Being as musically obsessed as I am, it’d be impossible for me not to talk about Kanye West. I’ll start this blogpost off by saying I unironically, wholeheartedly believe that Kanye West is one of the greatest artists of all-time, not just for his incredible lyricism, production, and musical innovation, but also in his ability to continue to stay relevant and provocative in such a volatile, fast-paced media world. Obviously, he’s said some rather controversial, if not just blatantly offensive, things in the past that I do not stand by. However, I do give him props for constantly challenging perspectives and ideas.
Specifically, I’m referencing this interview with Kanye West by BigBoyTV. In response to Big Boy’s question regarding Kanye recently held a Sunday Service at the Forum in Inglewood, California, where he brought out a gospel choir and pastor to sing songs from Jesus Is King, Kanye's newest album, as well as some favorites like 'Ultralight Beam' and 'Jesus Walks'. While there is no sermon involved, the entire concert is run like a church service, with positive messages and an uplifting choir to give the full, spiritual experience. , Kanye mentions MIT.
“So many people at MIT, let me tell you, MIT right now. Y’all in a box. They have you in a box. You can save the world, but you are working on things that are too small. Take a step back, stop worrying about your college loans, stop worrying about what job they got waiting for you in Silicon Valley. MIT, you can save the world. Kids in college, you can save the world. I’ll put my life on this interview right now. It’s up to y’all. Y’all have the ability to step back from what you think culture is today. It’s not about any candidate. It’s not about red or blue. It’s about humanity. Y’all talking about 12 years of oxygen, talkin’ bout how we gon’ kill the Earth. We can’t kill the Earth. We goin’ kill the things that keep us alive on the Earth, the Earth gonna survive. It’s up to y’all. Y’all the future.” (28:01)
This is just a snippet of a long response Kanye gives about his journey to finding God and coming to a realization that he’s been putting value on the wrong things. He then takes it a step further, urging people, college kids especially, to do the same and reevaluate their morals and values.
When I first heard his reply, I didn’t really quite know what to think. As I mentioned earlier in a blogpost, there’s quite a large percentage of MIT kids majoring in Course 6, computer science. Often times you’ll hear words like “sellout” or “money hungry” get thrown around left and right at Course 6’s and whether that’s in jest or in seriousness is really hard to tell sometimes. As someone leaning towards Course 6, it really made me take a step back and ask myself, “Is Kanye West talking about me?”
And then I took another step back, shook myself out of it, and realized: Why am I giving him the power to question myself?
The overall message has good intention. Climate change and resource exhaustion is very much a real issue. Humanity is reliant on a lot of the Earth’s natural resources and we are depleting it at a great rate. But as I’ve heard many of my peers say more and more over time is: Why must this responsibility fall onto us?
Yes, we are the next generation. Yes, I’m sure MIT kids and plenty of other young people have the ability to save the world. But why should that sole duty fall onto our shoulders? I’m only seventeen years old and here is Kanye West, a 42-year-old man with an estimated net worth of $240M to $1B married to Kim Kardashian with a near equal net worth and a family with similar numbers, telling me that it’s my job to save the world.
He also mentions later on that instead of spending time working hard on 3D-printing things, we could save the world. But little does he realize that the things we do 3D-print, while sometimes they are perhaps little trinkets to keep on our desk or for our Halloween costumes, are also designs that can be refined and further iterated into life-saving products. Even just looking at the 3-D printing tag in MIT News, we see that 3D-printing isn’t a “waste of our time” as implied.
But of course I don’t think Kanye West has a specific vendetta against 3D-printers and he was more of implying that we are spending time on things that don’t matter. And that leads to a greater annoyance I have just with the general public and assumptions made about MIT. Kanye’s entire thinkpiece on MIT reads like, to directly quote redditor GlennMagusHarvey’s reaction to this exact video posted on r/MIT, uninformed rambling.
Maybe if Kanye had done more research and pointed out specific instances of MIT wasting resources and time (I’m very sure he could find things) or started some coalition with MIT students, donating some of his hard-earned funds to our school to be used for environmental work, I would take this callout more seriously.
But he hasn’t.
Yes, young people are the future and we are in such a technologically advanced time that quite literally anyone can teach themselves complex skills that were so hard to access before. Web development, 3D-modeling and printing, machine learning — you can just find these resources online. Out of everyone in the world, we probably have the most capability to saving the world just because of the head start we have in terms of technology and also just living longer that generations prior to us. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that that duty should fall down to us. Listening to Kanye tell the young people to stop 3D-printing and save the world reminded me of Greta Thunberg’s iconic opening to her speech at the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit.
“I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!”
I share this same sentiment. How dare you, Kanye West, how dare you. Before you come for college kids, blatantly disregarding our college loans and making misinformed remarks about how we spend our time, perhaps we should ask what have you done to save the world recently? Anyone can talk. Not everyone can act.
I will always have respect for Kanye West and his music. He is thought provoking and arguably one of the most influential people of our generation. He’s pioneered movements in fashion and in music and continues to break the boundaries of music with every album drop. (That’s for another blogpost.)
Yet, this is one topic that Kanye West doesn’t have a good grasp on. His words shame students pursuing “Silicon Valley jobs”, as if it’s bad to want high-earning positions. Maybe we should consider that the reason students are supposedly “selling out” is because it’s so difficult to make money otherwise. It’s difficult to exist in this day and age and make a living for ourselves. It’s difficult to find funding and support for environmental projects. And it’s difficult to listen to someone so far removed from MIT comment and criticize our decisions when they haven’t done anything themselves to help that exact situation.
There is a deeper rooted problem here, and it’s that people are relying on us young people to solve the situations that prior generations not only created, but are continuing. And now, they look to college students, already burdened with their debts and stresses, to fix the system they continue to feed.
Kanye West, you can save the world. You have the money and means to do it, but you’re in a box. You have enough affluence and influence to change the culture of today. Talk less, and do more. And maybe then us MIT kids can help you.
- Kanye recently held a Sunday Service at the Forum in Inglewood, California, where he brought out a gospel choir and pastor to sing songs from Jesus Is King, Kanye's newest album, as well as some favorites like 'Ultralight Beam' and 'Jesus Walks'. While there is no sermon involved, the entire concert is run like a church service, with positive messages and an uplifting choir to give the full, spiritual experience. back to text ↑