What’s Up With Kanye West’s Voice Nowadays?

19 Comments
September 13, 2013 ‐ By Charing Ball
Source: Entertainment Weekly

Source: Entertainment Weekly

Kanye West is slowly becoming the Pistachio Disguisey of the hip-hop community.

You might think I’m referring to West’s latest rant – the one where he was admittedly loose off that goose and making convoluted and almost irrational statements about Pusha T’s contribution to the the fashion community. More specifically,

All these ni**as trying to extend their muthaf**king T-shirts, trying to throw numbers on the back of their sh-t….this muthaf**king Pusha T. For ni**as with a T-shirt line that has numbers at the back of their sh-t, f**k you.”

That’s right, all you biting-behind football players, soccer players, little leaguers, referees, cattle ranch cows, inmates, graduating-class-of-whatever-year folks –you have been warned to pay up for your bootlegging or risk a pissy-drunk West showing up to your middle school graduation, ready to snatch all the numbers off your backs.

Seriously, what a horrible lush. While he really should learn to hold his liquor better, this latest West outburst is not what I’m referring too. Rather, I’m speaking about his code-switching.

As nonsensical and out-there-past-yonder he has been lately, it pales in comparison to the tone in which he tends to say those crazy thoughts, particularly how that tone appears to change depending upon the recipient. For example, see his appearance on Kris Jenner’s short-lived talk show, where it was noted widely that Mr. West sounded a little airy and more European than usual. As stated by the website Awesomely Luvvie:

This is WEIRD as hell. Am I tripping? I mean, what he’s saying about loving Kim is cute and stuff but THIS VOICE! What is that? This ain’t the Kanye we’ve known in ANY way. He is so different and it’s odd. The voice coming from his mouth ain’t what it used to be. What happened?? Don’t believe me, just watch his speech from 2008 Grammy Awards and tell me that man on Kris Jenner’s show sounds the same.”

Let’s be clear here: it is common for folks of the same environmental space to adopt certain linguistic rhythms and intonation patterns. In fact, there is a great deal of scholarship and research done into the different ways in which black folks and white folks interpret the English vernacular. What folks have to accept is that there is nothing wrong with those differences in speech. And sounding like a black person, including the penchant for Ebonic and cultural slang, does not make one less intelligent no more than sounding white makes one less black.

It’s hard to figure out why West, who seems most vocal about just about everything that seems to bother him nowadays, would feel the need to speak in such a contradictory manner. Usually this kind of grammatical correctness is reserved for us mere mortals in need of steady paychecks and benefits. And then I remember the tough few years image-wise West has had. All of those years find their roots in the Taylor Swift incident, which has landed him squarely on the list of the five most hated men on the planet – right behind Osama Bin Laden and right before The Devil. Since then, he has been ridiculed by the press; he has been chased and goaded into fights by paparazzi; and he’s basically been ripped to shreds by just about everyone – including the President of the United States. West has certainly done stuff to contribute to his treatment, however, the pressure and constant ribbing in the press could explain why he feels the need to communicate differently.

A while back, I caught this interview with Mike Tyson, former heavyweight champion of the world, who spoke very candidly about the need to tone himself down, in order to make himself appear less threatening to the mainstream, which is largely accustomed to viewing him through his controversy. When I saw West sitting on the oversized couch, across from his child’s grandmother, explaining to a sea of white faces how he is misunderstood – even going as far as to denounce himself as a  “crazy drunk black guy in a leather shirt” - I wondered how much of this new speech was meant to make himself appear, just like Tyson, as less threatening? It’s sad to think, but it is still very much true that even a black man revered for his artistry by folks of various cultural and racial backgrounds and is at the height of what is success here in America, might have to capitulate – even if it is just vocally – just to be taken seriously.

Of course, there is always the possibility that black-sounding West might have been an act all along. Yeah, I know. That sort of linguistic caper would require a huge conspiracy involving years of planning. However, West is a product of two highly educated and middle class black professionals. Not to mention that validation is important in hip-hop. And there are some rappers, whose entire personas are borrowed; even going as far as to shoot themselves for a “rep.” So it is possible for a rapper to be compelled to fake black speech, particularly black street vernacular, in order to be taken seriously by his peers as well as the general public. Would it have been possible for hip-hop to embrace a more nasally and European sounding West? If Drake and his frequent trips in and out of black speech are any indicator, the answer is pretty much a no. It’s ironic that the language used to colonize and castigate a people could now serve as their litmus test pronouncing “authentic” black identity.

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  • guest me

    I think this just further shows you that their are two different settings, his work and his home life. He is rapper, they have a look to coney as aprat of his job. I know I do not just speak for my self when I say the way I speak at work is most definetly not the way I speak with family and people who know me more personally. He is educated let him speak as though. What ould it look like if he were cussing and spilling slang with KRIS wtf, his mother in law?

  • Kaycee

    Its hilarious to me that people have forgotten he is an ENTERTAINER! All ENTERTAINERS have borrowed/lab-created personas. Doesn’t anyone remember CB4 with Chris Rock? That ish is real and true for all of Hollywood

  • tlynne

    I wonder if some of the people who comment on these types of articles are aware that they are reading blog entries and ENTERTAINMENT stories. This isnt pulitzer prize worthy journalism. I look at it more like a gossip rag or celebrity trivia. If you don’t like it don’t read it! Y’all serious asses get on my nerves

  • blythedhia

    The pitch and tone of his voice does matter- not so much for the “switching it up for the mainstream reason,” but more so because it’s an example of the Black male castration right before our very eyes. Kanye sounded like he has no cojones in this interview. He used to have an outspoken, powerful voice. Now, after being in Hollyweird and pissing off “The Man” a few times, they’re putting him in his place. Can’t be a big, black fish swimming upstream when everyone else is going down. I think Kayne’s high-pitched voice is deeper than it appears.

  • Key Ankh Amen

    Them Witches (Kardasians) have him under spell, he wont be around long….

  • http://www.yourtango.com/users/cheekee-baby cheekee baby

    I wasn’t so much shocked that he wasn’t talking like he normally does. I was more shocked that his voice was hella ‘soft’ and effeminate. He can have a ‘white friendly’ tone without sounding like a gay European hipster. IJS

    I will also add what in crochet nightmare is Kris wearing?

  • sammi_lu

    This reminds me of that Lil Jon skit that Chapelle did..lol

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  • Marie Bano

    Kanye is lost, it is very sad to see how he has changed. I doubt he would have sunk this low if his mother had lived.

  • Janae

    I have seen the most grittiest of ghetto guys become white and docile around white people.

  • Guest

    I thought I was the only one who noticed a difference in his voice, maybe it was just for the show.

  • Just saying!!

    To those of you who are saying “who cares how he sounds”, I understand what you’re saying. It shouldn’t matter what language or vernacular someone uses. HOWEVER, if someone has been speaking one way for a long period of time and then all of a sudden they change the way they talk (and have coincidentally been in a new/different environment), then that’s a little sketchy in my opinion.

    • Ash

      When Madonna married Guy Ritchie and moved to London, people suddenly began to notice her new “British” accent.

  • Alexis

    But come on let’s be real Kanye does sound very different *coughs* Kardashians..but he hasnt been right since his mom passed away…that messed up his head…

  • yeppers

    Chile WHO THE HELL CARES! I wouldnt care if he sounded like Michele’…yall make a story out of anything. Alot of people have different speaking voices in different situations than yelling and frustrated voices, ALSO PEOPLE WHO ARE ENTERTAINERS THEIR PERFORMANCE VOICES ARE ALWAYS DIFFERENT! Yall expect for the man to sound like he on a stage rapping when he sitting down talking on a couch??? Who wrote this idiotic mess of a story, I guess he supposed to rap when he saying his prayers too huh? Yall real special for this article, stop putting black people in a box, we dont all talk alike nor do we sound alike in every situation.

    • Just saying!!

      He has had many interviews before that one, and I don’t recall him ever sounding like that. Try again.

    • Kenya

      You are hilarious!!!!

  • CGEAR

    These articles… Just stop.

  • bluekissess

    What exactly is the moral of the story?Hollyweird has ate him up and spit him out.