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Foul racial ‘humor’ can’t spoil Kanye comeback at VMAs…

September 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Entertainment, News, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) Kanye West’s closing performance at this year’s Video Music Awards actually lived up to MTV’s relentless hype. Kanye was indeed the best thing the show had going for it.

Unless you’ve been on Mars, it’s been pretty impossible to miss hearing about how he stole the show at the VMAs last year. While it was certainly not wise to jump on stage while an Taylor Swift was speaking and interrupt her to proclaim that someone else should have won, it does make great water cooler talk, not to mention buzzworthy headlines. That’s why MTV was so quick to forgive Kanye by awarding him a coveted performance spot, which it referenced all night.

Although the show was for the most part a snoozefest, there were many disturbing racial undertones during the show, most notably early on. Chelsea Handler, the VMAs’s first female host since 1994 (Sarah Silverman was a part of the hostless 2007 broadcast), seemed like a great choice. Her late-night show Chelsea Lately on E! is a cult hit and she has more than her fair share of hip musical guests. Unfortunately, her jokes were mostly flat.

Yes, Kanye West was obviously on most people’s mind but addressing it with the quip, “It’s time to acknowledge the big black elephant in the room. Where’s Kanye?” was not ideal. Her decision to straddle Rick Ross on a moped to exit her opening monologue was also worthy of a few raised eyebrows. Earlier there was another eyebrow-raising scene of Handler being chased by three black men, plus she had that joke about falling off the wagon after sharing a prayer circle with Snoop Dogg, whom she referenced as “an angry black man.” “Why is it all these black man [sic] are sexualizing Chelsea Handler in a way that frightens her?” asked MSNBC contributing editor Toure on Twitter.

It’s certainly a valid question. Former AOL Black Voices programming director Ken Gibbs, Jr. retweeted Toure, adding “that scene reminded me of a M.Gibson line.” Given this country’s unsettling history involving black men and white women, especially racist stereotypes of white women being so irresistible to black men that they were prone to commit sexual assaults on them, Handler’s actions were certainly unsettling.

Throw in the fact that this year’s VMAs were marked by a “white” carpet with Handler’s remark that she snuck in two sawed-off shotguns because she was white and wasn’t searched mixed in with Handler kicking a representative Kanye in his genitalia and those often dismissed conspiracy theorists might just have some valid points. Even the New York Times noted that Handler’s hosting contained “brief, alarming flashes of off-color racial humor.”

If that weren’t enough, Will.i.Am’s blackface get-up, described as “all black everything” on Thisis50.com, had black people especially buzzing on Twitter. So much so that will.i.am took to Twitter to address the issue. “1st. just because I where [sic] all black including head mask as expression and emphasize my outfit, it shouldn’t be looked at as racial…,” he responded. He continued with “”Are you guys serious? my outfit set ‘black people back 100 yrs’ choose your twits wisely. no education sets people back, no jobs, bad health.” His blackface clearly overshadowed his performance with Nicki Minaj on the pre-show.

Interestingly Nicki Minaj was a topic of conversation for the VMA pre-show hosts as Drake and Trey Songz were asked about her appeal. Trey Songz expressed admiration for her “brand-building” abilities. For a rapper, she certainly didn’t rhyme much during her performance. Also, her exaggerated backside prompted white Atlanta radio host Bert Weiss, @TheBertShowBert, to share “My wife about nicki minaj” is that really her butt or does she have stuff in her pants?” Such commentary certainly conjures up images of the Venus Hottentot, of whom’s history Nicki Minaj is probably unaware.

Performance-wise, Drake, along with Mary J. Blige and Swizz Beatz, pumped some energy into the broadcast with his hit “Fancy” sans T.I., for obvious reasons. Taylor Swift’s performance of her new song “Innocent” didn’t win over any of her non-fans but her performance had Kanye West all over it.

Beginning with a video montage of trophy-gate, such song lyrics as “Who you are is not what you did” and “32 is still growing up now…you’re still an innocent” obviously referenced Kanye West. Not surprisingly, the song is the first from her new album Speak, coming out in October. But, ultimately, the night belonged to West.

Forget being contrite, West did what he does best: him. Stepping on stage in a red suit and black tank reminiscent of rap’s early days with nothing but a beat machine initially, West launched into “Runaway.” The chorus is most memorable: “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags, let’s have a toast for the assholes. Let’s have a toast for the scumbags…You’ve been putting up with my sh*t for way too long.” And West was generally applauded in person and via Twitter.

Based on Kanye West’s return to music glory, more than all seems forgiven or, at least tolerated. With high praise already being thrown West’s way for his upcoming album, it’s not impossible to predict that he will once again reign at next year’s VMAs, making his impact felt for three years in a row.

Written By Ronda Racha Penrice


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