was that Kanye was trying to say that he called the CEO of Payless, a shoe store that is typically known for cheaper shoes. It’s clearly not where “cool” kids shop; in fact, I remember being made fun of for wearing shoes that came from Payless and not the incredibly expensive Reebok “Pumps.”
This seemingly random fact occurred during the rant about how Kanye wanted to change the world, and at first, it seemed really out-of-place. I asked myself: “Why the hell is he talking about Payless right now?” From what I understood, Kanye was trying to draw an analogy between his music and his clothing, specifically his shoes. He was setting up that his music and his shoes come from the same skill set, the same voice, and there is only one art for him that transcends all of his medium. So, the shoes and the clothing he makes should be as artistic as his music.
I don’t know anything about his clothing, and I’m not a fashion blogger, but I know he is successful and that people see Kanye as an influence. The next part is what struck me: He mentioned that he wanted to call Payless and talk to the CEO because he wanted to impart all the wisdom he learned from high fashion and apply it to the cheaper shoe store. He was saying that he wanted to end bullying though it.
Well, clearly that seems like it’s from left field, but when you think about it, it’s not actually that bizarre. My interpretation of the Kanye rant, specifically when it comes to bullying, is that by using style and his brand to create an affordable shoe, then he’ll be putting children on an equal playing field. While it could still be lost in translation, Kanye is saying that clothing and brands can be made to equalize and eliminate differences.
So, I think there are a lot of ways to poke holes in his statement. By calling for uniformity in style, then why not just call it a uniform? If you give everyone an affordable shoe, then won’t it lose its mystique and go out of style? If you give a kid an affordable shoe with mass appeal, then won’t the differences in hats and other products still continue to create separation?
There are a lot of holes in what Kanye was saying, but I was taking him so literally. It was almost as if he was trying to figure out a way to break up social structures through style and shoes, which has often been unintentionally and intentionally used as a means of class separation. I didn’t think that he was saying that if we can just change people’s shoes then we can end bullying. But I do think he was simply saying the it’s possible to use influence and fashion in a way to make more people feel included and a part of a community, rather than excluding so many. Well, I hope he puts his money where his mouth is instead of asking Zuckerberg for his.
In the end, Kanye could be oversimplifying bullying, ignoring the psychological condition of the bully and the larger complexities, but I don’t think it’s so crazy to suggest that affordable fashion and style can create more equality in education. So I guess what I’m trying to say is before you judge Kanye’s “rant,” keep in mind that the smartest person in Shakespeare’s plays was often the fool–the clown who seemed to be saying the most off-the-wall comments but who was actually speaking with a great deal of truth.
2 thoughts on “What Kanye West Meant on Ellen about Bullying”
In a sort of related note, I’ve always felt digital technology was the ultimate end game for punk rock (especially punk rock DIY). From music to graphic design, if you can afford a computer you can make it/do it. Really, digital technology just makes plain how much the physical world is just luck and circumstance, supported by a hidden superstructure of meaning and context. All of the big media tools used in the semiotics of the communication of power from last century—slickly produced and photographed visuals, crisp on-point audio, video edited with a certain level of sophistication—are now little apps on a grid…
That totally makes sense, Brian. And I think similar thinking can be applied to a lot of products and fashion. Thanks for reading.