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“Turn up the lights… I want you to see everything.” Kanye West

“Turn up the lights… I want you to see everything.” Kanye West

posted on Saturday December 11, 2010 | in The Crystal Tearoom | 12 Comments

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Something has been bugging me.  There is a line in this speech from Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser al Missned that has been bugging me. This one:

“And who are these heroes? What kind of role models are being offered to our young people? What kind of ethics have become important? Are these the ethics of the globalization we have chosen? Certainly the media plays a major role in constructing the heroes of today—the cultural capital of economic based globalization. In the absence of leadership from their rulers they can trust and admire, young people are looking to hip hop stars … for guidance. And certainly the guidance they are receiving there will not lead us to a culture based on empathy and equity and the peaceful resolution of conflict.”

Now I tend to agree with the general sentiment of Sheikha Mozah’s point of view but I think it is not fair to Hip Hop to and its stars to generalize and box them in such way.  While as in anything else there is  a lot of fluff we cannot discount the value of muscians such as: Nas, Talib Kweli, Kanye West, Tupac Shakur to name a tiny few.  I think before one can make such a broad generalization one should be more informed.  For this reason I think everyone should pay very close attention to the lyrics of Kanye West’s song “All of the lights”  I could write a whole thesis on it.  Please read it below and you can listen to it in the following post on Karlie Kloss.

P.S and I don’t even want to get into the issue of the Wall Street Journal being upset that President Obama has Lil’Wayne on his Ipod.

ALL OF THE LIGHTS

Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Elton John

All of the lights (all of the lights)
(Lights, lights)
All of the lights (all of the lights)

[Rihanna]
Turn up the lights in here baby
Extra bright, I want y’all to see this
Turn up the lights in here, baby
You know what I need
Want you to see everything
Want you to see all of the lights

(all of the lights)

Fast cars, shooting stars
(all of the lights, all of the lights)
Until it’s Vegas everywhere we are
(all of the lights, all of the lights)

If you want it you can get it for the rest of your life
If you want it you can get it for the rest of your life

[Kanye West]
Something wrong
I hold my head
MJ gone…our n-gga dead!
I slapped my girl, she called the feds
I did that time and spent that bread
I’m heading home, I’m almost there
I’m on my way, heading up the stairs
To my surprise, a n-gga replacing me
I had to take ‘em to that ghetto university

[Chorus]
All of the lights
Cop lights, flash lights, spot lights
Strobe lights, street lights
(all of the lights, all of the lights)
Fast life, drug life
Thug life, rock life
Every night
(all of the lights)

[Rihanna]
Turn up the lights in here, baby
Extra bright, I want y’all to see this
Turn up the lights in here, baby
You know what I need, want you to see everything
Want you to see all of the lights

[Kanye West]
Restraining order
Can’t see my daughter
Her mother, brother, grandmother hate me in that order
Public visitation
We met at Borders
Told her she take me back
I’ll be more supportive
I made mistakes
I bump my head
Courts suck me dry
I spent that bread
She need a daddy
Baby please, can’t let her grow up in that ghetto university

[Chorus]
All of the lights


Cop lights, flash lights, spot lights

Strobe lights, street lights
(all of the lights, all of the lights)
Fast life, drug life
Thug life, rock life
Every night
(all of the lights)

[Rihanna]
Turn up the lights in here, baby
Extra bright, I want y’all to see this
Turn up the lights in here, baby
You know what I need, want you to see everything
Want you to see all of the lights

[Kid Cudi]
Getting mine, baby
Gotta let these n-ggas know, yeah
Get it right, ay
You should go and get your own

Getting mine, baby
Gotta let these n-ggas know, yeah
Get it right, ay
You should go and get your own

[Fergie]
Unemployment line, credit card declined
Did I not mention I was about to lose my mind?
(my mind, my mind, my mind)
And also was about to do that line
Okay, okay, you know we going all the way this time
(this time, this time, this time)
We going all the way this time
(time, time, time, time)
We going all the way this time

We going all the way this time
We going all the way this time

Turn up the lights in here, baby
Extra bright, I want y’all to see this
Turn up the lights in here, baby
You know what I need, want you to see everything
Want you to see all of the lights

[Alicia Keys]
Whoaa-oh-whoa
Whoaa-oh-whoa-oh

[Elton John]
I tried to tell you but all I could say is ohhhh

[Alicia Keys]
Whoaa-oh-whoa
Whoaa-oh-whoa-oh

[Elton John]
I tried to tell you but all I could say is ohhhh

[Alicia Keys]
Whoaa-oh-whoa
Whoaa-oh-whoa-oh

[Elton John]
I tried to tell you but all I could say is ohhhh

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12 Comments

  1. […] the absence of leadership from their rulers they can trust and admire, young people are looking to hip hop stars, extremist political leaders, and gang leaders, for guidance. And certainly the guidance they are […]

  2. Alex P. (Reply) on Saturday 11, 2010

    Hip Hop is offering the same narrative that every other facet of our culture is offering: the American hustle. It kind of bothers me that cut-throat politicians get down on rap artists because of “violence” when they carry out the same cut-throat tactics on each other. Dog-eat-dog, competition, power/ material obsessions and lusting after beautiful, shallow women: these are the same motivations that drive George Soros, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jay-Z. Just because one of them is honest about it, and had to literally risk his neck to find success, it doesn’t make him a bad role model.

    And frankly, I get more inspired by the wordplay of Kanye or Nas or Biggie than from the empty sterilized bs coming from the mouths of most politicians and market analysts.

    I would love to write a thesis about opposing attitudes towards capitalism and success in Jay’s “Empire State of Mind” vs. Nas’ “NY State of Mind”.

  3. thelifestylemaven (Reply) on Saturday 11, 2010

    Stereo types of any sort are dangerous! I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a “hip hop head” but i appreciate it as much as i do other genres. Hip Hop really gets a bad (excuse the pun)…rap. I won’t delve too deep into the musical genius (although at times arrogant) that is Kanye West, but the man is seriously talented and if you dissect some of his and other hip hop artistes lyrics you will find many messages of empathy and equity and peaceful resolution of conflict. I agree 100% that people should be more informed before they go about making grandiose statements like what Her Highness did.

  4. MR.MEYER (Reply) on Saturday 11, 2010

    THE SMART ONES ARE OFTEN UNSEEN OR SPOKEN ABOUT AS THERE ARE ALWAYS RARE IN ANY KIND OF GENRE.

  5. safs (Reply) on Saturday 11, 2010

    I tend to agree with most points made in this post though I think the error occurred when Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser al Missned used “hip-hop stars” in place of celebrity – as it almost seems that a certain group of persons is being singled out. I do not discount that many hip-hop stars speak eloquently (and artfully) of the trials of life, expanding on the experience of the American poor and glorifying their rise out of poverty or middle class into a nouveau rich lifestyle. Everyone is entitled to tell his (or her story) – freedom of speech is one of the many gifts of the American culture. Though with that said, hip-hop stars can be very fickle in their approach to lyrics as with any art form or entertainment piece those issues that are dismal and dejected are often less sexy and less popular. Art in its definition really has no boundary. I think this is what Her Highness refers to in her statement on the state of current ethics – for artists provide guidance in art not in ethics. Miscommunication is often the root of most arguments, debates and wars and if something is not clearly defined it can be interpreted in many ways. However in the context of Her Highness’s speech it seems very much that she is alluding to cultural ethics and moral , i.e., one’s responsibility to society, i.e. one’s role in promoting sound values and instilling a good sense of what is good and right into the new generation. If this is the case then having the media force the ‘celebrity culture’ (this includes hip-hop stars) – a culture rife with superficiality and the skewed ethics of misconstruing what is right and good, is certainly not the kind of values or morals that should dictate our generations’s input into society. Misconstrued ethics results in mis-educated leaders and consequent unintelligible decisions. In a world already plagued by conflicts over land, race, rights and dwindling resources – I do agree with her Highness’s concern for the lack of promotion of sound ethics, and despite how many times you listen to lyrics from an artist that discuss such issues, whatever inspiration (or ethical stirrings) it provides often is trumped by another song of that same artist that promotes ‘sex, drugs, women and fast cars’. In the end, often what sells isn’t “sexy” and entertainment should not be mixed up with real issues.

  6. safs (Reply) on Saturday 11, 2010

    Regarding the above song, though a favorite of mine of the album I seem these days to never stop playing, I wonder though what really is the message of the song? Kanye’s lyrics suggest a discussion on making bad choices, abuse, adultery, dysfunctional families and the american criminal system. Fergie’s lyrics espouses a similar narrative – again a lifestyle reflective of the american poor – unemployment, credit card abuse and drugs. The hook seems to fall into the same category as well referring to “lights” symbolic of the american poor (subtle references to drug busts and street hustling). Rihanna hints at revealing the “lights”, i.e. the nature of rampant street crime within poverty and Kid Cudi’s own lyrics symbolizes the voice of the poor, having to “get one’s own” – a reference to attaining money for survival.

    Yet it many ways this story has been told many times before within rap, in many different ways, by many different voices. For me the difference is (let’s compare to Tupac, Nas or Jay-Z’s earlier work even) – this story meant more coming from the lyrics of an artists who has truly experienced it – which Kanye, Fergie, Alicia, nor Elton have (Kid Cudi’s lines almost seems appropriate as he grew up in East New York). Therefore this story of urban poverty is almost cliched, even forced as a to say – “hey I can talk about real issues too”. Music should have soul. Soul comes from experience, empathy and compassion. This song to me, though catchy has no soul. Therefore what is its message?

    I’m slightly confused by Elton John’s line “I tied to tell you…..” – “Is he speaking on behalf of the messages of old rap as in “these issues have been around for so long that people should be better educated on what’s right and what’s wrong and what works and what doesn’t work?”(this point opens up a whole other discussion) or as a character within the story that “tried to warn his friend about making bad choice”, Is it a reference to drug abuse as Elton did deal with drug issues in the past?

    I agree with the point made by Alex P and Shala I can certainly see why one can write a thesis on this…

  7. MR.MEYER (Reply) on Saturday 11, 2010

    Safs i see the song as more of a concept to relate or inspire or think about not all things need to have soul to be Rap. Soul is just an aspect of music it does not define music in total itself. i understand we humans tend to want everything explained to the bone…. there for asking or self all the unanswered live questions instead of living it .
    this song trigger’s just enough for me to think about other things, which may not even have to do with the concept of the song .
    For me i don’t try to find meaning of the artist intention, i try to find what it means to me .
    Like Kanye and the rest off us ….is learning along the way he does not hold the candle of truth in his hands he is merely expressing his findings .
    Decoding rap is like decoding the bible its open for every one to read into it as they think it is or should be.

  8. safs (Reply) on Saturday 11, 2010

    Wise words Mr. Meyer…wise words! Thank you for your response!

  9. Natasha Ndlovu (Reply) on Saturday 11, 2010

    Thanks for sharing the lyrics to this song in relation to the article you read. It’s my first time knowing about this song. I have particularly been a fan of Kanye West’s music (never mind the Taylor Swift moment) because of his lyrics and the way he raps about the life’s simple yet universal problems. Unfortunately there are only 1 Yeezys and Tupacs out of every 20 “B**** n’ Hos” type rappers, so to the Sheika who doesn’t listen to the genre in the first place, it is easy for her to generalise, instead of taking the time to find the diamond in the rough when it comes to hip hop music.

  10. malika (Reply) on Saturday 11, 2010

    For me i don’t try to find meaning of the artist intention, i try to find what it means to me . Mr. Meyer

    2 sides ! Power of art …

  11. Kelli (Reply) on Saturday 11, 2010

    Have you seen/heard this?!?!?! http://www.worldstarhiphop.com/videos/video.php?v=wshhnXPnzC8GOKh6G1cX
    “Orchestra Covers Kanye West song ‘All of the Lights’!”
    Andrea of the blog Fly posted it last week. How cool is this!? I thought of you and this old post when I saw it.

  12. […] tend to agree with most points made in this post though I think the error occurred when Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser al Missned used […]

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