Black Male Celebs Must Do Better Ft. Kanye, Jay Z And Nelly

Kanye West was one of the few rappers other than Nas I’d think, ‘He gets it’ and knew that he really did. That was the College Dropout to Watch The Throne (2004-2011) days. This is now.

I’m not on the ‘Kanye has lost his mind’ train. It’s more complex than that. I’m also no therapist so I figure I’m not qualified to come to such a conclusion. Since Kanye has become part of the Kardashian camp, though, his appeal as an artist and person has plummeted.

His ego was never bothersome for me. I’d actually always defended him for his radical act of self-love. I also knew that a lot of hatred toward Kanye was racially coded. Sure he appears to be a “jackass ,”as the president has called him. But much of the hatred from middle America is rooted in society being uncomfortable with a black man who thinks so highly of himself. A black man must know his place. And that place isn’t walking around calling himself god or a genius.  His candid public musings on race didn’t help his popularity among the melanin deficient. Saying awesome shit like, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” was the nail in the coffin, or maybe it was him snatching the mic from Taylor Swift, which by all accounts has only helped her career.

I loved Kanye for all of the reasons America hated him. But Kanye’s changed.We all evolve. At least if you’re living right you should be. It’s not him changing it’s who he’s become.

The “Drug dealers buy Jordans, crackheads buy crack/But the white man get paid off of all of that” Kanye is buried underneath layers of an inferiority complex where he’s begging for white approval. All of his rants about classism— which he thinks is new— are about white designers not letting him sit at the table. Marrying a woman who said they’ll raise a colorblind child is about his obsession with white women, one that has been a consistent theme in his music and videos for years. His blatant disrespect for the president is about him having a temper tantrum because the president spoke truth about his fiancé being famous for fame’s sake and kids wanting to emulate celebrities for the wrong reasons.

Ye lost me with the disrespect for the president and selling confederate flag merchandise. Now I’m not one of those ‘don’t air out our dirty laundry in front of the white folks’ kind of gals. Valid criticisms of President Obama are fair game. But this, “Well I feel like he shouldn’t mention my baby mama name…You know, we both from Chicago, and you know…” Nope. Not here for it. The audacity of this mothafucka.

The confederate flag and his response to the criticism of him selling confederate flag tour merchandise is disgusting. It’s laughable that Kanye believes Al Sharpton’s threats to boycott him are a form of self-hate. Kanye is becoming the epitome of self-hate. I’ve worn tired of the faux black power act. What is he doing for kids in Chicago? Has he randomly popped up at an HBCU to give a speech and giveaway 300 free tickets to his show the way he did at Harvard School of Design this past Sunday? Does he make sure to rock and promote black designers since he insists the fashion industry is racist and classist? Of course he doesn’t. He just likes to be a rebel without a cause. Someone DM me when he comes back down to earth. You know, where the rest of us human beings live.

confederat flag merch

Then there’s his big brother Jay. Jay Z couldn’t be more different than Kanye in the way he’s carefully constructed his image in the media, making very few missteps. There was him stabbing Un, mushing a woman in the head backstage, the Cuba fiasco and now Barneygate. Other than that he’s been the media’s darling.

But Barneys’ PR nightmare has blown up in his face. Of course he played victim. Whoever hoped the ultimate capitalist was going to drop his partnership with Barneys was mistaken. I knew he wasn’t. And true to form, he didn’t. The first thing I thought after reading his explanation for not dropping his partnership was, ‘Oh. This mothafucka thinks we’re stupid.’ He really does.

Mr. Business, Man goes on and on about how now 100% of the funds will be donated to The Shawn Carter Foundation, and how he’ll have a seat on council in dealing with racial profiling. Bullshit. Then he frames the conversation by insisting that dropping the line would have been the easy thing to do. Bullshit times two.

The easy thing to do is to continue your line and have your publicist write a cute little statement that on the surface appears to be a “smart business move.” I swear to baby brown Jesus if anyone tells me it was “smart” I  wish a million Tyler Perry movies upon them. Jay should have taken a stand. He should’ve made a huge statement to corporations that he wouldn’t support any businesses practicing racial profiling. Under the guise of charity he’s urging black and brown shoppers (whoever can afford it) to buy the line, which is only available at a store guilty of racially profiling. And this is with whom you want to place your faith? Harry Belafonte was right about this dude. And so is André Leon Talley.

“Any African-American, male or female, with any consciousness of what has happened would not go into Barneys right now,” André Leon Talley, the former editor at large of Vogue, said in an interview this week. “Nor Macy’s.” He said that if he were in Jay Z’s position, “for the simplicity of making a broad statement I would pull out.”


I remember when Nelly’s sister died of leukemia in 2005. I also remember the controversy around the “Tip Drill” video in 2004 when a group of Spelman women requested a conversation with the rapper about his degradation of black women. Long story short, Nelly refused to have the conversation with the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA), he pulled out of the bone marrow drive and the story gets murky from there.

Nearly 10 years later and Nelly still blames the group of women for his sister’s death. On HuffPo Live he goes as far to say the only thing he would’ve done differently is “kicked some ass.” Kicked whose ass? A group of women? Nelly is threatening violence on women and it goes unchecked by the interviewer who happens to be a black man. Unreal.

FMLA responds and has a different version of events. According to them the drive still went on and they shouldn’t have had to choose between addressing health and the dehumanization of black women.

I’m reluctant to offer an opinion on this because Nelly’s obviously still grieving. But he’s wrong. Nelly doesn’t get it. He thinks his actions don’t qualify as misogyny because no one made the woman participate in the video or the degrading act of having a credit card slid down her butt cheeks.

It’s exhausting to explain feminism to people committed to misunderstanding it. Nelly doesn’t have the slightest clue based on the interview. How patriarchy and misogyny works are beyond his understanding. So is what feminism is all about.


Moya Bailey, the former president of Spelman’s FMLA during the time, broke it down for it to be forever broken.

Often Black feminists are represented as advocates for censorship. People often portray us as sex-hating, stick-in-the-mud conservatives concerned with respectability. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, we like sex so much (NSFW) we dare to think that women should enjoy it and not be subjugated to images that define our sexuality in limited ways. Music videos and lyrics, including yours, often portray women as silent partners and objects of male attention. This silence, Nelly, is not unlike the silence you expected from us regarding your visit. Women are instructed in many songs about what to do, wear, drink, how to dance and behave to make themselves appealing to men.

The heterosexist and cissexist nature of these images reinforces the idea that women’s sexuality, our bodies, are not our own and are ultimately in the service of men’s needs. “It must be ya ass cause it ain’t your face,” literally reduces women’s value to the attractiveness of their body parts.

Glad to know if you had it do over again you would have “kicked some ass.”

Just name the time and place, sir. I’m ready.

Oh, one more for shits and giggles. The Best Man Holiday was good, really good. I wrote about it. I specifically loved that it showed black men in marriages having emotions. Every black male character cried. Yes, fellas. You can be manly and still have emotions— even tears. But TBMH is fiction. And this is real life:

best man holiday


  • Terrance Bailey

    Miss Bene Viera, I have followed your articles ever since you started off on WordPress and I can’t say enough about your magnificent and provocative journalism that marries two completely opposite concepts in fact and opinion. I was a Jay-Z fan throughout high school which was a long time ago until I was introduced to the G.O.A.T that is Nasir Jones, and quite frankly, none of Jay’s actions throughout Barneygate surprise me as he stays true to form of being the black bourgeoisie. Most aren’t willing to go there but I will. Like you, I got turned on to Kanye during his backpack days with College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation, and thought that he was an artist that truly gets it, but that was until Watch The Throne and I have since tuned him out. I have absolutely nothing to say about Nelly other than that denigrating “Tip Drill” video is the only thing that I’ll remember him for. Once again, great article, and I’ll keep checking for more of your illuminating material in the future. Thank you for the hard work that you put into your craft.

    • writtenbyBene

      I just wanted to say this is a very sweet comment. I read ALL the comments on my blog, but don’t always comment. I couldn’t not show appreciation to someone who has followed my career and still checks for me. Thank you for the support. It’s truly appreciated.

      Best regards,

      Bené Viera
      Multimedia Journalist | Writer | Blogger

  • dusttracks

    Cheers to you for keeping it 100!

    There are so many things that are so wrong with the way these people behave, I can’t even begin to type about it.

    I will say though, that I’d like to lock them all in a room for three weeks with nothing but huge speakers blasting talks by Dr. John Henrik Clarke.

  • dre

    great article bene’. keepin it 100

  • Mrs. Cooper

    I enjoyed this piece. The debate can still go out for Jay-Z, but I respect your opinion.

  • Toyatowns

    I am over all three. Folks get brand new and forget the color of their skin and the struggles and legacies that come with it. Dead at the picture at the end! Marvelous article too!

  • kay

    Yup…”keep my babymama name out his mouth” this dude is a self hating coon

  • ac

    i imagine people responding to the “if he were in Jay Z’s position”
    statement with “but he’s not in Jay-z’s position” totally missing the point. I’ve never handled a business venture of that magnitude & I could imagine that there is some complexity involved, but sometimes you really do need to stand up for what is right. I totally appreciate this post, it is great!

  • This was an amazing read, in fact all of your posts are very insightful and thought provoking. I have written and commented about all three of these situations many times on my own blog at http://hiphopthinktank.ca and on other blogs covering the issue, so I won’t get into it again on here. Just wanted to comment and show support for you and your site, and the amazing content you write.

    Stay blessed,

    King Kenyatta

    • writtenbyBene

      Thank you for this comment. I always appreciate the support.

      Best regards,

      Bené Viera
      Multimedia Journalist | Writer | Blogger

  • thank you so much for this. what everybodys thinkin. no one sayin.