I avoided listening to Kanye West’s new album release ye for a little under a week. It’s not that I wasn’t interested or that I was actively boycotting his work due to his troublesome views on the present state of American government. It’s not even because he feels that slavery was optional like a Best Buy survey pop-up that asks you how easy it was to purchase your flat screen TV on line (because our ancestors clearly could’ve been like I have a 10:00 am flight so that cotton is going to have to wait). In fact, I was afraid I would love it and find myself in the same position I found myself in with Bill Cosby and more recently, actor Morgan Freeman. Frankly, I’m exhausted with having to reconcile my love for black men and their incredible work with their questionable behavior and sometimes horrifying accusations that are made against their actions and character. The truth is “All of The Lights” is easily one of my top ten favorite hip-hop songs of all time. Am I really supposed to interrupt my turn up of trumpets and cellos while Ye hollers, “Can’t let her grow up in that ghetto university?” because dude hit a certain age and decided he wanted to help Trump make America great again. I’m tired of feeling guilty for enjoying things and honestly it’s not easy for me to abandon artists whose albums I’ve had on repeat for decade over one or two offensive tweets. I’m just being honest. Thankfully, with ye this turmoil wasn’t an issue.
The best way I can sum up my musical experience with Kanye West’s latest work is that beats are fire but an overwhelming number of song lyrics sound straight from a dumpster fire. For the most part we get typical cocky, but complex Kanye except this feels like a basic, watered-down forced version that’s not even that deep or clever. Christopher Hooten’s review for The Independent described my thoughts best:
“And that’s the real problem with ye, it’s lazy. Kanye West’s perfectionism and work ethic are probably the two things I admire most about him, but with this release they are curiously absent.”
He goes on to say he’s not so much offended by West’s socio-political stance which he suspects is a gimmick, but just that ye seems like an attempt by the artist to phone it in resting on his laurels of the past, and lucky for him his true fans are just not that easily impressed. It’s like watching your Vietnam war hero uncle who you know is filled with great wisdom and experience. You know the difference between when he’s dropping knowledge and when he’s just had too much gin.
But what ultimately had me rip my earbuds out was the song “Violent Crimes”. The song represents Kanye’s shift in perspective towards women since the birth of his daughters North and Chicago. In the song he shares his fears about them facing a world where their bodies get objectified and their worth will be limited to their image and not their intellect. He takes a “sky is falling” approach to his anxiety imagining a world where women are victims of domestic violence, unfair pay, sexual harassment and assault (which if that’s the case, I hate to break it to you, Yeezy, but I could probably rest my Air Max’s on the clouds). It’s almost as if he signed baby North’s birth certificate and had an epiphany that it’s hard out here for us gals. And that’s the problem. West gets very transparent in lyrics in which he contemplates a world post-puberty where his daughters become women and the whole world takes notice:
I pray your body’s draped more like mine
And not like your mommy’s
Just bein’ salty, but niggas is nuts
And I am a nigga, I know what they want
I pray that you don’t get it all at once
Curves under your dress, I know it’s pervs all on the net
All in the comments, you wanna vomit
That’s your baby, you love her to death
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a fan of cancel culture and I think any opportunity someone takes to be enlightened and rise above their ignorance is something to be applauded, no matter how long they’ve been residents of Under A Rock Drive. However I’ve heard the “I have daughters….” excuse one time too many, especially in a world of #MeToo where some men feel that fatherhood makes them different than the Harvey Weinsteins of the world. I’m also troubled by the double standard. If I treated men as sexual objects whom I believe should just rock their dimples, flex, smile and shut up and was amazed at the fact that they’re deserving of respect and compassion only after having a son, people would serve me multiple STFU’s. So why is it that it takes men having a daughter (not a mama, a grandma, a sister, an Uber driver, a cashier, a hairstylist and any other person you may deal with on a day to day basis) to realize that sending d**k pics in DM’s is a tad bit disrespectful.
Even my spouse is guilty of this “having a daughter” karma that he felt he’d be subject to after years of objectifying, cheating and disrespecting women. He’s come a long way since sitting with a group of guys on a city block making comments on the girls’ bodies who were just trying to go to the store to get a bag of chips and a soda. He recognizes saying things, “Well, you’re a female so you’re going to be emotional about certain things,” is problematic. People are allowed to make mistakes and grow from them and not be criminalized for their naivete, however it shouldn’t take having a daughter to give you and understanding of allyship or basic decency towards all people regardless of the chromosomes they’re rocking. Advocating for the respect and inclusion of women should be on men’s radar as rational and respectable figures in society, not just when fatherhood comes into play.
In addition, I questioned West’s whole feminist epiphany when I remembered the Twitter war he started with rapper Wiz Khalifa years ago when ex-girlfriend rapper Amber Rose was used as a pawn in a whole schlong-swinging contest. West chose to attack Rose’s character referring to her as a stripper who trapped the “Black and Yellow” artist and even made an attempt to bring her son into an argument that initially was about rap, artistry and ego. It’s almost as if West is actually saying any woman that he isn’t related to is fair game, and that my friend isn’t feminism.
As a mother of a three-year-old I can attest that parenthood is full of fear and anxiety that weren’t present in my life before I was chasing part of my DNA on a tricycle down the driveway. The reality is having a child makes you realize that the monsters under the bed and in the closet aren’t nearly as scary as the ones we walk past every single day. And the worst part is, those monsters don’t even realize how terrifying they are, like West expresses in “Violent Crimes”:
‘Cause she know that niggas is savage, niggas is monsters
Niggas is pimps, niggas is players, ’til niggas have daughters
Niggas is pimps, niggas is players, ’til niggas have daughters
The monsters don’t come from Dr. Seuss books or Wes Craven movies, we create these monsters as a society where male privilege and priority have been kept as the highest priority for centuries, and having a daughter doesn’t change those same monsters into men. I have a father that treated women respectably long before he was staring at one he created, so the message that daughters turn monsters into men is lost on me. I don’t care how many daughters you have, if you don’t realize that respect is something that should be had for all women even if you don’t have any personal investment, you can miss me with all the whining about the cruelties of the world your daughters have to face. Mainly, if the monster is looking back at you in the mirror.
Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.