Rapper Authenticity or Kardashian Brand: The Dilemma of Kanye West

A few weeks ago, Kanye West caused a stir abroad, ranting against commercialism and the music industry on multiple European tour dates.

The rapper began his rant bashing musicians who hype corporate products. Please? Me, Kanye West? I swear I’m a nice n—a now. I swear I’ll put the pink polo back on. I swear to you. Please? Just for three million dollars. I need it so bad. I need a new pool in my back yard. So I’ll tell all my fans your s— is cool.”

As the rant continued, Kanye appeared to be taking a jab at Justin Timberlake in particular, who just signed a deal with Bud Light.  “Can I sell your drink for you please? So you can help me put on a better show,” said West, in a mocking tone.

West’s comments were so distracting on the tour, one London critic dubbed the shows “Kanye West Rant Tour 2013.”  Kanye’s comments do make a certain point about the commercialism of rap in particular. Everywhere you look, it seems rappers are hawking products: Snoop Dogg reps Monster energy drinks, Mary J. Blige had a brief partnership with Burger King, Andre 3000 sells Gillete razors, B.o.B. rocks Adidas and Drake is the new face of Sprite.

Indeed, the rap game has become dominated by product placement, as many of the above acts also feature the corporations in their lyrics. However valid Kanye’s point, though, his message has now been eternally complicated due to his relationship with Kim Kardashian, the Queen of endorsement deals and self-promotion.

Another line from the London rant mocked those who build their career around public perception. “Did the corporation send the check yet? What’s my public rating right now? Are people liking me again? Enough to get some money from the corporations? Are they liking me now?”  Accusations that apply directly to his girlfriend and mother of his baby.

Kardashian currently has endorsement deals with Sears, OPI, QuickTrim, Charmin, Tria Beauty, Carls Jr, Shoe Dazzle, Midori and Bebe—which force such a dizzying schedule of appearances she almost had a miscarriage a few weeks ago.

Thus, there is undeniable contradiction between West’s call for artistic authenticity and his choice of partner, who exploits not even art, but her personal life, for cash.

Kim has made several statements suggesting the impending birth of their child will usher in a new, quieter epoch in her life. “When you spend time with someone, you learn things from them, so I see what (his) views are in wanting to be private, so that’s a choice we make together as a family just in how we’re gonna raise our kid,” she said shortly after announcing the pregnancy.

Kim tried to prove her new calls for privacy weren’t just West’s influence. As ironic as it sounds, you live your life on a reality show but then when you grow up … certain things change your life that make you want to be more private and this is definitely one of them.”

Yet, mere days after the interview took place, Kim was on the cover of numerous publications including U.S. Weekly, as well as French magazine L’Officiel Hommes, where she appeared nearly naked in a spread of photos that included West.

In the cover shot, Kim is wrapped around West’s naked body with an expression of ecstasy. Private lives indeed.  If anything, it appears Kim is causing West to live his life more publicly and commercially— making his rant about consumerism even more hypocritical.

Kanye reportedly pushed heavy for the couple to settle in an L.A. neighborhood far from Kim’s mom Kris Jenner, so his baby can have privacy. The couple purchased a home in Bel Air, as opposed to the Kardashian capital of Calabasas.

However, the grip of Kris Jenner (who manages the career of all Kardashian/Jenners) is bedazzled and ironclad. Kim has long been Kris’s prized pig, bringing in more cash than all of her other children combined. The momager will not back off easily, as the Kimye baby is just another expansion of her empire.

Indeed, Kanye will soon have to battle against his own baby getting an endorsement deal, much less his fellow rappers.

Kanye’s real test of authenticity will be practicing what he preaches—upholding morals about consumerism in the midst of Kardashian chaos. Perhaps Kanye’s comments have little to do with Bud Light and Justin Timberlake, but the life closing in around him. Suddenly, Kanye’s infamous outbursts have turned from random to personal.

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