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Jeen-Yuhs, Afrofuturism & Baudrillards Hyperreality: Examining Kanye Wests Role in Black Culture

"Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?"

-Charles Bukowski

What are your natural drivers? What compels you to action?

Inspiration is a compulsion. It’s a divine driver, a transcendent call to action. It was inspiration that led Einstein to his discoveries that warped our perception of reality, & it was inspiration that put man on the moon.

Inspiration is something very personal to you, like staring at stars in the night sky or waves on the beach. You’ve been inspired and have inspired all throughout your life for a variety of different reasons. Inspiration is a jolt of energy, the same jolt that compels a bee to make honey or a mountain to form, it’s an evolutionary drive we have yet to understand that is connected to existence itself. When you are guided by inspiration the task is the end goal, you feel like you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing.

Eddie Murphy once talked about watching television as a child in Brooklyn and seeing Richard Pryor on the screen, he said he instantly felt in his being that it was exactly what he was supposed to be.

Eddies goal wasn’t to be in the categories of rich and famous stand up comic at first, it was just to be what Richard Pryor was. The categories were placed on him by society, he was purely inspired in the most abstract sense because something in his being compelled him. That's the role of culture: to inspire, progress, develop & evolve civilization. Thousands of kids watched that same special but not everyone had that feeling and ultimately there is only one Eddie Murphy. You can only know what’s possible once you’re able to conceptualize it, and to conceptualize something, oftentimes, you have to see it in order to be inspired.

There are few artists who have inspired me throughout my life as much as Kanye West, and the older I get, especially after the Jeen-Yuhs documentary, the more I admire what that man has been able to accomplish, artistically but more sociologically than anything. Kanye talks about Black Future Month but it's also important to see what role he has had in shaping Black History and modern culture.

Kanye is a renaissance man whos influence in the current digital enlightenment is reflected in an entire generation of people, from how the internet looks today, to mainstream artists like Donald Glover, Jaden Smith, A$AP Rocky, Tyler The Creator, and Drake, to what modern street wear looks like, what modern film looks like, what the modern soundscape sounds like, our approach to design, aesthetics, & digital consumerism, basically all of modern culture is globally influenced by Kanye West on some level.

Kanye talks about combatting the “war on traditional thinking” and it’s usually reduced to everything but the revolutionary way of life he is ideologically at the forefront of, even if he was not alone in creating and shaping it. Kanye is different because he is standing on the cultural shoulders of giants by being unapologetically himself, regardless of what the world has to say about him, and he ended up becoming the richest black man in the world while doing it.

Reality is a field of infinite potential, in that reality we exist within a man made structure Jean Baudrillard dubbed a hyperreality in his book Simulacra and Simulations, which heavily influenced the Yeezus album. This Hyperreality has been projected onto us. Its been built and designed for centuries before any one of us was born. The reality we perceive in our postmodern world is a world saturated with imagery, infused with communications media, sound, and commercial advertising. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, and our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind. The hyperreality has many categories and labels to confine you in, but what if you were unrestricted & uncategorized?

In a world that attempts to control and manipulate people with low self esteem, Kanye represents the idea of breaking out of categories and labels. He represents following what inspires you, doing whatever you feel like doing, not being controlled or limited by people’s perceptions or opinions of you, believing in yourself, going after everything you want and doing it at the highest level possible.

There’s a movie called Alice coming out in March starring Keke Palmer, the movie is based on a true story about a woman who escaped slavery in the 1960s, only to find out it had been abolished for almost a century. This was not uncommon, there are several stories of slaves escaping slavery decades after abolition only to realize that it had only been maintained because they believed they were slaves. The only remaining shackles were mental after the law had deemed them free, the owners just manipulated the slaves lack of information of the world outside of the plantation they were born into.

Slaves would be put into what was described as a "hellish state" which is being confined to ignorance, made to feel inferior, made to not think past their mere survival, and then turned into beasts of burden. Their only drivers were those of their masters wishes, their only compulsions were survival instincts, it was illegal for them to read and write, they were mentally shackled above all else. Their thinking was literally put into a box.

In the modern day, certain people never leave the two block radius they were born into their entire lives, or they remain in their social media feedback loop and that becomes their entire worldview. That’s why a lot of people become drug dealers or do heinous acts that corrupt the broader community, they really don’t know any better because they literally haven’t seen any better, they can’t conceptualize any better.