Kanye West is Right, the Media is the Fucking Worst


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(Warning: This is not another Kanye West think piece.) 

I'm 32-years-old, my daily struggles are more likely to involve Bunny Grahams than reality show worthy drama, and I've been to so many concerts I'm legitimately starting to lose my hearing. So yes, as spoiled as I know it sounds, it takes a lot to get me out of the house to see a show. That slowly developed reluctance to leave the comforts of home to watch yet another rapper yell at yet another crowd to put their hands in the air, or even to watch a legendary artist do the same legendary show I've seen them do seven times now, is just a professional hazard; like black lung for coal miners, except completely pussy.

But Kanye? Kanye Omari "Hurry Up With My Damn Croissants!" West? Why yes, I would like to go see Kanye West at Outside Lands, and what's more, I'm taking the wifey with me for some date night action. Tell the babysitter we might not be back until midnight!

Now, not only am I spoiled enough to look at actually buying tickets with disdain, but I was trying to impress the wifey. So I made a call to the rap interwebz Illuminati headquarters and in short order we were skipping the lines, strolling through the festival grounds festooned with Media passes, bypassing the lawn for the VIP section, and settling into our seats, complete with all you can drink beer and actual (aka not frigid Port-A-Potty) bathrooms. I'm not going to lie, it was pretty sweet. God bless their young hearts, but you couldn't have paid me to be crammed in between the thousands of sweating teenagers and 20-something-year-olds below on the festival lawn. I'd done my time as one of them, I'd had the back of my shirt covered in beer and fought frat bros who "accidentally" touched my girlfriend's ass and been ecstatically happy when that one band really nailed that one song and being part of a crowd like that made the shared moment all the more ecstatic.

But I was older and wiser (and softer) now, and I hadn't worked for years being pretty goddamn good at this writing thing so I could watch Kanye next to some guy who'd spend the entire show narrating his shroom trip. I'd earned these media passes and this chance to watch Kanye among the many splendors of this VIP tent, and I was going to enjoy them.  

And then the show started....

I promised above that this woudn't be another Kanye concert review turned thinkpiece, and I'm going to hold true to my word. I didn't have any epiphanies, his performance didn't inspire any deep thoughts about his place in the American cultural landscape, it didn't make me rethink my thoughts about his music. Kanye did his Kanye thing, I was deeply impressed but didn't particularly enjoy the newer "Yeezus" material (just like the album), and I just generally had a pretty goddamn good time. End of story. But looking at nearly everyone else in the media section, you would have thought we were at a poetry reading. 

I yelled "That's that shit I don't like!" at the appropriate time, did a little cookin dance when the occasion called for, sang along to the hooks when the song was right and just generally, you know, had fun with the wifey. But without exaggeration, ninety percent of my media brethren and sistern could barely be bothered to look up from their phones*, let alone show any sign of life. Instead of enjoying or even engaging with the show on any level, they seemed primarily pre-occupied with looking as coolly unimpressed as possible and discussing the best Uber pick up spot** when the show ended.

It was infuriating not only because it was a completely spoiled way to waste what could have easily been a memorable night, but because as a member of their specifies, I knew those same people would be writing "Yeah, the show wasn't even that good" pieces the following day. And guess fucking what, I was completely right

And the crazy thing was, Kanye knew it too. As he said during one of his trademark rants relatively small sections of time when he talked to the crowd like every artist ever talks to the crowd always: 

"Instead of embracing the moment, embracing the time, the era, the season that they’re living in — called Yeezy season - they [the media] always look for something negative to write about me."

Just 24 hours earlier I would have largely dismissed that quote as relatively innocuous rapper "the media and haters are always hating" talk, but now, looking around at all these people who couldn't even be bothered to throw their hands up in the sky when literally thousands of people just feet away were throwing their goddamn hands up in the sky like anyone still possessed with a functioning human soul should be, it made me ashamed to be in that media lounge. I might get beer spilled on me and have to fight some "accidental" ass toucher, but at least down there, with the masses, I'd be having an actual experience.  

I've written about Kanye far too many times to expect this piece to not turn into another discussion of his faults and strengths - whatever he might be, he's certainly polarizing - but this isn't even really about Kanye; he's only the catalyst. And I don't even particularly want that Friday night and this article to be about that one time I watched Kanye with a bunch of media types who essentially ignored a free, awesome concert from Kanye with the same detached elitism they'd ignore any concert.

I get it, I've been there. I am there. As ridiculous as it to have this as a job, it's still a job, and like any job it can get old. Your first day working at Ms. Fields you're high off delicious chocolate chip fumes, and after two months on the job you don't even want to see a cookie when you're not working. The constant pressure to GET MORE PAGEVIEWS NOW, the ceaseless emails and DMs and texts from artists angling for a post, it wears on us all. And when thousands of hours of writing has trained your brain to view every experience and listen to every song through a "what can I write about this?" lens, it can be a mind fuck to figure out what you actually think and feel about something. 

Instead, perhaps inspired by Kanye, I'd like to make this article about me. As corny as it may sound, that night was a great reminder to never lose the pure joy of being at an awesome show, to never lose the ability to just be a fan, and that in order to earn the right to criticize something, you have to love it first. You might not love that particular artist or album or song, but you have to still love music. Even if you hate it, you have to love to listen to it and figure out why you hate it. 

The day I can't even be bothered to look up from Instagram long enough to check out my amazing view of the Kanye West show is the day I quit. I promise that while I may still will definitely continue to drink free beer in the media tent, my heart will always be with those sweaty people in the 27th row having a goddamn good time watching their favorite artist. Because if that's not where your heart is, why are you even doing this? 

* It was too dark to take a good picture on my phone during the Kanye show, but this picture from the next day is basically the same thing. 
** No seriously, while Kanye was doing "Blood on the Leaves", the guy next to me said, "Yo, Uber's going to be crazy after the show" while staring at his phone.  

[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]

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Written by on 08/11/14

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