The Village Voice talked to Cornel West about his new spoken word CD, Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations. He and “Brother Prince,” wrote the album’s first single, “Dear Mr. Man,” and have become good friends.
“Dear Mr. Man,” an organ-goosed open letter to the U.S. government in which most of West’s contributions consist of ad-libs like “Break it down, Brother Prince!”, finds the Purple One railing against environmental abuses, constitutional abuses, Geneva Conventions abuses, and institutional racism. We tired of y’all, he says. We tired of y’all spyin’ on fellow citizens, adds West. We tired of y’all lyin’ to justify war. We tired of y’all torturing innocent people. And though other Never Forget tracks like “America” (featuring Black Thought and Rah Digga), “Mr. President” (featuring KRS-One and M1), and “Bushonomics” (featuring Talib Kweli) tout similar sentiments, not all of the fire and brimstone here is directed at the White House. West also calls out his rap-artist brothers and sisters for “degradin’ other folk.”
“50 Cent, Snoop, Game, Nelly,” West says, as if he’s writing their names on the board. “On one level, I love those brothers, because their artistic and aesthetic work is a part of who I am . . . . On the other hand, I challenge those brothers because I’m just against misogyny. I’m against homophobia. So somebody can be in my house and in my community and I still have to present a moral critique, because I’m just against those things. I just think they’re wrong. “So the question is,” West continues, “how do I deal with the love and embrace of them as artists and at the same time respectfully challenge them? So in that sense, I’m not really with the crowd that trashes hip-hop. I can’t stand that. That’s ridiculous. And I’m not with the crowd that somehow tries to give some justification for misogyny or homophobia. I just think the critique of homophobia has to be more explicit on hip-hop records—that’s why I’ve addressed it on my album. Including the domestic violence and the misogyny and the sexism and so forth—it goes hand in hand with that. That’s true with anything—anti-Semitism, it could be racism, any form of bigotry. I just have to take a stand against that. It’s just who I am. Now that’s a little different from this post-Imus trashing of Snoop. Because I’m not part of that crowd. At all.”