According to a celebrity income estimate maintained by Forbes Magazine, rapper Kanye West has earned well over $200 million during the past 12 years. Saturday evening, he tweeted that he is carrying "$53 million in personal debt," and asked his fans to "Please pray we overcome." West's use of "we" is interesting, given that he is married to Kim Kardashian, who, again according to Forbes, earned $52.5 million in 2015 alone. Is it really possible that West's completely undeserved free ride from the press, which goes back over a decade, may finally end?
There are at least a couple of hints that West's desperation is real:
- Six years after his most infamous awards show hijacking (original incident is described later in this post), in what appears to be purely a publicity stunt to grab attention for his just-completed latest album, West has renewed tensions with pop star Taylor Swift. He did so by including the following lyrics on one of that album's songs: "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b**** famous." Swift's team responded by reporting that West asked her "to release his single 'Famous' on her Twitter account. She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message." Sadly, West will probably gain new fans who inexplicably find his behavior admirable.
- West has decided to keep that album on Jay-Z's Tidal music streaming service for another week, hoarding all streaming traffic and purchase revenues for longer than originally promised before releasing it for general distribution.
Thus far, media coverage of West's tweeted announcement (Variety, CNBC, Eonline) has been along the lines of, "Well, there's Kanye being Kanye again." The following paragraphs at CNBC's story are particularly annoying:
At a time when millions of Americans are struggling with personal finances, one of the world's biggest music stars revealed he's not immune to the same syndrome.
... The world of celebrity is peppered with musicians, actors and athletes who have reaped fortunes, only to hit rough financial shoals through a combination of overspending, fraud and mismanagement.
The whole description seems way too passive. For the most part (yes, there are exceptions involving adviser fraud), the only "syndromes" these folks have are a determination to spend money like there's no end to it and a chronic failure to pay attention to what is happening to it.
West's predicament, if accurately portrayed (something which should be questioned, given who is providing us with the information), may cause the media to turn on him — especially if he has to raid Kardashian's loot to stay afloat. That it hasn't happened yet, after over a decade of boorish and criminal behavior by West, says a lot of things about current American culture, and none of it is good.
In August 2005, Time magazine, in a item which is now ensconced behind its subscription firewall, called West "the smartest man in pop music."
Smart? Maybe, but also unhinged.
In September 2005, West because a hero of sorts to the left when he went into an unauthorized George W. Bush-bashing, race-baiting rant ("George Bush doesn't care about black people") during a celebrity telethon raising funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Michelle Malkin noted at the time that NBC, which carried the telethon, could reasonably have expected that West would not conduct himself admirably (and therefore should not have given him such an open-ended disruptive opportunity):
... he also happens to be a tinfoil-hat conspiracist who raps about how the government invented the AIDS virus and a petulant sore loser who delivered a tirade at the (2004) American Music Awards when he didn’t get a trophy.
In 2006, West "stormed the stage at the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards after losing the award for Video of the Year."
In 2007, West "lost it again" at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards.
By this time, it should be pretty obvious that if West were anything but an "edgy" rapper benefitting from endless press indulgence, he would have suffered serious career consequences. Imagine what would happen to a sore-loser white rock-n-roller or white pop diva if he or she had a tantrum over losing awards or preferred stage space to a rapper.
In September 2008, West committed acts at the Los Angeles International Airport which prosecutors initially wanted to treat as felony vandalism. Instead, they were taken down to the level of misdemeanors. In my limited research, I could not find evidence that the case was ever finally adjudicated after an arraignment which was to take place in April 2009.
Aggrieved that country singer Taylor Swift beat out pop diva Beyonce for an MTV Video Music Award, he pounced on stage, ripped the microphone out of Swift’s hands and had a hissy fit on Beyonce’s behalf.
What if a white country singer had done this to a rapper? Readers should also know that West was 32 years old at the time — at least a dozen years past any potential "I was just a dumb punk" expiration date.
in 2011, an education foundation West founded folded. At the time, "where its millions of dollars in corporate donations have gone" was an open question.
If West is indeed in the kind of debt he claims, it appears likely that his continuing efforts to build a clothing business, which he admitted in late 2013 had already cost him $13 million, have been a heavy contributor to the financial peril.
If his situation is worse than portrayed, which has often been the case once all the rocks get turned over in such matters, West might well take note of the following lyrics from "God Bless the Child," courtesy of genuinely talented black recording artist Billie Holiday in 1939:
(When you've got) Money, you've got lots of friends
They're crowding around your door
But when ... (the money's) gone and (all the) spending ends
They don't come ('round) no more.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.