One thing I realized about myself is that I enjoy watching documentaries. Specifically documentaries on people or music. Or. Even better. People in music, LOL. Ya’ll know I love stories and documentaries are a great way to learn someone’s story. Some people in these films are those whom I never heard of before, like Mary Lou Williams, a 1920s Jazz Pianist who took the world by storm. She dominated in a man’s domain where women were overlooked, (and even more so, women of color). This documentary shared how other female musicians only received certain opportunities because of their looks. Yea it was nice that they were talented, but they had to be attractive too.
Isn’t it interesting how our culture puts such emphasis on a woman’s looks and less on her talent, drive and intelligence? But anyways, I digress…
The last couple of documentaries I watched were about more recent exceptional talents who are still alive today. Phat Tuesday shared the come up of several well-known Black comedians and it was so exciting to watch all of this brilliance milling about in one room. There were photos and video footage of these artists before they became household names, and the whole time I just kept thinking about me and my crew. I knew one day that would be us!
The next documentary is one that is still heavy on my heart because I just finished it last night. Since my time is short these days, I knew I would need to binge it because I didn’t know when I would have time to finish, and I’m so glad I did. Kanye West’s “Jeen-Yuhs” was exactly that. Genius. I knew bits and pieces of Kanye’s story, but seeing more of the behind the scenes was intriguing, and from a career perspective, it definitely resonated with me.
To watch Kanye go from someone just “hustling” to someone who is known all over the world (whether positively or negatively) is motivation enough for me. Kanye had to push against the grain of hiphop culture since he didn’t fit into its mold of thugs and gangsters, and (at least in the beginning) he was able to stay true to himself and his music. Even though he was eventually picked up by a label, he still wasn’t supported and so, had to invest out of his own pockets for the vision he held of his art. And that was when I saw it. Kanye, was an entrepreneur.
But not just any entrepreneur, he was multi-faceted. Like me.
Kanye was able to do many things but people kept wanting to box him in. Because he was so great at music production, they wanted to label him a producer. But he knew the burning desire to rap wasn’t there for no reason.
And so, he rapped.
I certainly don’t think I’m on the level of being the creative genius that Kanye West is but I know that I am able to do several things well when it comes to my business(es).
And I know the one who is the ultimate Genius lies within me.
What does sadden me though about Kanye’s story (which hopefully is far from over) is that, it seems he lost himself along the way. And in watching the unfolding of his mental and emotional health, I kept coming back to the fact that he didn’t have his family by his side. By then his mom had passed, and the one making the documentary, a longtime friend, was no longer in the picture (literally). In this unraveling I could see the necessity of keeping your people close to you when the world begins esteeming you. How do you remember who you are when those who know you best are no longer there to serve as a mirror?
I got on my knees last night to pray for Kanye but even in my prayers I thanked God for his friend Coodie Simmons, who documented over 20 years of his life. See, even though Coodie wasn’t as close to Kanye for several years, his heart always was, and so were his prayers.
We all need people in our corner, rooting for us, even when we can’t see them. We are all susceptible to loosing ourselves, famous or not. But especially the former.
“When the giant looks in the mirror, he doesn’t see anything,” Kanye’s mom, Donda West, often told him. “Everyone else sees him as a giant, but he doesn’t see anything different.” Ms. West was encouraging Kanye to be humble. She was saying others may see you as big, but make sure you don’t see yourself that way. I don’t think Kanye was able to get that message in his youth, but as I’ve learned in my own journey, God can always do things on the back end.
There’s still time.
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