Persecution and suffering, for all their horrors, have one upside. In the hands of the right artist, persecution can inspire beautiful, desperate works. Suffering can force an artist to turn inward and explore the depths of the human soul. The kind of suffering is often severe. Elie Wiesel turned his experiences in the Holocaust into powerful and moving stories. But often the scale of human tragedy is less far reaching. Numerous artists have turned their experiences as abused children into art, an outlet which allows the rest of us to gain a new perspective.
Of course, no artist in the music business today is more persecuted than Kanye West. Just ask him yourself. Let’s take a moment to look back at all of the persecution Kanye West has had to endure:
There was the negative press after he called the sitting President of the United States a racist on national television. A black man receiving negative feedback after calling a white man a racist? That is so racist.
The current President of the United States called him a “Jackass.” Totally just the institution sticking together!
The public backlash because he tried to offer his opinion on music videos at an inopportune time. It’s not like he shouted “Beyonce’s video is straight fire” in the auditorium. Whatever happened to free speech in this country?
He had to change the cover of his newest album just because the record company thought mainstream appeal would drop if they put out a record with a picture of a black monster making love to an armless, grotesque, naked white creature. Lamar Odom does that everyday.
Did you see that interview with Matt Lauer!?
So yeah, it’s pretty clear. You don’t want to be Kanye West. Or maybe you do, just so you can float around all day not giving a shit about good taste, social mores or not disrespecting casualties of the Jim Crow South. In an interview with XXL magazine he described the fallout from the Taylor Swift incident like this: “But damn, it was, like, a neo–Emmett Till. A media massacre. I was neo–Emmett Till’d, if I could turn Emmett Till into a verb.”
For those of you unfamiliar with Emmett Till, he was the 14-year-old black teenager beaten and shot to death for whistling at a white woman. The Good Ol’ Boys gauged out his eye, shot him in the head and beat his face so badly, his mother could not recognize him; she demanded an open casket to broadcast the evils visited upon her boy. So what in the good world was going through Kanye’s mind when he said this? I mean, his job is to think of witty analogies and put them in rhyme.
I bet it went a little something like this: “He’s from Chicago; I’m from Chi City. Tayla’s a country singer; he was killed by country music fans. He had his face rearranged; my mom died during plastic surgery. He likes whistling; I played with the Swedish dudes who did that whistling song. If anything people should be comparing Emmett to me. XXL will understand. What is a verb anyway?”
Anyone with the least amount of self-awareness would have taken a break from turns of phrase and absurd analogies for at least a little while. Not Kanye.
Kanye, like a great artist should, has risen from the ashes of this incident with a new sense of purpose. He turned that persecution into his phenomenal album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. An album that will probably be the highlight of his career. I mean this guy really Till’d it…Damn you, Kanye.
The whole incident got me thinking about other artists who have been unfairly persecuted over the years. Artists, that like Kanye, have been raked over the coals for some time, but have recently hit a new low. George S. Patton, war monger though he was, got it right when he said men should be judged by how high they bounce once they have hit bottom. I am looking for a celebrity capable of a Phoenix-like rise from the ashes of a career razed by public opinion. I’m looking at you Mel Gibson.
The media has been after Gibson, like Kanye, for several years [EDITOR’S NOTE: Neither the author, nor Crooked Copy subscribe to the Rick Sanchez school of anti-semitism]. For Mel it really started when some people got the wrong idea about a small film he did and the message it was supposed to send. Sure, some said the Passion of the Christ supposedly depicted the Jews as killing Christ, a historically dubious fact. But jumping to conclusions that Mel is an anti-Semite are over the top. People forgot that he is a Christian, and Christians are very forgiving people. And those claims that he went off on anti-semitic tirades? Well who hasn’t said things they haven’t meant while drunk…and driving. He was probably listening to NPR at the time.
Of course that is all just a precursor to the latest jackals after Mel. There has more been massive backlash against Gibson after the press got their hands on voicemails from Mel that have him cursing and threatening his girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva. I call that a lover’s spat and none of our damn business. The allegations that he hit her? Nonsense. The only proof they have are pictures of Oksana’s broken teeth.
Clearly Mel is on his way to hitting an all time low in public opinion. This is great news for us, the viewing public. Heartbreak and embarrassment are the ultimate motivators for an artist. Those voicemails Mel left Oksana? Imagine that intensity channeled into an epic feature film like Braveheart 2 or Lethal Weapon 17.
Doubters may say that, except for getting fired from The Hangover 2, Mel hasn’t done anything of note recently. But that’s missing the point. Returning to the Kanye West example, what did Kanye do before putting out his most recent album? He decided to sing for most of his last album, 808s and Heartbreak. This decision was made despite the fact that he sounds like a wounded cat grasping onto life just before diving headfirst through a fanboat…and that’s after autotune fixed what it could of his voice. If you want to try to defend 808s and Heartbreak go ahead and try in the comments, but leave your email address because I want to mock you personally.
If Kanye was able to re-emerge from his cycle of despair to reach new heights, surely Mel is capable of doing the same. It’s clear he has the talent. Just look at his resume: Mad Max, Lethal Weapon, Braveheart, Apocalypto. His ability to create iconic characters cannot be doubted. All we need now is to give him some time to let him soak in his misery so he can arise out of it better than ever. I’m sure he’s going to surprise us all with a picture sober in tone and teeming with passion. One which will demonstrate to all of America that Mel is back and not only that, he is not the crazy man, the media has made him out to be. Wait a second…