Monday, September 14, 2009

Complicated Magnificence

Monday, September 14, 2009: We are 3 days removed from the 8th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the nation paused to remember those who were lost.

We all respectfully mourned and recalled the tragic events of the day, but there were two other larger-than-life showings that appeared on my personal radar on 9/11/09. Then, as if that wasn't quite enough, there were three more blips that dominated my eye as the weekend wound down.

Footnote: Normally, when I guest blog, it’s based on a perfect storm of "happenstance" and ideal. These two entities smash into each other moving pretty fast, and they become a conceptual thought that ends up here. Thanks Brookey.

Here's the translation: something happens, I get an idea about the circumstance of what happened, it gives birth to a concept in this head of mine, and the thought blossoms here. I hope you can feel my process on that.

So, if you'll allow me to stretch my legs on this concept, let's get to it.

On Friday, 9/11, Michael Jordan was enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The ultimate Basketball icon of our generation was being immortalized. He played the game, he changed the game, and the world now knows the symbol of a black man with arms outstretched and legs extended with ball in hand as the definitive insignia of Basketball excellence. Basketball was ours before, but this excellence was a fresh angle on what "people" had been doing for years.

On Friday, 9/11, Jay-Z released his 11th studio album, "The Blueprint 3" and played to a sold-out Madison Square Garden. With a star-studded lineup and the proceeds going to charity, Jigga put on a larger than life show in a feat of promotional and marketing genius. Jay-Z has indeed done it again with a CD chock full of bangers, but there was something else to viewing the concert that aired at a cleverly orchestrated 9 - 11 pm on 9/11.

Hip-Hop was ours before, but this excellence was another fresh angle on what "people" had been doing for years.

At this point, the day draws to a close. As I watched Jay-Z, I recalled his critics doubting his ability to endure; they questioned many of his musical directions, and cajoled him for some bad choices in some bad scenes here and there. With that said, Jay-Z's image has remained largely unscathed, and if you can name a more iconic rapper without the benefit of an acting career, I'm all ears. Jay-Z is complicated, yet magnificent. Think of it this way: ladies will openly admit to his deficiencies in the "attractive" area. They will tell you he's not a good looking dude. Yet they love his ability to make THEM believe that if you smell somethin' stankin, it’s him. He makes you believe he's the sh**…and he's a master at it. Inherently though, it is HIS belief in himself that makes this happen. If you've ever seen his concert film "Fade to Black," you know what I'm talking about. At one point following the recording of one track, you can witness Jay-Z feeling moved by himself. He listens to the lyrics he just laid down without benefit of having them written, and vibes with the sound of his own voice. He seems to bob his head with a look in his eye like "Oh my God…do you hear this dude?"

Meanwhile, I flip the channel to Jordan's acceptance speech on my DVR, which has been panned by many (and I'm no exception). While I'm watching, I couldn't help but reminisce on his sheer magnificence.

Make no mistake: Michael Jordan was a scintillating, creative, rhythmic masterpiece with a basketball in his hand. He possessed a competitive fire the equivalent of a towering inferno, and could impose his will upon an opponent at a moment's notice. Yet, he was complicated. There were many instances throughout his reign where his “greatness” was called into question off the court - only to be hushed, kept low and kept away from Basketball.

Rightfully so. We witnessed his genius with the subtle deficiencies, and one such deficiency revealed itself in his acceptance speech. The speech was laced with jabs at those who had wronged him throughout his career, with a few quiet stabs at those he deemed inferior to his ability along the way. For a frozen moment, I didn't dig him. It was as if this older Jordan had stolen the innocence of my younger fan-hood - and it became complicated again. While I went back and forth, he kept talking…and His Magnificence became more and more…complicated.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon - Eldrick "Tiger" Woods cruises to a victory at the BMW Golf Championship to solidify his status as the number one player in the world. We've talked about two examples so far, and Tiger Woods is now the 3rd complicated magnificent example of "how we do it."

You may ask, "Who’s we?" Well, ladies and gentlemen: it’s us…"The Black Man." Remember us? This is how we do it: Complicated Magnificence. Not only are we a force - in many cases we are THE force that moves the barometer of our respective crafts.

See, Tiger is undoubtedly a phenom; but it’s complicated. He's made some decisions along the way some of us may question (I'm sure you know one), but his genius with a golf club in hand is unparalleled. And that's where we're going here. The black man can be complicated, but when we deliver our magnificence, the world won't just know, the world will learn and HAVE to change based on what we bring forth.

Sunday night, the MTV Video Music Awards opened with a stunning, opulent tribute to the King of Pop. For the purpose of this blog, I'll call him the "King of Complicated Magnificence." There is no better example of the black man's complicated magnificence than Michael Jackson - A master of his craft, a tortured soul, a genius, and a relentless competitor against himself. The battles he fought within his own spirit churned out music and video imagery that has indeed reached every corner of the planet and redefined what's good and what's great.

And then, in the blink of any eye, our complicated magnificence turned on a dime again. Kanye West's piracy of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech set us back again. As magnificent as he can be, is as complicated as he is. One is diminished by the nature of the other. While his musical talent continues to evolve, he doesn't surprise us much anymore with his outbursts.

Every family has a “Kanye,” and this race is no exception. You know what I mean: The egomaniacal, conceited/convinced uncle who's always had a bit too much to drink at the family reunion. I call him my "drunkle." He always means well when he grabs the mic at the big gatherings, but 99.9% of the time, it will turn out - (in a word) horrible.

And that's just it. Our magnificence takes all kinds, and Kanye is no exception. We have another example that starts with the letter "R", but by and large, this weekend allowed me to reaffirm my own complicated magnificence.

We all possess it. This exact same magnificence that wags its tongue, that pumps its fist, that nicknames itself in triplicate, that moves crowds, that cuts some "labyrinth" design into our low haircut, that inspires people to action on the dance floor and at the community shelter.
This exact same magnificence can reshape the thinking of the highest office in the land. It can hike up the hem of the pants to accentuate the footwork, mature before our eyes, and be in a fly-by-night business 11 albums strong. It can set trends by the mere mention of what is done and NOT done anymore. It makes a baseball team's hat - THE HAT. It wears sequins. It inexplicably places an armband over a sport coat.

But, remember, this magnificence is complicated. From time to time, it will also go against the grain, it will appear "strange", it will speak improperly, it will set the wrong tone, and it might just come on stage at the wrong time. However, it moves within us - each and every one of us.

Memo to Kanye: You are complicated, but you are magnificent. Sometimes, you just have to simply be “you” to be magnificent. I understood the emotion involved, but I'm willing to bet money Beyonce's stirring, hellified performance of "Single Ladies" was ramped up a notch by her own competitive spirit. For what she didn't get, she didn't even need any motivation - but neither did Jay-Z, Jordan, Tiger, Michael Jackson, or you Kanye. Just be magnificent. I know it’s complicated, but Beyonce made a magnificent statement - and made things simple, not complicated - with an act of grace for the finale.

Memo to each of you and myself: We are complicated, but we are all magnificent. When this magnificence takes form, the world will know and the world will indeed shift in the face of the way we have changed it.

Thank you for the opportunity.



Brooke said...

Let's not forget the complicated magnificence of Serena Williams going off on the line judge - even though I know we're talking about the Black Man.

Whoa :)

The Cable Guy said...

Kanye's actions didn't surprise me at all last night. It's what he does. His album will go platinum, even though he's an asshole. It's sad that he's a jerk, and he's lost my respect...but his music is something else. We'll all be over it in a week...whether we buy his cd or not.

As for MJ...both of them...Tiger and the rest, definitely complicated. And I think as black men we are looked at differently. We're not allowed to be complicated if we're great, even though we have to fight so many other things just to be ALLOWED to be great. All we can hope for is that our greatness overshadows anything we got goin on that's "complicated."

Just my 2 cents.

Annamaria said...

Brooke: Sophia's on her way over to you with her mini

Michael Jordan was magificent...

Michael Jackson still is magnificent...

Barack is magnificent...

Jay-Z is MAGNIFICENT :) I luv him...Concert was amazing. he's grown up nicely..I'll stop now..LOL

Kanye is talented but a fucking fool. What he did last night to that poor kid (let's not forget she is a kid) was utterly disgusting & if I could I would repeatedly tase & shank him for it.

Props to Beyonce. She was flawless & extremely classy with how she handled the situation even though it wasn't hers to handle.

Brooke said...

Jay's concert was great on Friday!

His pants were a lil too baggy tho on the VMA's. Something about jeans hangin off your butt while pushin 40 bothers me a bit :) But I still love him!

Anonymous said...

You don't have to be complicated to be magnificent. You can be flawed, like all human beings are, but you don't necessarily have to be "complicated."

What Kanye did wasn't "complicated" it was arrogant and egotistical. He wasn't giving props to Beyonce, he was showing out for himself. His music is just okay to me, and I don't know that I'd call him magnificent. But either way, there's a difference between being great with flaws and great and an asshole.

Brooke said...

I think when we think of complicated and magnificent - we think more of tortured geniuses, not people who show out and act out simply to get attention.

You could argue that being an asshole isn't complicated - but if that's who you are and you just happen to have talent in an industry where it helps to be liked - then you're tainting your talent in a way. If you can make great music and dance better than anyone on the planet - but you happen to sleep in a bubble and you have a pet monkey - then to some, that may take away from your genius, even tho neither have anything to do with the other.

We all have something about us that some may consider odd, or complicated, or downright sick - but when you couple that with true talent or genius - the flaw becomes magnified in the eyes of others because they want your genius to be pure. Untouched. And that's simply not possible.

Rameer said...

I'm with Cable Guy. Kanye got what he wanted - everyone talking about him and all the attention. Everyone will be bumping his next album heavily...I know I will. MTV got what they wanted - it's annual "did you see that?" moment that they try to set up at EVERY AWARD SHOW. ever watch MTV Award show retrospectives? They almost only show the controversial moments and great performances.

It's what *they want*. And the majority of y'all fall for it hook line and sinker.

Last year, their host caused tons of controversy with his words and actions. So naturally, they booked THE SAME GUY TO HOST AGAIN. Oh, and lest we forget the Sascha Cohen vs. Eminem fiasco, that everyone was all flush over...until an idiot MTV worker revealed on a blog it was a planned stunt. Eventually, Eminem admitted it, and so did MTV. But until then? Hook, line and sinker.

Hell, we can go back to the 90's when Nirvana tore up the stage in their performance of "Lithium". Guess what? MTV proudly shows that moment off...and yes, at the time, it was a "major controversy".

Point is - MTV brings the necessary elements for controversy to each show each year, cuz that's what they want. That's what they're known for. Quick - name the Top Five winners last night without looking it up. Can't can you? That's cuz MTV doesn't even care if you remember.

They want you to tune into to watch *the circus*. And Kanye is always a drink or two away from a moment at awards shows.

Y'all need to watch WWE more often. The storylines are *better*.

Annamaria said...

I know one of the poor winners was Taylor Swift.... LMAO.. No one will ever forget that one..

Brooke said...

To me, Kanye wasn't even the headline. The MJ tribute was. And I'm still scratching my head at Lil Mama.

But back to the blog - Kanye aside (cuz none of us should be surprised by him OR MTV for that matter) - Kanye to me isn't a complicated, tortured genius. When you talk about Michael Jackson, Prince...or even R makes wonder if they'd be the geniuses that they are if they didn't have these demons. It's like it's a pre-requisite to being great - like you have to have SOMETHING about you in order to achieve that level of magnificence.

Annamaria said...

Not sure if it's because I am completely repulsed by him but I don't include R.Kelly in that category. BUT Brooke I do agree with you about MJ & Prince.. They are tortured souls. And I think it does make them the geniuses that they are.

Brooke said...

But to kinda answer my own question - I look at Tiger, Michael Jordan, Barack Obama - and they don't seem tortured to me. They're extremely likeable and "normal" for the talent they possess. But to be other wordly, maybe the demons that M. Jackson and Prince have take them to that level.

Anthony Otero said...

***runs in***

...Ima let you finsh..

It was a show! You had a Villian who made someone a victim and then you had a hero who saved that victim...end of story

(nice how the white women was the victim...think about that shit)

***drops the mic***

Rameer said...

I disagree. Michael Jordan is tortured by his obsession with being the greatest. He's extremely selfish and arrogant...and not well-liked by many in his own profession. They respect his legendary status, but few LIKE him.

He's a compulsive gambler and womanizer, as well. I'd put him in the category for sure. Brooke-Ra, you should read the article I posted on him on my page a few days ago.

I agree with AnnaMaria. I don't put Robert in the category. I actually think it's kind of blasphemous to do so.

I also don't think you need just makes for a better story. Stevie Wonder is cool. So is Tiger Woods, as you mentioned. Not to mention Martin Scorcese, Denzel Washington, Bill Gates, Maya Angelou, Maurice White and numerous others.

Rameer said...

LMBAO @ Ant!!!


You should smacked somebody with the title belt after your speech, though! Lmbao!!!

"Oh no! OH NO!!! Ant's in the ring! Damn him! DAMN HIM!!!"

***cue Mr. Perfect's music***

Brooke said...

I guess I don't think of being a compulsive gambler and a womanizer as part of or linked to his talent...or made him the player he is. Obsessed with being the best may be considered torture, but I wonder then if Tiger suffers the same way...while not being a compulsive gambler or womanizer.
Maybe for me, in my own opinion, having character flaws is not the same as being tortured. And as for being obsessed with being the best...that could be ambition, or determination...and may not be a "demon" per se.

As for Kanye, I think we all know it was a stunt...but Kanye is a repeat offender, not just on MTV, but in general. He's an ego or no show. But he doesn't really strike me as tortured, flawed...not really complicated, and maybe since I don't LOVE his music, I don't consider him a genius...not yet anyway.

The Cable Guy said...

I dunno. I mean, R Kelley is sick for liking to have sex with an pee on little girls, but I'd call his song writing, hit making abilities genius. He can write a damn song, but his obsession with youngins might torture him...knowing it's wrong, but not being able to help himself. Just like some people are repulsed that MJ can sleep in the bed with 13 year old boys. He's the greatest entertainer of all tiem, we all said so, but still - 40 years old sleeping with pre-pubescent boys. That's not matter if you had a childhood or not. You can't explain that more than you explain away having sex with teenage girls.

As for Michael Jordan, most regular joes are womanizers and don't have his talent. That's a character flaw, like B said, not a "demon." Gambling, maybe yes, but he's not broke because of it. This is all kinda relative. Depends on who you deem a genius and what you deem "demons" to be. By all accounts, we all have some, regardless of whether we have talent or not, which is what I think the author and B tried to say.

Brooke said...

I agree with that Cable Guy. And it's true, it's all relative. Some say Kanye is a genius, where I may not see it. Being obsessed with being the best may be torture to one person, while to some that's natural human ambition. I wouldn't say Kobe is tortured because of his worth ethic, but maybe he is. Only we (and God) know what our demons are and what they cause us to feel or become.

Rameer said...

Hmmm. Good points...I'd only say to Cable Guy when I call MJ a is NOT what YOU are thinking of. The average guy *is not* on the level of his Airness...but then, one would have to know about him beneath the Nike-manufactured image that has been so carefully crafted and maintained.

Robert can write a song...but I'm sorry. I personally think y'all are crazy when you call HIM a genius. I can name ten better songwriters off the top of my head:

Diane Warren
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis
Babyface (and L.A. Reid)
Stevie Wonder
Paul Simon
Maurice White
John Mayer
Dave Matthews
Mariah Carey

That's just off the top of the dome, and we're talking sales, awards, critical acclaim AND longevity with each person I just named. Outside of his earlier work, Robert pales to those aforementioned people...imagine if I had time to think about some more songwriters.

He was DOPE in the 90s. But unlike everyone else on that list, no one will be singing "Move your Body Like A Snake" or "Feelin'On Yo Booty" twenty years from

I think you confuse contemporary hit-making with genius. And I think Kanye gets the nod from many cuz of the concepts, lyrics AND producing of beats. There may literally never be another dude who raps that nice whose beats and production are that sick in Hip hop history. The closest would be Jay Dilla...and Kanye's got him lyrically.

My 75 cents.

Brooke said...

Well, guess it's all a matter of personal taste - because I can take or leave Kanye's music. His rapping sounds silly to me sometimes, like he's whining - and I've never felt compelled to buy any of his music. His personality just makes him that much more unappealing to me. Maybe if I was a fan of his music I'd think differently, but I guess since I'm not the fan that others seem to be, I just don't get it...and can't get past his wack personality.

I'm sure he'll continue to sell millions of records...he just won't get any of my money :) Just as I'm sure R won't get any of your money :)

But then again, Rameer doesn't pay for music at all :) with his anti-iTunes self :)

Rameer said...


Did you notice my Facebook profile pic? My baby sis **loves it**...

Anonymous said...

why do people have to be "crazy"? why can't we just agree to disagree? we all have different tastes and perspectives, nothing wrong with that.

Brooke said...

I saw the pic, neither here nor there to me. I usually ignore him. He's good for a laugh every now and again...that's about it.

Annamaria said...

Kanye's an ass. Robert gets ZERO dollars from me... Hov is like crack to me. And to answer anonymous' question we all think each other is crazy that's why we get along sooo well!!!

Rameer said...

Yeah. I'mma need these anonymous heads to not be so sensitive. I call people A LOT WORSE than "crazy"...and get called worse myself. None of us take it personal.

How about "Coo coo for Cocoa Puffs"? Is that better? Or "a few Excedrin tablets short of a full medicine cabinet"??

Lmao...I'm out for the day.

Anonymous said...

guess I just don't see the point of it. but hey, if calling other people crazy if they disagree with you is something you all do, then carry on.

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