SOHH Atlanta, a hip-hop-themed blog, makes a connection between Kanye West’s on-air protest against the Bush Administration’s treatment of black citizens and the controversial actions of two Black Panthers at the 1968 Olympics:
This is our 1968 Olympics with Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their Black Power fists in the air. They were not well received by everyone, just as Kanye isn’t.
Beyond our generation’s constant need to compare itself to the young people of the 1960s in order to feel important, it’s an interesting connection.
Another comparison can be made to a giant billboard in Times Square that advertised P. Diddy’s clothing line, Sean Jean, with a giant image of Sean himself standing proudly in a designer tracksuit, his head down and fist raised in the air. It’s a reinvention of the iconic image of the Smith and Carlos mentioned above, except instead of using it to raise awareness of black issues and racism, Diddy used it to, um, sell sweatpants.
So now that Kanye Westthe pop-rapper du jouris actually risking his reputation and being political, he is compared to the original brave Black Panthers. Hopefully this anticipates a trend in mainstream hip-hop toward the type of “consciousness” associated with not-quite-mainstream rappers like Common and Talib Kweli, and away from the abuse of powerful, important images in order to sell more sneakers or sweatshirts.
Another blog, Notes from a Different Kitchen, asks:
“It’s black people who are dying, so Bush doesn’t care.” Kanye’s not the only one saying it – anti-rap Harlem minister Rev. Calvin Butts speaks his piece too. But where are the other rappers on this issue – is it left to Celine Dion to speak out from the musician community? WTF?!
Let’s hope the hip-hop community follows Kanye’s lead and responds in kind.