Kanye West's White Guy Voice for 'Time'

Kanye West lands Time's Most Influential list First off, congratulations to Kanye West for making Time magazine’s 2015 100 Most Influential People list. Unquestionably, the “boundary breaker” deserves to be there and as Elon Musk, who authored West’s Time bio, points out, “Kanye West would be the first to tell you he belongs on the list.”

I take no issue with West’s inclusion or even his ego, only his voice on the accompanying video of his Time write up. Yes, his voice. It’s affected, nasal, all treble and no bass, a far cry from how he sounded in interviews when “College Dropout” debuted 11 years ago, or even when “My Dark Twisted Fantasy” dropped in 2010. The new voice isn’t how he sounds on his most recent album, “Yeezus.” Where did it come from? And better, when can it be sent back?

The new voice sounds like exactly what it is: a Black man trying to imitate a stereotypical white voice. To be clear, I’m not playing into the idea that to sound educated or intelligent is to sound “white.” Kanye sounded educated and intelligent with the old voice, the one with bass. But I absolutely think West, on his well-documented quest to be beloved by European designers, and Europeans, in general, is playing into the idea that white is right with this new voice. And it’s strange to me that this accomplished, intelligent, articulate Black man raised on the South Side of Chicago got way “on” and now, after at least a decade of speaking publically and everyone knowing what he actually sounds like, feels the need to code switch to stay there or get to wherever’s next.

West debuted this new voice two years ago when he appeared on the short lived talk show hosted by his now- Mother in Law, Kris Jenner. And was largely roasted for it by his Black fans. Some gave him a pass for trying to sound “professional”– which he absolutely did with bass in his voice– when speaking to Jenner and appealing to her middle-aged studio audience. Maybe it would have gone over better for the viewing audience hadn’t been listening to Kanye for a decade and didn’t know the obvious difference.

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Beyonce' Named Time's Most Influential, But All Anyone Talks About Is the Photo

  Beyonce Time Cover

Evidently it’s the “list” time of year, and so far black girls are winning. On Tuesday, People magazine debuted its 50 Most Beautiful issue, starring none other than media (and fan) darling Lupita Nyong’o on the cover. Not to be outdone, this morning, Time released its annual 100 Most Influential People issue, featuring singer Beyoncé on its cover. Nyong’o’s issue went over pretty well (at least in my circles). Beyoncé’s, though? Um ... not so much.

In her Time bio, ’Yoncé is lauded by Lean In author and Facebook honcho Sheryl Sandberg, who effusively praises the singer-actress-performer turned wife-mother-feminist. Sandberg makes a brief but solid argument that plays off Sandberg’s lean-in catchphrase: “Beyoncé doesn’t just sit at the table. She builds a better one.”

Sandberg describes how Bey’s last album—the self-titled audiovisual gem she dropped with zero notice or promotion last December—“shattered music industry rules and sales records.” (That’s not just fan hype. Beyoncé holds the record for fastest-selling album in iTunes history and has sold more than 3 million copies.) Sandberg goes on to mention Bey’s sold-out world tour and notes the singer’s (somewhat shaky) track record of raising “her voice both on- and offstage to urge women to be independent and lead.” (Admittedly, she’s getting better.)

I’m far from being Beyoncé’s biggest fan—though I love the latest album—but it’s hard to argue that

she doesn’t have the influence to earn that Time-cover spot. I expected people to try to argue against it anyway, because, well, that’s what the Internet is there for. But nope, folks surprised me. Instead, everyone’s talking about what Beyoncé looks like on the Time cover, as if she’s over there with Nyong’o on People’s Most Beautiful cover.

I have to ask, though: Should it really matter what she looks like?

Apparently. The (sad) consensus among many social media readers is that this Time cover isn’t Bey’s best look. The complaints are many:

She’s “too skinny”—“look at her thighs!”

“She looks sick!”

“Her hair is too straight” or “too blonde!”

“She looks white!!!”


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