Faced with the all important question “Kanye or Jay-Z?” President Barack Obama, leader of the free world, opts for Jay-Z. Worse for Kanye, he reaffirmed in no uncertain terms his opinion that West is “a jackass.” On the other hand, the article in the Atlantic Monthly–which printed the quote causing a stir online at the moment–is all about Kanye, not the President. It’s called “American Mozart” and seems to be a sign of a new editorial direction at the respected issues-driven publication, especially when they seem to be focused mostly on issues like “Is R&B Having An Idenitity Crisis?”–a think-piece published 3 days ago which quotes extensively from Erykah Badu‘s twitter feed. In other news, the world has gone crazy. Read the full Kanye exchange below for the proper context of the President’s choice of words:
“I have a question I want to ask you, Mr. President,” I venture, once I catch his attention.
“Sure,” the president says.
“Kanye or Jay-Z?”
The president smiles. “Jay-Z,” he says, as if the answer should be obvious. When it comes to the most meaningful pop-cultural divide of the moment, the question of whether you prefer Kanye West or Jay-Z—the top two hip-hop artists in the world, who recently joined forces for a national mega-tour called Watch the Throne—Barack Obama is clearly a Jay-Z guy. Jay-Z is about control. Jay-Z is about success. He’s a natural-born leader. He is married to Beyoncé Knowles, the gorgeous, sugar-spun R&B star who recently joined with Michelle Obama in a public campaign against the epidemic of childhood obesity. Together, Jay and Beyoncé are worth something close to $1 billion. Jay-Z fills arenas and enunciates clearly—unlike Kanye West, who jumps onstage and interrupts during award ceremonies, cries on talk shows, and jets off to Rome to apprentice with the House of Fendi. Besides, the president’s smile says, we are at a fund-raiser in New York, which is Jay-Z’s hometown.
“Although I like Kanye,” Obama continues, with an easy smile. “He’s a Chicago guy. Smart. He’s very talented.” He is displaying his larger awareness of the question, looking relaxed, cerebral but friendly, alive to the moment, waiting for me to get to the heart of the matter.
“Even though you called him a jackass?,” I ask.
“He is a jackass,” Obama says, in his likable and perfectly balanced modern-professorial voice. “But he’s talented.” The president gives a wink, poses for a few more pictures, and then glides away to meet with the rich Manhattan lawyers in the other room, leaving behind a verdict that he intended to be funny, and also entirely deliberate: even before an audience of one, the leader of the free world is still not letting Kanye West off the hook.
spotted at FSD