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Ego-Check: Kanye West Out of Control at 2009 MTV Video Music Awards

posted by Ethan Nichtern

Question of the Day: I came across this interesting piece about the 2009 MTV VMA’s last night: Kanye West took the mic out of the hands of Taylor Swift as she was accepting an award, and went on a massive ego-maniacal rant. The audience was shocked and appalled; Kanye got booed for the rest of the night. The MC tried to settle everyone down by making a joke about Serena Williams outburst at the US Open.

kanye_west.jpgBut my question is this: aren’t the Video Music Awards one big ego-festival? Isn’t MTV one big celebration of over-the-top me-ness? Weren’t Kanye’s actions in line with the true unspoken spirit of the night? Or do you not care at all?

A message from a Buddhist, hip-hop loving friend this morning got me thinking: Are those of us who watch the VMA’s any better than Kanye? Or, rather, is he just the king of our ego-wackness? (credit for accompanying photo unknown.)

Food for thought.



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Patrick Groneman

posted September 14, 2009 at 11:08 am


It appeared to me that Kanye’s actions last night were more driven by self-promotion than any sort of sincere appreciation of Beyonce’s video (In which case he would have waited until asked what he thought of the awards). In that case I would say he very well articulated the general feel of the “Video Music Awards” which in a similar way is all about self-promotion and pop-myth perpetuation than any real celebration of craft.



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James

posted September 14, 2009 at 12:34 pm


In this age of Facebook, Twitter, et al, it seems anyone with an internet presence is probably driven by ego a little bit. We’re all selling something (I believe there was a blog on the “Branding of Buddhism” here just a few days ago); it’s America. Some of us (Kanye) just have more exposure than others.
From @tinybuddha on Twitter today: “What you are is what you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now.” ~Buddha



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Jaime McLeod

posted September 14, 2009 at 1:09 pm


Kanye West can do no wrong. I don’t care how big his ego is, I love him. Any rapper who stands up for gays and lesbians, fearlessly speaks the truth to power (“George Bush does not care about black people!”), rhymes about the pitfalls of samsara as masterfully as he did in “All Falls Down,” and continues to produce the sickest beats in the business will always have my utmost respect.



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Natanya

posted September 14, 2009 at 1:18 pm


Kanye was drunk – there are pictures of him on the red carpet with a bottle of Hennessy and he admitting to taking swigs before the show. I think he was out of line but it makes sense for him since this isn’t his first outburst at t VMA event. What I think is amazing about this incident is it created an opportunity for Beyonce to be incredibly gracious when she gave up her acceptance speech for best video and invoted Taylor Swift to have her moment in the spotlight. isn’t that what life is all about? What we do with what we’re dealt?



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Red Shelley

posted September 14, 2009 at 2:05 pm


Speaking of “over-the-top me-ness” Did you listen to Madonna’s tribute eulogy to Michael Jackon at the 2009 VMAs. Love how it was about Michael Jackson…… Now back to me me me me. But it was a good speech, nevertheless.



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Spencesation

posted September 14, 2009 at 2:15 pm


Kanye once admitted that he is VERY insecure, and that’s why he’s always talkin’ so much “smack”..Rappers whole modus operandi is to shock and outrage the status quo…Watching the VMAs with RESISTANCE is futile…Just watch with non-attachment, and allow the freak show to unfold…



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Kauko

posted September 14, 2009 at 2:51 pm


“But my question is this: aren’t the Video Music Awards one big ego-festival? Isn’t MTV one big celebration of over-the-top me-ness? Weren’t Kanye’s actions in line with the true unspoken spirit of the night? Or do you not care at all?”
I often think the same thing about American culture in general. I wonder if this isn’t the most solipsistic cuture on earth. Me, me, me its all about me….. of course, in my case, it really is all about me :)



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Anan E. Maus

posted September 14, 2009 at 6:47 pm


It seemed to me to be a pretty clear, straight-up protest of bubble-gum music vs. quality music. I don’t know enough about either Beyonce or the blond country gal to know if it is a valid criticism…
but all the bubble gum music by models-turned-into-singers is certainly a valid subject for debate.
and yeah, she is very very very very very very white. and I don’t mean that in a good way. Maybe it was also a protest about racism in music. Which, I am sure, there is plenty of…
Not too long ago I saw “Master Class” – about Maria Callas. Featured in the play were about 4 or 5 young singers, all trained opera singers, that I had never heard of…and I imagine very few others had heard of. Each of these singers was so massively talented…it just makes the entire pop world look like a bunch of insane seals squealing.
There is real musical talent in the country. And it is rarely represented in the pop realm. So, criticism of that? Sure…it is a very, very, very valid thing. And I don’t mean classical vs. pop…I mean no talent or little talent with a model’s face vs. actual musical quality, creativity and expression.
I think there is some massive talent out there in the pop world, in the hip hop world and in country too…just that we get presented with the bubblegum that the various companies are trying to shove down our throats.
and speaking of some quality…
David Zasloff plays the Japanese Shakuhachi Flute
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1vW24fFeDM



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Steve

posted September 15, 2009 at 5:34 am


Yet again, another post having nothing to do with Buddhism and everything to do with judging secular beings in secular matters that have nothing to do with Buddhism. Quit judging people. There are enough religions that do that. This is a lesson to learn, not to ridicule.



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Ethan

posted September 15, 2009 at 7:26 am


“secular beings in secular matters that have nothing to do with Buddhism.”
@Steve: This blog is all about secular beings (us), secular matters (life) and their relationship to Buddhism (living life in an awakened, interdependent, and compassionate manner).
So we deal with culture, politics, art, media AND Buddhist practice here.
Thanks for reading!



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Matt Jones

posted September 15, 2009 at 7:41 am


Why isn’t anyone talking about how dope Lady Ga Ga’s performance was?! FAKE BLOOD!!!



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darlene

posted September 15, 2009 at 10:32 am


As a black female in the music business I was very emabarrassed for Kaye, Taylor and Beyonce. I watched his apology on Leno last night and i think he was sincere. He needs time off to heal and grow up! I dont know Taylors music and I dont like Kanyes or beyonce music….but it was clear that the people voted…and the people have spoken. Kanyes needs a big ego check, perhaps ome buddist humbling!



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Jen W.

posted September 15, 2009 at 11:02 am


Kanye is in his struggle. When we choose to judge him, we are in our own struggle.



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Ethan

posted September 15, 2009 at 11:08 am


@Jen W. Very True. But do we want someone who is that “in his struggle” to have access to a mic whenever he wants it?



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Jen W.

posted September 15, 2009 at 11:39 am


Ethan, I do not believe we have control over anything other than our own actions, which includes how we choose to process situations and react to things. When we focus our energy on becoming the best individuals we can be, we are no longer impacted by things that previously ‘miffed’ us. Judging others does not serve us, therefore, consciously abandoning one’s need to be ‘right’ is freeing. Passing judgment goes hand in hand with an ego based reality and once exposing the ego, as well as examining our own motives in judging others (such as elevating ourselves in order to feel a temporary sense of superiority or shaming/blaming/guilting and/or expressing disapproval toward others)…..we can find our truth.



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Barton

posted September 15, 2009 at 1:03 pm


Had Kanye not “acted out”, we would not be having this dialog and the opportunity it brings to our inner voice and to share our thoughts with others. He certainly has brought about a huge conversation with all who saw it and those who have observed the controversy it created. Jen has made me reevaluate my own inner dialog. Thanks.



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Karen

posted September 15, 2009 at 2:00 pm


What amazes me most isn’t that people are complaining about West’s deplorable behavior, it is the fact that so few commend the beautiful way the 2 women involved handled the whole thing.
Ms. Swift could have gone Diva and thrown a tantrum of her own but she didn’t and Miss Beyonce could have simply ignored the situation, but instead of giving her own acceptance speech she ask Taylor back on stage.
Why can we not commend and admire these young women for behaving the way we should all behave in a difficult situation instead of glorifying the deplorable actions of one man by talking about it ad nauseum.
Ignore the behavior you don’t want and reward the behavior you do want.



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Empathetics

posted September 15, 2009 at 2:56 pm


@Karen: Well said!



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Jen W.

posted September 15, 2009 at 3:30 pm


Should, would and could are egoic terms which become obstacles in life. We can not be ‘present’ if we refer to the past or live in the future. As divine individuals, we each have our own experiences and beliefs, therefore, we process and react to things according to our own unique interpretation. There is no right or wrong because ultimately, if we are to judge anyone, let it be ourselves. We each have the ability to create a belief system that accurately reflects who we are as individuals. While our beliefs may differ from our neighbors, this does not give us the right to judge them.



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Veronica

posted September 15, 2009 at 4:21 pm


I enjoyed very much the reconciliation between the two women and attributed Kanye’s “message” as a signal of some inner pain he’s experiencing. This, too, can be reconciled and not condemned.



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Your Name

posted September 16, 2009 at 12:11 am


I agree that his behavior screamed ego-mania but isn’t that why we are here (samsara). The fact that we can see that is encouraging but I must say that being repulsed and annoyed habituates a response that is neither compassionate nor helpful to one-self (me again). It is a big freak show, so why should I be anything more than amused, curious and grateful (that it was not me making an ass of myself [me again]).



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Jen W.

posted September 16, 2009 at 10:38 am


“I must say that being repulsed and annoyed habituates a response that is neither compassionate nor helpful to one-self ” — Bingo ~ Your Name~! ~**** Namaste ****~



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