“Wake Up, Mr. West”

Kanye West and the Double Consciousness of Black Celebrity


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About the Book

Black celebrities in America have always walked a precarious line between their perceived status as spokespersons for their race and their own individual success­­—and between being “not black enough” for the black community or “too black” to appeal to a broader audience. Few know this tightrope walk better than Kanye West, who transformed hip-hop, pop and gospel music, redefined fashion, married the world’s biggest reality TV star and ran for president, all while becoming one of only a handful of black billionaires worldwide. Despite these accomplishments, his polarizing behavior, controversial alliances and bouts with mental illness have made him a caricature in the media and a disappointment among much of his fanbase. This book examines West’s story and what it reveals about black celebrity and identity and the American dream. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Joshua K. Wright is an associate professor of history in the Global Studies Department at Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC. He is the host of Woke History, a new podcast series streaming on the National Public Radio (NPR) One app.

Bibliographic Details

Joshua K. Wright

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 284
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8648-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4440-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface: Let’s Have a Toast for the Douche Bags 1
Introduction: Kids See Ghosts 9

Part I.
Welcome to the Good Life: Kanye West and the Souls of Black Folk
One. “Pinocchio Story” 22
Two. “We Major” 42
Three. “Be Like Mike” 67

Part II.
Everything I Am: Becoming Kanye
Four. “Family Business” 92
Five. “Kardashian-West” 114
Six. “Homecoming” 134

Part III.
The Miseducation of Kanye West: Politics, Prayer, and Platforms
Seven. “Republicans Buy Yeezys Too” 158
Eight. “Closed on Sunday” 180
Nine. “Wash Us in the Blood” 204

Chapter Notes 225
Bibliography 255
Index 269

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “In a time when social media and reality television have heightened the already powerful influence of celebrities, Joshua Wright, Ph.D., offers an analysis of Kanye West that is both relevant and timely.”—Adria Y. Goldman, Ph.D., University of Mary Washington
  • “An important read for popular and scholarly audiences.”—Journal of Popular Culture