Monday, July 11, 2005

Are Diamonds Forever?

Breath of Life has an interesting commentary on Kanye West's latest single from his new album Late Registration, called "Diamonds."

The man that made "Jesus Walk" in the club is now taking issue with conflict diamonds from West Africa - or is he?

Apparently the original single is mostly a bragging track, more touting that Kanye is forever than raising issues of bling and consequences, complete with references to himself in the 3rd person and complaints about celebrity.

Well the track was reworked into a remix with Jay Z in which Kanye instead touches on some issues of diamond conflicts in Sierra Leone. But even in the new track, Kanye mentions "When I speak of Diamonds in this song/I ain't talkin bout the ones that be glowin/I'm talkin bout Rocafella, my home" in the same verse as he spits "Over here, its a drug trade, we die from drugs/Over there, they die from what we buy from drugs." And Jay's verse is also much more about the Roc family then Sierra Leone - featuring gems like " Bleek could be one hit away his whole career/As long as I'm alive, he's a millionaire/And even if I die, he's in my will somewhere/So he can just kick back and chill somewhere."

But it sounds like, overall, the track does talk about the diamonds that glow and Kanye's inner "torment" at still rocking diamonds when he knows the price they cost in violence.

I'm sorry Kanye - but if you really are so torn up - why are you still rocking a diamond Jesus piece? Lose the bling if you want to be taken seriously for raising this issue. BOL's Mtume ya Salaam goes on a great rant about why he isn't a fan of the track (although still acknowledging that it will be a hit). Definitely go read the commentary on BOL, but here is a short excert:

Kanye, let me let you in on a little secret. It’s a cold, cold capitalist, racist, sexist, ageist world. If you spend $200,000 on anything, the chances are very, very good that someone poor and/or young and/or of color and/or female was in some way shitted on so that you could do so. If it really does bother you, quit the conspicuous and ridiculous consumption. If it really doesn’t bother you, call up Jacob and order a matching quarter-million-dollar Holy Mary piece to go with the one you’ve already got of Her Little Boy. The truth is, once we’ve spent our $15 bucks to have our ear drums massaged by the Greatness that is you, it’s your money. Do what you want with it. But don’t ask us to spend another $15 just to hear you whine about the dumb-ass shit you did with the last $15.

He also raises the often discussed issue of materialism in hip hop and how it dilutes the significance of the music. Mtume also personally dislikes the track - which I can't agree with considering the rotation it is getting on my ipod. I love the Shirley Basse sample and think the production is well matched to the verses. My issue is more that the lyrics sound confused - is the diamond just a metaphor for Roc-A-Fella records and Kanye's career - or is he actually trying to raises issues with the violence in the diamond trade. Most signs point to the former, especially considering Kanye continues to floss his diamonds and even encourage people to throw their diamonds "in the air" in a song that is supposed to be questioning why people are wearing diamonds ?!

To me, this is definitely an example of Kanye missing a great opportunity to make a socially significant yet still mainstream hip hop song. But then again, I don't find Kanye that "deep" as a person or an MC. His beats are dope though, so maybe he should just stick to the hit singles and wait to wax philosophical on social issues until he gets over his jewlery addiction and conspicuous consumption habits.

Another interesting twist is that Kanye apparently worked with a Chicago MC named Lupe who basically took the original Diamonds track and freestyled over it about conflict diamonds - which then inspired the Kanye/Jay Z remix. You can hear all three versions of the song on Breath of Life' jukebox this week - so make clicks over there and decide for yourself.

(They also have another single from Late Registration called Gold Digger - so feel free to also launch into a 'hip hop is sexist' discussion whenever you are ready)

1 comment(s):

  • Preface: I'm not a Kanye West (the rapper) fan. He hasn't done much to impress me, but I think he's getting better.

    I can think of about one bajillion examples of rappers being hypocritical (Nas), and almost as many examples of them not being called on it. I do know that Kanye's brief mention of conflict diamonds HAS brought the issue into the public eye, at least somewhat. That's good in itself. We all know that Africa gets less clock than Darko Milicic when it comes to the America media, but I've already seen Tech on MTV and a dude on BET mention the issue. I'm sure this is the first time a lot of people have never heard the term conflict diamonds ("Little is known of Sierra Leone"), and that has probably spawned a lot of Google searches. Great.

    The bottom line is that I don't care what Kanye or any rapper has to say. I listen to the ones I like, and I don't think that they really owe anything to anyone. To me, they don't have to bring social issues to light or be positive role models. Feed their families, pay for their kids to be educated, hold a door for someone, and that's it. Kanye doesn't have to do anything more than I'd want my any member of society to do. I'm not impressed with the "he's blessed/in a position of power/has a duty to X" argument.

    The beat is tight, and Jay rips it.

    -P.S. I wish Bleek really would go "chill [quietly] somewhere."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:15 PM  

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