Common Cents

Last night I watched an interview with the popular Producer/Hip-Hop "artist" Kayne West on Charlie Rose. Charlie asked him, "If you could ask Jay-Z one question what would it be?" I was relatively excited to hear his answer. Kayne West works with artists like Talib Kweli, Common, Alicia Keys, and Usher. I figured he’d have something poignant to say. He said he would ask Jay-Z, "How'd you get all that money?" His follow up question was, "How'd you get Beyonce?" This is probably the better of the two questions.

I took a college level sociology class in high school. Mr. Meyer asked the classroom, "What is the one thing you can't stand?" Everyone thought long and hard. It was a great opportunity to say something poignant. Most of the answers were your run in the mill "backstabbing" or "lying." They were followed with explanations that usually worked against their point. I was thinking like crazy. I wanted to have an answer that strayed from the norm, something that set me apart from the rest. Tom Proctor sat behind me and answered before me. In the whole world what is the one thing I hate? I had to come up with something quick because I heard the teacher say, "Tom, what is the one thing you can't stand?" Tom nonchalantly answered, "Ignorance." What the?! Ignorance!!? How the heck am I supposed to... what the Sam hell am I supposed to say now that won't look... you little piece of...

"How'd you get all that money?" I put "artist" in quotes earlier because I felt that that was the last thing any "artist" would ask. He really is just running a business. Maybe everyone knew this before me. Maybe I just didn't get it. But that's really all it is. It's just like starting a restaurant or inventing a new technology in the toothbrush. Jay-Z said it himself.

I dumb down for my audience
And double my dollars
They criticize me for it
Yet they all yell "Holla"
If skills sold
Truth be told
I'd probably be
Talib Kweli
I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
(But i did five Mil)
I ain't been rhymin like Common since

*You should see what spell check thinks about this quote.

I was so mad to hear Kayne West ask this question. He's worked with Talib. Talib writes about this mind frame with such clarity. He puts it in a way that makes it impossible for any Hip-Hop "artist" to mention their wealth again. In African Dream he writes...

Place the face with the name
These cats drink champagne and toast to death and pain
Like slaves on a ship talking about who got the flyest chain

I thought I would refresh myself by reading an article in the New York Times Magazine about Walter DeMaria. His most famous piece is called "Double Negative." In this piece 240,000 tons of dirt are displaced. At least it is appropriately named. Apparently he's been working for years on a sculpture in Nevada. It's acres and acres in size and has cost millions of dollars to make. It won't be ready to view for years to come. The article was completely boring. It was long too. It's just holes in the ground and ditches and mounds of dirt and there are some concrete sculptures in the middle of it. It's his divine creation. He says constantly how different it is, and how there is nothing like it in the world. It's new. It's “Earth Art.” He gets grants and funding from all around the world. But it will eventually be a business. People will come from all around to see DeMaria's "City." I'm sure they'll pay big bucks for it too.

I was too young to know about these travesties in high school. Perhaps I'm only figuring these things out now. Maybe it will help me in the future. Maybe Kayne West's question will help sculpt my contributions to the Art World. I just wish that when Mr. Meyer gathered himself after Tom Proctor's poignant one word answer, and asked me "Josh, what's the one thing in the world you can't stand?" I would have said, "Earth Art."