I often visit video land to meet the people inside the actors and musicians I admire, or at least see them in a different light. I like to observe...
Once during such an excursion, I stumbled across a radio interview with Kanye West. I’m not a fan, but the subject piqued my curiosity just enough to press play.
The ensuing theatre... full of emotions, tensions, misunderstandings and pain inspired this piece.
He was angry, and they were angry, and one would have thought that would have been enough to place them on the same page... on the same side of the stage, but it didn't, and they weren't.
Once he had been their outspoken hip hop hero, standing ever present in their rooms like mirrors they glanced into... admiring themselves. He’d even spoken out, blatantly attacking injustice at the highest levels. But now, a few short years later, they only viewed him with suspicion and mistrust.
Today he sat in their radio booths, struggling under the same pressures they all struggled under. His latest venture hadn’t shaken hands with expectations, so the struggle for him was real again. Only now he experienced it in the sky, behind closed doors with golden handles that opened to reveal breathtaking views of the streets below. The streets he’d once claimed as his own.
I suspect, when he’d lived on those streets, he’d gotten it into his head that in order to get ahead, he’d have to beat the system, and in order to beat the system, he’d have to learn it, understand it. Now all these years later, it seemed he'd learned the system’s language too well, digested its concepts too completely, grabbed too eagerly at the silly little trinkets it occasionally tossed out. Now he had more than most and yet he wanted more, and in this the people recognized the system speaking, not their beloved rap god who spit rhymes like Samaria warriors whirled swords, slicing away at the excess of fabrication and deception until all that remained was truth... lean and bare.
So today, even though he ranted and railed against the system, that society that oppressed them from youth to old age, they who lived and breathed and had their being in the streets were unmoved by his performance. The anger and frustration were real, but his rhymes fell off their beats and disappeared into the gutters at the side of the streets. Today it was clear to everyone except him... he had changed, he had become the system.
But there was truth in what he spoke. Not one of them, I suspect, would have turned their backs on the money, power and fame he’d been given. He had worked hard and he had “made it”, a thing they were all very proud of.
But, I also suspect, as he’d climbed the dizzying ladder of success, he’d discovered... and this probably came as a great, shocking blow to his ego... that the air there, as fine as it was, contained the same elements the air everywhere contained. The prejudice he breathed in must have burned his lungs, and the racism that smacked him about was probably still ringing in his ears. I suspect this rant was the lava erupting and boiling over.
Unfortunately the people couldn’t hear him... he was too far ahead of them now. They could see his outline in a billowing cloud of smoke, but could hear nothing beyond a roar. So while his volcano exploded on their iPhones, the radio interviewers, listeners and fans, all standing at the bottom of the mountain of his achievements watched the disaster unfold, and stepped back when the liquid rage got too close to their sneakers.
Maybe one day we’ll dance in the gap between creativity and consumerism. Maybe one day we’ll rise above the system instead of merely trying to beat it. Maybe one day we’ll all look in the mirror and see ourselves as our own heroes and sheroes in this reality show called life.
from Nhojj Poetry Vol. 1,
track released December 2, 2017
Written & performed by Nhojj
Contains sample of "I Need You" by Nhojj