For all his foibles, sometimes Kanye West isn’t the one to blame. To be sure, the Grammy Award-winning rapper and producer invites controversy much in the way celebrity watchers and music fans might expect. From West’s shout-out to former President George W. Bush during a ceremony for his honorary doctorate, to his high-profile outings with megastar wife Kim Kardashian, Kanye has built a reputation for candor and unpredictability. Perhaps that very distinction gave the crew of this year’s Billboard Music Awards some extra incentive to heavily censor West as he closed the show on Sunday night, as large portions of the audio feed from his act were muted during the broadcast.
Home viewers, who were unfamiliar with the lyrics to the Kanye West tunes “All Day” and “Black Skinhead,” might well have assumed that the redacted portions of the songs were laden with profanity or other objectionable material that was unfit for the airwaves. Some news outlets summarily criticized West’s performance, basing their assessment almost solely on the telecast’s end result. For example, Business Standard said Kanye “failed to impress” as he “had to be bleeped out continually.” But a Time Magazine article points out that some portions of the censored content didn’t even remotely constitute a breach of FCC regulations.
Kanye West’s representatives released a public statement regarding the BMA broadcast, describing the decision to edit West’s appearance as “ridiculous.”
“Kanye West was grossly over-censored at the Billboard Music Awards,” West’s camp said in an excerpt published by Time. “Non-profane lyrics such as ‘with my leather black jeans on’ were muted for over 30 second intervals … As a result, his voice and performance were seriously misrepresented.”
The statement also offered an apology to viewers who were unable to view West’s segment in its entirety.
It wasn’t just a rough night for Kanye West, but for his extended family, as well. As previously reported by Inquisitr, West’s sisters-in-law Kendall and Kylie Jenner were received by the BMA live crowd with a chorus of boos as they came on stage to introduce the rapper. Additional reports claimed that the audience also jeered West after his spot.
In a recent piece for the online political journal Jacobin, writer Kenzo Shibata asserts that Kanye West is something of a lightning rod for “the kind of knee-jerk racism that is lobbed at any black celebrity who exudes confidence.” Indeed, at this juncture, the onus is clearly on those behind the scenes at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards to provide a reasonable explanation for their overzealous approach to West’s performance. On a night that was intended to honor artists for their vision and expression, at least one performer was silenced — ostensibly not for what he said, but for what some people feared he might say. As Kanye West has proven time and again, though, his voice reaches millions, either by quiet utterance or raucous roar, and it will take a lot more than a cut mic to stifle his message.
[Photo by Stuart Wilson / Getty Images]