I'm Going To Let You Finish

I’m Going To Let You Finish

But MTV has generated one of the best media frenzies of all time! One of the best frenzies of all time!

3. I’mma Let You Finish

And of course, we have the spectacle of Kanye himself.

West has a history of making an ass of himself when awards are involved. He interrupted the American Music Awards in 2004 to insist he should have won the Best Male Rap/Hip-Hop Artist title (he didn’t; Jay-Z did). He announced that he would “really have a problem” if he didn’t win the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year (he didn’t; U2 did). He rushed the stage of the MTV Europe Music Awards later that year, arguing that he should have won the Best Video of the Year award (he didn’t; Justice and Simian did).

So West grabbing the mic is nothing new. And yet:




(all images courtesy of kanyegate.tumblr.com)

Why has this meme taken off in a way that his other rants haven’t? A few theories:

(1) This is the first time West threw such a tantrum in defense of another artist. The pretentiousness of Mr. West, self-appointed advocate for a pop star who doesn’t need advocacy, begs for satire.

(2) Not only that but, as mentioned above, he threw this tantrum needlessly. The voters agreed with him. Beyoncé did, in their eyes, make one of the best music videos – of the past year, if not all time.

(3) The sheer ridiculousness of his approach. If Kanye were genuinely happy for Taylor Swift and wanted her to finish her speech, he could have shown that more sincerely by applauding from his seat and letting her finish her speech. To take a microphone from someone and claim that they received an award incorrectly, yet you’re “happy for them,” approaches unheard-of levels of paralepsis.

(4) The Internet has changed. 2006 might not seem like that long ago, but social media, online publishing and Photoshop capabilities have exploded since then. More people have access to online platforms and ways to manipulate video, sound and image than they did the last time Kanye acted the fool. Blog posts, image macros, Facebook updates and YouTube videos can blow an incident up faster and keep it alive longer.

The Aftermath

No artist ever lost the limelight for being too ridiculous. Kanye West will keep making music for as long as he can find the money. He will remain in the spotlight for as long as pop culture dictates he should (about three years, typically) and then find new and bizarre ways to reclaim it once his moment has passed. Taylor Swift and Beyoncé will continue to produce female music videos. Hey, they might even produce one together! That would be neat.

The furor over Kanye West’s outburst – how dare he interrupt a highly-paid star from thanking people for an award she’s already won! – will be trivia a year from now. And the thousands of cultural artifacts that this furor has produced – West’s apology on the Jay Leno Show, the YouTube videos of people calling West a jackass, the Photoshop memes above and the inevitable Saturday Night Live spoof – won’t even elicit a chuckle by then.

Perhaps that’s the meaning of “Web 2.0” or “the new media.” It produces intricate artifacts of immediate transience – huge monuments that start dissolving into sand almost as soon as they’re finished. Instead of a careful craftsmanship that takes months or years, we can now throw togeth–

Yes, Kanye?


Yo, Perich! I’m really happy for you; I’mma let you finish. But Marshall McLuhan had one of the best theories of media of all time! One of the best theories of all time!

9 Comments on “I’m Going To Let You Finish”

  1. lee #

    Is there some coded racism that’s part of this meme/phenomenon? “Taylor is classy, Kanye is a douche. Taylor is country, Kanye is hip hop. Taylor is white, Kanye is black.”

    This is most evident in the way “Imma” has been so essential to this meme’s identity. That turn of African-American pronunciation/spelling has been used to further emphasise the “otherness” of Kanye and his actions (as if they needed any more emphasis.

    It’s also closely related to the mangled English of the LOLCat meme; i.e., “imma” is substitue for “I can haz” or some other nonstandard English phrasing. Their purposes are the same: portray the subject (Kanye West or a cat) as less than fully intelligent…or dare I say, hoomin?


  2. perich OTI Staff #

    @lee: Normally I’d be with you on that, but:

    (1) I think “I’mma” has transcended black culture and is now sufficiently urban so as not to be inherently racist.

    (2) Most of the meme images have Kanye commenting quite literately on some esoteric subjects (e.g., Hobbes and Locke’s social contracts; Gandhi’s philosophical anarchism; the flag on the Reichstag; etc). So even if the original event was couched in racial terms, the surrounding meta-commentary is not.

    (3) The hero of this whole story is Beyonce, so that sort of trashes the black/white thing.


  3. Melissa #

    I would add a 5th theory to why this whole thing has blown up so much: because a grown man took the stage away from a CHILD. A child in expensive clothes and makeup, granted, but still…it’s not like one of the Jonas Brothers grabbed the mic from her; it was a 30-something man who definitely should’ve known better.

    Maybe it’s because she asked him backstage if he liked fish sticks?


  4. dock #

    Marshall McLuhan shout out! Love it!


  5. Gab #

    @Melissa: Taylor Swift is nineteen. She has been a legal adult in all fifty states for a year now. Sure, she’s young and technically still a teenager, but “child” is a bit of a stretch for me.

    West is a “jackass,” as Obama put it so nicely- and I think the fact that even his opponents aren’t using it against Obama says everybody agrees with that candid and honest assertion. I don’t really care too much about it, but I do think Swift has handled it very well and maturely (check out her little interview on The View, for example).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSErLA9LIaE – it isn’t spam, he makes a very OTI argument. We’re offended for her and for ourselves.

    I didn’t watch the ceremony itself, but I heard about some of the jokes the host, Russel Brand, made, so I read them later; and while they don’t surprise me because of his sense of humor (and how he seems to think rape and objectification is funny), they rather made the feminist in me agitated. Here’s a quote of the worst one:

    “She has admitted she is a little bit cuckoo upstairs and I have trained in psychiatry. So Megan, if you do have a little dizzy spell love, I could probably drop you a little pill. You can go and have a lie down in my dressing room. You might get some crazy dreams about being visited by a scarecrow, a perfumed weirdo leaning over you. But let me tell you, that’s a common side-effect. Megan, take your medicine.”

    I may not like Megan Fox, but I don’t condone joking about slipping *any* woman (or man) a date rape pill. So I just find it interesting (and a little sad) that the West-Swift thing got all of the attention- the optimist in me wants to think Brand would have received more heat had West kept his mouth shut, but the cynic in me says nobody would have given a damn, regardless. On their own, the jokes I quoted are offensive, imo; the other jokes about women he made (ones about Lady Gaga’s “penis” and Katy Perry needing him as a “shoulder to cry on) weren’t that bad on their own, but in the context of his entire routine that night, and especially in comination with the Megan Fox line(s), Brand seems lucky he didn’t face a firing squad the next day. Hell, that night, even.

    Why *did* it get more attention, then? Well, I’d chock it up to how it wasn’t part of the “plan,” so to speak, for one thing. Brand’s jokes were scripted (even if from the backstage area in between segments- he had to go onstage with at least an *idea* of what he was going to say each time) (which, arguably, makes them even more offensive than if they had been totally improvised- call it “premeditation”), whereas West’s outburst interrupted the proceedings with a dramatic spectacle. And spectacle it was, in comparison- lines delivered on stage in a routine are mellower than someone jumping out of nowhere, snatching a microphone, and yelling. Brand’s lines were less visually stimulating than West’s “performance.” Also, there was nothing sexist about West’s outburst 9after all, he was doing it in “defense” of another woman), meaning it has a more universal pool of potential “victims,” meaning people likely to be offended- Brand’s pool of “victims” is limited to feminists and those more sensitive to humor objectifying women. West was impolite, something more frequently and readily recognized as such than objectification.

    I’ll stop rambling and usurping the thread now (for, as per usual, I could go on/elaborate more), but that’s some of my own personal overthinking of the whole thing.


  6. James T. #

    I’m going with (4) on this one – I think the growth of communications and the ease of access of media has reached a point where all it took was a celebrity with a quirky enough reputation to do something sufficiently ridiculous to set of a memealanche.

    I’m still surprised at the rapid growth of this thing – within a week, there’s a detailed and well-documented Wikipedia page, political figures such as Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter have weighed in, and people who are usually the last to hear about these things are proclaiming it tired and played-out. It really says something about the speed of communication; the water-cooler has suddenly become both instantaneous and ubiquitous.


  7. Jack Daly #

    I’m just curious as to why singers get awarded for music videos.

    Do they double as competent directors, producers, cinematographers (etc.)?


  8. Cody #

    Back on the subject of paradoxes, how is it that the Best Video Of The Year (Beyonce, which is a whole other dilemma cuz watching the video made dumber and i wish kanye hadn’t made me waste those 3 mins of my life trying to figure out what he was talking about) isn’t even nominated for Best Female Video. Last time I checked Beyonce was female. Even Lady Gaga was nominated and that’s questionable. If you have the best video of the year shouldn’t your video be better than the rest of the females of that year.


  9. CppThis #

    I think it’s a combination of 3, 4, and 5 (from earlier post). I shall explain:

    3. Kanye was drunk off his ass. There’s pictures floating around of him swigging straight from a bottle of cognac, sort of like how Mickey Rourke did at some awards show a while back. Remember that one? Apparently boozing equals comedy, even if it’s only implied.

    4. A lot of the people in a position to kick-start memes don’t follow music videos that closely. The Internet is serious business to them so they probably weren’t watching those earlier shows. The VMAs however get a lot of mainstream hype, thanks in no small part to their history of over the top antics. So people were watching live when he did it this year.

    5. Swift isn’t a “kid” but there’s a big difference between offending people like U2 and Jay-Z–veterans with loads of cash and decades of industry experience–and doing it to a newcomer for whom this is their first big break. Plus a lot of people feel that rappers get away with too much outrageous crap as it is (show of hands, who thinks they’d invite Taylor Swift back if she got blasted and crashed Kanye’s speech?). So the incident is kind of in that gray area where people aren’t about to bust out the pitchforks, but do feel the incident requires copious amounts of bad jokes as a sort of unconscious social punishment.


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