MTV has been revamping their news and publishing recently and have put out just fantastic content. Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib recently wrote an article on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and the “myth of rare black genius.”
Assessing The Life of Pablo, like assessing the entire career of Kanye West, means considering the demand for black greatness and the toll it takes on the great. I am not commenting now on West’s mental or emotional state. I have no access to Kanye West, or his life, beyond what he shares through his work. I am talking about the toll it takes on artists in the black imagination, in the spaces where we hold them dear. It is equal parts frustrating and wholly understandable to see the way both white establishments and black consumers hold on to the idea of black genius. The concept is held so tightly and with so little change or evolution in what the black genius can or should represent. This leaves the imagination with so few established and named black geniuses that they must be protected at all costs. I have been guilty of this, both the limited naming and the relentless protection, more with Kanye West than anyone else.