Love and Hip Hop Academia: The Michael Eric Dyson Takedown of Cornel West
CHILEEEEEEE… listen. You know I love me a good read and wig snatch. Well it was served up on a platter last night when The New Republic released an essay, penned by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. It was titled “The Ghost of Cornel West“ and it was a 10,000 word epic takedown of the Afro’ed Intellectual that many respect and some revere. It is the talk of social media right now because so much tea was spilled.
Let the record show that I am neither Team Dyson nor Team West. I am Jon Snow (I know nothing) to the intricacies of Black Academia. I am not in that space so I am going off what I read here and the little I’ve known before.
What are my thoughts on the whole thing? I’m glad you didn’t ask, because I have questions.
* What made Michael Eric Dyson write this piece right now?
Again, I know I am not on their jock to know what both are up to enough but what made Dyson drop this ETHER at this moment? I know that West has come for him hard in the past so it ain’t crazy out of the blue but I’m trying to figure out what made him do it right now.
* What is Dyson trying to gain from this?
Is this just to even the score on whatever West has said about him in the past? I want to know the purpose. And this isn’t even a rhetorical question. Feel free to leave a comment about it.
* Why Did Dyson choose The New Republic as the outlet for this?
The New Republic is not known for being a publication with a large Black readership. There’s a lot of white gaze here and I wonder why MED thought it was the right place to hash out this beef with his former mentor. I kinda feel like DAMB. This is family business. Do it at the reunion, not while you’re at the country club.
* Did anyone else feel like they were snooping?
Dr. Dyson’s piece makes some very valid points about Dr. West, exploring West’s fall from grace, especially his fall out with President Obama. You don’t have to like the man’s policy but holding a personal grudge stemming from you not getting inauguration tickets is definitely worthy of being told to occupy a seat. And the bit about him leaving Barack voicemails from a blocked number had me cackling. I won’t even lie.
However, this piece felt intensely personal. I was like “Should I be reading this?” I feel like he meant to send this as an email and accidentally published it. This is also why I thought the piece was petty. This takedown was so detailed and included so many extra info that sounded like when someone is telling you about their day and they could have left out 5 of the stories because they weren’t really essential. I pictured Dyson at his computer slamming on the keyboard as he said “AND THEN HE TOLD ME…”
Dyson even talked about how West does not have a good relationship with women. Sir, you REALLY went in. How did you get here? Nobody’s s’posed to be here.
* Why is this piece longer than the dead sea scrolls?
LAWDT. I do not enjoy reading from academics who write everything like it’s a dissertation. This thing took me even longer to read because I kept having to look up the meaning of words. It was WORK getting through it. Michael Eric Dyson spent 10,000 words (yes, really) ripping into Cornel West. My main issue with it is that it took so many words. Why did he write a mini book on this topic when he could have accomplished the same thing in less time and space?
Dyson spent 10K words telling us West is mad at Obama, past his prime, a hypocrite AND a perpetual shit-talker. He coulda done that in 3K and saved us all some time. I’m saying. People gotta learn to be less verbose. Ol’ pontificating intellectuals. Too smart to not talk too much.
* Why did I get my LIFE from some of the quotes, though?
Dyson put on his Petty Pants and went in on Dr. West throughout the piece so tough and I cackled MANY times. Even in my annoyance about length, I was chewing popcorn and going DAMMMMBBBBBBBB as I read along. Ain’t no shade like Black intellectual shade because Black intellectual shade can’t stop, won’t stop and will do it in long sentences and MCAT words.
Let’s pull out some of my favorites.
“As a freelancing, itinerant, nonordained, self-anointed prophet, West has only to answer to himself.”
FREELANCING. PROPHET. LMAOOOO he called him a 1099, net-45 plan having, invoice sending, ain’t tied to nothing prophet. I can’t even. That is beautiful shade.
“He is in The Matrix sequels, doing something he’s become tragicomically good at—playing an unintentional caricature of his identity.”
Son. He called him a cartoon, basically. I mean, yeah it’s kinda accurate. Still… HA!
“West is still a Man of Ideas, but those ideas today are a vain and unimaginative repackaging of his earlier hits.”
He told him his shit is old and he’s basically plagiarizing himself. CHEI! See life.
“In truth, West is a scold, a curmudgeonly and bitter critic who has grown long in the tooth but sharp in the tongue when lashing.”
GAHTDAMB, DAWG. This is also especially shady because Cornel’s teeth are big. Also, “long in the tooth, sharp in the tongue” is phenomenal verbage. Old school but classic.
“West had a huge crush on the R&B singer Anita Baker, and I got us tickets to see her perform in New Jersey. After a brief backstage introduction to the singer I had finagled, West relived his high school track glory and sprinted up the street in glee.”
LMAO! Really? How did this add to it? All he wanted to do was have us picture West sprinting in his suit with his dry afro floating in joy. See? Petty as hell.
But. My favorite thing about the entire piece is the closing line. Because I am a connoisseur of prose that is direct, un-crass but powerful in its ability to verbally chin check it’s subject. Dyson ended his diatribe beautifully with:
“His greatest opponent isn’t Obama, Sharpton, Harris-Perry, or me. It is the ghost of a self that spits at him from his own mirror.”
HOLY. SHIT. I just have to applaud Dyson for that line. That line is deserving of a slow clap because it was Mortal Kombat “FINISH EM!” I actually said “OUCH” out loud. Whew. We gon see Dr. West rocking a fade haircut. Know that it’s because Dr. Dyson came for his entire edges and he had to even things out.
This was a drag, though. A PURE DRAG that left a bad taste in my mouth for both Dyson and West. I don’t know what Dyson’s point was in writing this piece. But for me, it started looking like the Pot was calling the Kettle egotistical. BOFADEM need to have some seats, in my opinion.
I’m just here for the shade and there was an Amazon forest of it in that piece. On a Petty Literature scale of 0 to Your Mama Ain’t Shit, I’d give this an 8.5. For those of us who are Shady Savants and Studiers of the Art of Side-Eye, we must appreciate it for it’s dedication to the craft of Petty. It is Wig Snatching 505.
What happens next? This is like Love and Hip Hop Academia so will there be a reunion where John Salley hosts poorly? Will Cornel West drop a diss record? Will Michael Eric Dyson do an audiotape version of this where he does that annoying rap-talk combo he’s good for?
I’ma be on the lookout. You know I like gist.