I made that bitch famous: Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift – or the issues of black humility and female ego.

I don’t really bother with celebrity gossip. I can see the appeal of the escapism aspect of it, but I prefer to escape the realities of our world in other ways. Yet I surprisingly found myself having discussions with people about the Taylor Swift – Kanye West feud over and over again. Probably because I’m a loud and proud fan of both Taylor and Kanye. I remember secretly dancing to Taylor Swift’s first album, back when she was still that obnoxiously innocent, curly haired America’s country sweetheart (secretly cause I was still young and stupid with my weird music snobbery). And Kanye West was a huge part of my ‘hip hop awakening’, a time in my life when I realized that first of all, not all hip hop is about violence, money and women, and second of all, that me, a person who loves language, poetry and wordplay should absolutely be listening to hip hop!

So, as has been established, I love both artists fiercely. I believe they have both made significant contributions to their respective genres and music in general. Taylor Swift is one of the most successful female artist of not just our time but in the history of modern music. As a young female artist, she has broken more class ceilings than I can count. Kanye West re-shaped hip hop in the early 2000’s and has continued to be not only one of the most influential hip hop artists of our generation, but also unstoppable creative force in his other endeavors.

Then, here’s the question I get asked again and again; Whose side are you on? The answer is neither, or both. Actually, I don’t think the actual feud is the most interesting thing about this conflict. But the short answer to the question is, I understand both sides. I honestly think this has been a case of hurt feelings and miscommunication (add a hint of ego and you got a feud). What’s interesting to me is the conversation around this situation and what it might mean on a deeper level.

Kim Kardashian West herself said that the reason why she wanted to release those videos was the fact that her husband Kanye gets so much shit thrown at his way all the time, that when this one time she had proof that he was in the right, she decided to defend him. Understandable. And that’s the thing, Kanye West is enormously hated (as is Taylor Swift, but we’ll get to that). Part of it is definitely just the fact that the more successful and well-known you are, more people will not just like you but also dislike you. But there seems to be some special permission to hate Kanye West. Sure, he is kind of obnoxious and acts like a jackass, but so do a lot of people (especially celebrities) and they don’t get nearly as much hate as Kanye does. I think that for some there is just something inherently uncomfortable about a black man who is unashamedly proud, little egotistical and who speaks his mind. We have plenty of egotistical artists that people don’t hate in the way they hate Kanye, but the thing is, most of these people are white. Us white people are seen as complex beings, if we are arrogant we also get to be humble. As a black person one has to embody humility. The way Kanye West is hated for being self-important and proud just embodies out society’s view on people of color in a larger context. Just look at the cases of police brutality, where humility is a defense mechanism (yet it doesn’t guarantee one’s safety. Anything short from it is viewed as a threat and used as an excuse to justify the unnecessary force.

Just like the discussion surrounding Kanye West can be seen representing a larger societal context, and systematic racism, the discussion surrounding Taylor Swift then can be looked at from a feminist point of view. First of all, I would point out how interestingly Kanye West is egotistical yet women rarely are spoken about in that same tone. Women presumably don’t have egos. Oh, but we do, and Taylor Swift’s ego is just as real as Kanye’s. Furthermore, just as Kanye’s self-assurance makes people uncomfortable, so does Taylor’s success. A woman’s success is a threat to patriarchy, just as black confidence is a threat to white supremacy. Similarly, I found it kind of funny that #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty trended on Twitter. As I pointed out before, white men get to do far worse things than lie, or be arrogant. We have celebrities who have prominent careers in music, film etc. who have knowingly been violent towards women, who have made extremely racist remarks and so on. Yet no one’s celebrating their careers being over. In fact, most white men get to keep their careers despite the scandals.

Now I’m not saying that disliking Kanye or Taylor is automatically racist or sexist. You get to feel whatever you want, but the larger conversation surrounding celebrities is definitely a mirror of our society’s values. If we always react with discomfort towards self-assured black men and successful women, then we better look back at ourselves and ask the question why does this make me uncomfortable. By looking at the larger context and seeking to understand our initial reactions to issues we can not only find the reasons but maybe find answers to how to change those reactions. Maybe we get to learn how to see all people as complex beings. If we need to stay as celebrity obsessed society, maybe we need to start viewing these celebrities as fully human. And more importantly, as a society we need to accept and value the humanity and complexity of all races and genders.

Now, about the actually feud and picking sides, I’d say Taylor could learn something from Kanye’s unabashed honesty. And maybe Kanye could use his influence to affect the overall issue of sexism within hip hop, starting with himself and his lyrics referring to women as “that bitch”.

-Satu

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The Days are getting shorter: 6 New albums from this fall

This autumn has been, at least in my opinion, an amazing season for new music releases. There has been so many amazing new albums coming out in the past month (and the best is yet to come) that I’ve almost lost count. Too many great things all at once! Anyway, since I’m sure everyone loves finding new music I thought I’d share with you my 6 favorite new releases from this fall.

Carry the Ghost by Noah Gundersen

Carry the Ghost
Carry the Ghost by Noah Gundersen | Released on August 21 | Genre: Folk

Noah Gundersen’s second full length studio album Carry the Ghost is almost like a whisper. Gundersen sings most of his songs softly and quietly. To me it feels like the album is almost painfully personal to Gundersen, with songs dealing with failed relationships and the struggles of a young artist. Just like the title suggests, the album itself feels haunted. It is eerie, mournful and absolutely beautiful.

Autumn mood: Early morning fog
Highlight moment: Selfish Art

 

 

Wild by Troye Sivan

Wild
Wild by Troye Sivan | Released on September 4 | Genre: Electropop

Troye Sivan’s Wild is a collection of 6 moody & intelligent pop songs dealing with issues of sexuality and relationships.  I believe Troye is one of the most interesting musicians making pop music today. In a recent interview he said he loved Taylor Swift for making pop music cool again, but I have to say that Troye himself too is proving that pop music can be cool & smart. Wild is simply brilliant!

Autumn mood: Sunny afternoon & trees with yellow leaves
Highlight moment: DKLA

 

1989 by Ryan Adams

1989
1989 by Ryan Adams | Released on September 21 | Genre: Alt-Country

The biggest music event of 2014 was no doubt the release of Taylor Swift’s 1989. This year it feels like it might be Ryan Adams cover of said album. To me, as a huge fan of both Adams and Swift, this cover album is a magnificent gift! I absolutely love it, but I also believe it’s an interesting piece of music that creates a discourse between two artists. I love how songs like Shake it Off and How You Get The Girl get a completely new meaning when sung by a raspy-voiced 40-year old man.

Autumn mood: Cloudy skies, gray days
Highlight moment: Style

 

Badlands by Halsey

Badlands
Badlands by Halsey | Released on August 28 | Genre: Electropop

Halsey’s Badlands is also in the moody electropop genre and just as Troye Sivan, Halsey is a very talented & smart lyricist. Badlands has been praised to be an “angry-feminist” album, and it is precisely that. It’s powerful, sexy and a bit melancholy. And although it might be a little angry (well us feminists have a lot to be angry about) to me it also feels incredibly empowering. I really want more female artists writing intelligent, feminist pop music like Halsey

Autumn mood: Frost & clear night-skies
Highlight moment: New Americana

 

Servant of Love by Patty Griffin

Servant of Love
Servant of Love by Patty Griffin | Released on 25 September | Genre: Americana

Patty Griffin has been my absolute favorite musician for years and years and I might be a little biased, but everything she touches turns to gold. Servant of Love is no exception, although it is a little different from the more traditional Americana I’ve come to expect from Griffin. Servant of Love has more experimental approach to folk music. It is a mix of electric blues and jazz, but Americana is still at the core of it. The album is mournful and moody but it has its joyful moments too. And of course since it’s Patty, it’s brilliant!

Autumn mood: Dark and stormy night
Highlight moment: You Never Asked Me

Sermon on The Rocks by Josh Ritter

Sermon on the Rocks
Sermon on the Rocks by Josh Ritter | Released on October 16 | Genre: Alt-Country

Sermon on the Rocks hasn’t actually been released yet, but I feel like I can add it onto this list cause it’s Josh! It’s bound to be genius. So far three songs have been released from the album and those songs share common themes such as religion and nostalgia. Josh Ritter is my number one guy and he is a master of metaphorical lyrics that sometimes takes me years to completely understand. He is incredibly smart, yet he also has the ability to really describe what it means to be human in the most simple, most beautiful ways. I’m sure Sermon will blow everyone’s mind!

Autumn mood: October!
Highlight moment (so far): Homecomin

-Satu