(Above: Kanye West. Photo by eyeliam/Flickr.)
Grammy-winning rapper-producer Kanye West said he has realized his “place and position in history.” Eager to beat future historians, biographers and would-be David McCulloughs to the punch, West shared his thoughts on what others will someday think of his thoughts in an interview published by The Associated Press.
I will get to West’s self-proclaimed place and position in history in a moment. First let me point out that it is no small feat to realize your place and position in history. Most people never realize their place and position in history. They carelessly allow others to add their chapters to the historical canon.
Take Phineas Gage. You might have read about him in Psych 101. He was the 19th century railroad foreman who survived after a piece of iron exploded into his brain. He became famous because the injury changed his personality. Once a respected businessman, he became “fitful, irreverent and grossly profane.” Because of Gage, the medical world learned that the frontal lobes of the brain affect personality and behavior.
Gage’s place and position in history is that he was a normal guy who took a shot of steel to the brain and became a foul-mouthed ass.
That is not a flattering legacy. I have to credit West with having the forethought to make a preemptive strike before suffering an industrial accident. No one will ever say, “Kanye West did not attempt to establish his place and position in history before the lathe incident.”
(Above: Every rapper’s worst nightmare. Photo by Gadget Guru/Flickr.)
Here is what West had to say. About himself. And history. Out loud. With people listening. “I realize that my place and position in history is that I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade, I will be the loudest voice.”
With all due respect to West and his musical abilities, he has laid claim to a title that does not exist. There is no such thing as the voice of a generation. A real voice of a generation – if such a thing existed – would be intelligent enough to know that one person cannot embody the hopes and realities of tens of millions of individuals. How about this for a comparison? Kanye West claiming to be the voice of a generation is like one Web site claiming to be the voice of the Internet. Unless that Web site has porn, poker, fantasy football, a place where your friends can upload their photos and news headlines written by Matt Drudge … I am not even going to finish that thought. I think I just invented The Joe Donatelli Column 2.0.
The voice of a generation idea is a ridiculous one. Only when everyone in a generation thinks the same way, and the voice thinks exactly like everyone in that generation, can there be a voice of a generation. Any generation with a singular voice, a generation devoid of individuality, diversity and creative friction, would go down as the dumbest, most unthinking generation in human history. The voice of such a generation would have to be a cult leader, despot or “American Idol” host.
I believe that there are people who are voices of their generation, people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Hunter S. Thompson and The Beatles. I do not think West does not deserves such status. In the same interview West said the following. Audibly. At a volume that allowed others to hear. “It’s me settling into that position of just really accepting that it’s one thing to say you want to do it and it’s another thing to really end up being like Michael Jordan.”
In other words, he finally is realizing that you cannot think thoughts and have them magically transform into reality.
West is 31 years old.
Let us take one last look at that first quote, if only because there are parts of my brain that have not exploded yet. “I realize that my place and position in history is that I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade, I will be the loudest voice.”
Not only did West realize his place in history, he also realized his position. A place, as West refers to it, is defined by Merriam-Webster as “status.” A position, as West refers to it, is defined by Merriam-Webster as “status.” This means West has realized both his status and his status in history.
The so-called voice of a generation really ought to be more careful with his words.