I think I might've gotten Kanye West arrested, and now I feel like such a doofus. Especially given my history, I mean, this isn't the first time I got a hip-hop star in trouble with the law, (devotees will recall that, several months ago, I may or may not have convinced Vanilla Ice to beat his wife). In fairness, if I had known Kanye was going fly off the handle and get so aggravated that he'd smash an expensive camera at an airport, I probably wouldn't have said what I said.
I should back up...
Thursday, September 11, 2008 6:00am
I stumbled into Rutt's Inn, this amazing pancake place in LA, and Kanye was already there, waiting for me. He stood up and waved me over enthusiastically.
"OB," he shouted, "My man, get over here, we got just oodles of shit to discuss." Ugh. He's a lot of things but, above everything else, Kanye West is a morning person. I am not. I sat down across from him, rubbing my eyes, my head throbbing and my throat dry.
"Thanks for meeting me, Dan, this is really-" I silenced him with a hand wave.
"I'm gonna stop you right there, 'Ye. This conversation isn't moving another inch forward until I get at least two cups of coffee in me. My eyes feel like fucking pinecones." Kanye started laughing. If I had to guess, I'd say it was because he was picturing two pinecones fornicating. That was, of course, not my intention, but Kanye probably couldn't tell that there was no hyphen between "fucking" and "pinecones." Because this was a spoken conversation.
Aside from the giggling, Kanye graciously allowed me several minutes of silence while I wolfed down two cups of black coffee. Kanye was such a fan of mine and I think he's alright, (I guess), so we both agreed it would be a good idea for the two of us to work on a project together. It was really more his idea than mine, but I figured I'd at least hear him out. I was, after all, writing a pilot for an animated children's TV show about a genetically-enhanced mouse that gets elected president; Kanye could easily do the voice for the sassy bird that becomes the vice president.
Coming to Fox this fall.
"Now," I said, after I'd finished my coffee, "what kind of project did you have in mind?" His eyes lit up.
"First off, I just wanna say how psyched I am that you're meeting with me. I'm such a fan of the blog and your early mixtapes, from back when you used to rap. I mean, you're the Statutory Rap, man! I am so honored to be in your presence."
"Settle down, Kanye."
"Right, my bad. Anyway, I was thinkin' we could do an album together. You and me, you know, I bring you outta retirement, and we change the game, you know? You're still tight with Jay-Z, so I'm sure he'd be down to guest on a few tracks. It'd be tight, we'd get Weezy in there, Swizz Beatz. This shit's gonna be hot!" Rapping? That was the last thing I thought this meeting was going to be about. To be honest, I had no interest in the project and I made no attempts to hide my dissatisfaction. Kanye noticed immediately.
"What's wrong," he asked. "You can still spit fire, right?"
"Don't be a child, Kanye, of course I can. That's not the point."
"Well, what is the point?"
Now, before I go any further, I want you to know that I didn't think I was saying anything revelatory. I honestly didn't think I was telling any tales out of school, and I didn't mean to surprise or enrage Kanye West in any way. I mean, he says things like "psyched" and "oodles." I figured what I was about to say was common knowledge...
"Well, Kanye, I was considering making a comeback, but I'm just not sure it should be with you... I mean, I want to make rap music but, you know. Not for white people." Kanye seemed positively shocked.
"I don't understand," he said after some time.
"Oh, uh, it's pretty simple. White people love you." I thought he was gonna have a heart attack, but it's true. White people love Kanye West. So much so, in fact, that I find it amazing that the foremost experts on stuff white people like have never mentioned it. Kanye West, still somewhat in shock, was ready to speak.
"You're messing with me. This...this can't be. I'm... I'm from the street, I-"
"Everyone knows where you're from, Kanye. And, hey, it's nothing to be ashamed about- you're selling a ton of records, you're a dynamite producer and you've sold out shows all over the globe. And there's nothing wrong with making music white people love, plenty people have done it in the past. James Taylor comes to mind." Kanye West threw up all over the table.
"You lyin', DOB, you must be lyin'." Has he seriously never suspected this?
"You don't believe me? Alright, as an experiment, go ahead and ask any average, suburban middle class white person if they're into rap. Go ahead. Right now. Pick someone off the street, anyone, and ask if they like rap music, and I'll tell you, (unless they're an actual hip-hop fan), they're gonna say 'Eh, I'm kinda into rap. I think Kanye West is great.' Trust me. Just about every white person who's worried about coming off as either uncool or a racist, which is to say, 'every white person,' will say almost that exact sentence, verbatim."
Just look at all those white hands. Up front and everything.
"Stop it. Stop it! I don't believe you."
"Well now you're just being a baby. Kanye, man, do you have any idea just how many high-maintenance white girls have 'Stronger' memorized? Fucking all of them, man. And, I mean, haven't you noticed that the way you dress informs the style of idiot white guys everywhere?"
He put his fingers in his ears and started shaking his head violently.
"Look, there's just something about you. You're just gangster enough that white people will listen to you and feel cool and edgy, (yet comfortable), but not quite gangster enough that white folks will be afraid of you. Or, you know. That anyone else will actually like you. There's nothing wrong with being liked by white people. Hell, some of my best friends are white. But I’m just saying that if you decided you wanted to feature Regina Spektor on an upcoming single, two things would happen: no one in the hip-hop community would be surprised or impressed, and white kids at colleges across America would absolutely lose their shit." Seriously. U-Mass Amherst might have to shut down while all the students clean up after their simultaneous orgasm.
Kanye was, understandably, having a difficult time with this new information.
"But...but I'm from Chicago, man, the streets of Chicago." His eyes started to well up.
"Oh, right, that's another problem. You reference Chicago a lot, and in your songs, sometimes you call it 'Chi-town,' which is fine, but other times you call it 'The Shire.' Now, uh... I know you think that's a cool nickname but...I don't know if you know this, but the Shire is where the hobbits lived in Lord of the Rings....Do...do you know what type of people love Lord of the Rings, Kanye? I don't think I need to tell you."
"Oh my God."
"Yeah. It's pretty awful."
"I don't mean to rap for white people. I don't want to make white people happy."
"Of course you don't, Kanye, nobody wants white people to be happy."
"But why do they like me so much?"
"Love, Kanye, white people love you. And I guess it's because you're catchy, uncomplicated and generally inoffensive. Let's be honest, all of your hits are pretty mom-friendly. Also you're very clear. White people are crazy about diction."
"But still, my lyrics. I rap about life, man, and the streets. Doesn't that count for anything," he pleaded.
"Bitch please. You rap about working at the Gap, smoking pot and having sex with drunk chicks. Those are the only things white guys do."
"Why are you saying this," Kanye said with tears streaming down his face.
Is that Sting and John Mayer? Well, if this isn't the whitest fucking thing I've ever seen...
"Because I figured you knew!" Honestly. I assumed everybody knew. White people love Kanye West, Middle Eastern people love Lionel Ritchie, and Chinese people are afraid of Smash Mouth. These are Pop Culture Commandments, I don't presume to understand them, but I acknowledge them all the same. I spend plenty of time around white people, I've even been mistaken for white. But I'll never quite get why white people are so fascinated by Kanye West.
Also Michael Phelps. White people are obsessed with Michael Phelps, I just don't get it.
"But I sold so many records...."
"That's true, you've got some insanely catchy joints, no one's taking that away from you. But, you know...Blink182 had some catchy shit too, but I don't think anyone would argue that they helped out punk music in any way. Do you see what I mean?" He did. And it hurt. He looked practically catatonic, sitting at that table, watching his world crash around him. I tried cheering him up.
"Hey, on the bright side, you're bringing rap music to the whole world. You're introducing an entire generation of pasty, soccer-loving white folks to rap. Music History will look back on you fondly but, uh...the same way it looks back on Hammer." If the Rutts Inn had sharper knives, I think Kanye probably would've used one to stab someone at that point. I never was too good at comforting depressed hip-hop stars after a pancake breakfast. I know, that is an oddly specific flaw to have, but it's true. It's my one weakness.
"Listen," I said, paying the bill, "I guess this a lot for you to digest, so I'll just leave you alone. I think you have a plane to catch anyway. But, hey, gimme a call if you have any interest in voicing a cartoon vice president named 'Dan Quail.' Do...do you get it?... Okay, I'll leave you alone."
An hour and a half later, Kanye got arrested for flipping out at an airport and breaking a paparazzo's camera.
So, uh...State of California...hopefully this should explain why Mr. West acted out the way he did. Have mercy on him, this is a tough pill for ole' Kanye to swallow. Please, take pity on him and be lenient in your sentencing. It's like Kanye finding out for the first time that there's no Santa Claus. Or, that there is a Santa Claus, and he just loves Kanye's music.
Because he's a fat white guy.