A Rant About the Kanye West "Rant": Fine, It's a Rant

Is calling Kanye West's soliloquies "rants" problematic? Complex wrestles with the question of how to describe the rapper's regular speeches.

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Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but....

Last night, Kanye West released one of his Kanye-brand Rants®, as a part of his Yeezus tour in New York City.

"I wanted to give y'all a better rant tonight."

Which is to say, the Kanye Rant® is now a certified Kanye West product, as much as a confederate flag t-shirt or an iTunes digital download or even, presumably, a Yeezus CD. 

There was an internal debate at Complex when Yeezy season first began, as our news writers began to cover Kanye West's regular soliloquies. There wasKanye West Rants About Brands and Creativity in Amsterdam. Watch Kanye West Rant About the Paparazzi at the Roseland BallroomKanye West Goes on Style-Related Rant, Rips Camo Print, Jerseys T-Shirts and Long Tees. Kanye West Goes On Epic Rant at Pusha T Listening Session in NYCKanye West Went on a Fashion Rant During the "Yeezus Tour" Show in Las VegasWatch a Classic Kanye West Rant That Took Place During His "Yeezus" Tour Stop in Oakland. Or even: The 10 Best Kanye Rants.

Concerned it was becoming cliche, we tried to pump the brakes, resulting in awkwardly-phrased headlines like Kanye West Spoke About Bad Advice, Tesla, and Jodorowsky Last Night and the slightly more clever Yeezus Talks: "It Feels Like I'm In High School Again." Of course, knowing full well that it was too late for googling purposes to call them anything other than "rants," you will notice that the URLs still reflect, for all intents and purposes, the real nature of these articles: kanye-west-yeezus-tour-boston-rant.

The problem with "rant" goes beyond overusage, though. It's also a loaded term. The media has had a long and troublesome history with its framing of black men raising grievences, particularly in hip-hop. And considering the debates around Kanye West's treatment in the media—particularly the controversy surrounding Jimmy Kimmel's skit and the subsequent Kimmel-Kanye interview—it's wise to take a step back and think about the implications of the words we're using to talk about an artist, and how he's being framed. 

It's a blurry area. After all, as Cord Jefferson recently pointed out in a piece on Kanye on Gawker, American racism often utilizes a strategy of plausible deniability. If a person questions the status quo, question their sanity. Make them seem imbalanced, reinforce feelings of doubt. Kanye feels like he's been delimited into a role because of who he is. He's not taken seriously by people outside of the music world. The issues up for debate become a litmus test of your perspective. When you think of the words "Kanye West" and "Leather jogging pants," do you think of his status as a fashion visionary? Or do you think, how strange that this man cares so much about leather jogging pants and being first?

If you're in the latter group, you probably don't care much about fashion, but you also might be a little guilty of people-in-glass-houses logic. (Damon Young made a similar argument in his excellent essay earlier this week, about how Kanye's narcissism is really a more honest expression of our own.) 

On the other hand, it's easy to take this point of view too far. If Kanye is going to regularly use his bully pulpit to weigh in on urgent issues like camouflage as a style trend, if he's going to break the fourth wall at every concert in order to weigh in on this or that thing on his mind, and then he's going to refer to it as a "rant" himself? At a certain point, for all its negative connotations, you can't hem and haw any further.

After much debate, Complex has decided that, you know what, fuck it: A "rant" is a "rant." For better or for worse, Kanye West delivers Rants. It's doubtful that the fierce debates about the validity of Kanye's statements will subside any time soon. Sometimes, like all of us, he might seem a bit ridiculous; other times, he has had some keen insights. But once something is branded, it's hard to undo it.

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