D.L. Chandler's frequent thoughts on the world of hip hop and beyond

Friday, June 24, 2005

All That Glitters Isn't Gold: Kanye West Speaks Out Against Diamond Industry

Kanye West strikes many as an arrogant and conceited individual who clearly hasn’t learned the fine art of humility and presentation. That could be true but after hearing his story at the end of his 1994 Grammy Award-winning College Dropout LP, you respect that he’s overcome a heaping mound of resistance and struggles. In his new song, “Diamonds”, West re-worked the original version of the song to highlight the ills of the diamond trade in Sierra Leone. According to this report, the diamond industry has taken an offensive stance against the track, of course employing damage control tactics and such. Good for Kanye because this is precisely what his detractors need to witness – a man admitting he needs to learn more about a terrible tragedy and is willing to help educate others. Now will it slow down the diamond industry and the lust that many have for the coveted jewels? There isn’t any way to tell so far but this issue of conflict diamonds is one that could use the celebrity status and attention that Mr. West surely commands.

The oddest thing about Hip Hop is the many glaring contradictions and surprises from some of the music’s more colorful personalities. Are we as a people so caught up in the façade of fame that we can’t allow a person to change and actually have stronger convictions that go beyond owning “ice” and “bling”? There are so many good stories like this that seemingly get overlooked in favor of buffoonery and scandal. The reports of Philly rapper Cassidy and his murder case have received light years more media attention that what Kanye is attempting with his song. Even if the sincerity of the song is false somewhere down the line, that song now belongs to the universe, to paraphrase R&B singer Roberta Flack. There’s no taking away from Kanye’s good intent and what the message the song and video conveys. Perhaps we need to take into account the flaws of man and not use them to paint false pictures of people. Everyone in this world is a walking and living dichotomy of ideals, failures, hopes and dreams. It’s fitting that the much-maligned genre of Hip Hop music and all of it’s glorification of the material has one of its brightest stars voicing concerns over something that the rap world hinges its visual reminder of success on.

It never lasts long however, this reverence and acknowledgement of a man’s good deed. In Hip Hop, many of those in the media tend to only remember the last bad thing you did versus the first bit of good that’s done. In a quickly changing-to-conservative world, the fight to be outspoken against capital gain at the expense of human life is a daunting one. We should all applaud one man’s effort – no matter how meager – and follow suit. Be bold, be brash, be outspoken.


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