Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mind Over Money

Famous people often seem to have a handle on life, to be in control of the situation. However, in “All Falls Down,” Kanye West suggests a contrasting belief. According to Kanye West, the attire, bling, and fancy cars, of these people are simply shields, blocking their low self-esteem. Although often times, people believe that the rich have figured out life through their monetary success, in actuality, these expensive items tend to be their way of making themselves less self-conscious, suggesting that wealth, although possibly a short term solution, does not solve all of life’s problems.
While it is common to see rappers or famous people wearing brand-name clothing, diamonds, or driving fancy cars, in “All Falls Down,” Kanye West claims that the reasons for these riches are self-consciousness and a low self-esteem. “We shine because they hate us, floss cause they degrade us.” Often times, rappers face criticism, which can cause them to compensate in other ways. One form of compensation is to look immaculate and buy the most expensive items, to shine. Slick Rick dedicates an entire half of his song "La Di Da Di" displaying his impeccable dress and brand name clothing.

Furthermore, Kanye West says, “I spent 400 bucks on this just to be like nigga you ain’t up on this.” The wealthy possess money that others do not, and therefore, by purchasing expensive apparel; they provide themselves a short-term Band-Aid of confidence.
Although money buys clothing, jewelry, and cars, it cannot buy long-term confidence or a clear head. “We buy our way out of jail, but we can’t buy freedom.” Despite this line and the one before referencing the way he treats jail and the police, Kanye West is not talking about the police as much as he is himself, and the limits of money. His persona in this song does not treat the police well because he can buy his way out of jail. He has money. However, when freed of the constraints of the jail cell, he is not freed of his own head. He remains so self-conscious from all of his critics and fans opinions, that he renders himself permanent slave. Kanye West’s claims extend further to famous people as a whole. Because they tend to constantly be in the spotlight, they must always worry about others opinions towards them. Therefore, Kanye West reveals, “We’re all self-conscious I’m just the first to admit it.”
Kanye West’s message in “All Falls Down,” is that money does not buy happiness and yet people constantly use money in an attempt to cover up their self-consciousness. “Drug dealer buy Jordans, crackhead buy crack… I got a problem with spending bills before I get it… Single black female addicted to retail.” These monetary problems exist in people in all walks of life. Yet in all of these examples, the people are buying the items to shield their own self-consciousness. While these attempts to shield their insecurity from the world may seem to work from the outside, they are only creating a larger problem on the inside. Because along with their insecurity that returns after the initial relief goes away, they sometimes create addictions to purchasing these expensive items. 

          This problem has lasted many years. Kings in the olden days adorned themselves with jewels and clothes of the age, years ago, some people wore elaborate suits and wigs, and today, rappers often wear bling and drive fancy cars as symbols of their wealth. 

While these riches may represent wealth, they do not suggest inner peace, self-confidence, and a strong handle on life. We are all self-conscience. Money is not always the answer. 


  1. In my opinion, I don't think it is fair to say, as you have, that the wealthy often seem to have a handle on life. This is a generalization that cannot be supported or proven. Buying expensive cars and flashy jewels is much of the culture of hip-hop which supports the roles of the characters many rappers portray. However, in their real lives, one cannot say that they are purchasing these expensive items to cover up a deeper personal problem or self-consciousness--it is more likely simply becasue they have a lot of money so they spend a lot.

    Kanye raps about being so self-conscious, but this does not mean that he as a person is truly self-conscious hiding behind money, but it is his rap persona that makes this statement. As a result, it is a generalization to say that those with money are all self-conscious, and that they use money to create a false sence of security.

  2. Although it is true that money is not the answer to everything and riches do not suggest inner peace or self-confidence, I do agree with Kelvin that "All Falls Down" is only Kanye's rap personae. Although the song strongly suggests Kanye is actually self-conscious, it's just a form of confession that demands intimacy because of its personal nature.

    Also, I would make some changes to this statement:

    "As the critics continuously torment famous people, their self-esteem drops."

    Although critics do say critical things to famous people or musicians, that doesn't mean that their self-esteem drops. There is no concrete evidence that all famous people do this, and I am quite certain that at least SOME people use bad advice from the critics to better themselves and their art. Some rappers adorn themselves with riches and rich possessions because they think it's cool, not because it's a mask for their inner, vulnerable feelings. Many rappers are mature and realize that not everyone is going to like their music, so they take criticism with a chip on their shoulder. Also, I'm sure there are rappers that don't give a rat's ass about what other people say and criticism slides right off their ego.

  3. Even though I agree with the fact that this song has a strong focus on wealth, I feel that the issue of race and discrimination has been overlooked in the analysis. I mean, yeah, the song predominantly comments on the concept of wealth veiling insecurities, but I feel like that the portions of the song that include the concept of racial discrimination ties into the idea the many of the insecurities are derived from being black. This can be most readily seen in the last part of the second verse -- "We shine because they hate us, floss cause they degrade us/ We trying to buy back our 40 acres/ And for that paper, look how low we a'stoop/ Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe.”

    Throughout the verse, "us" would be referring to the wealthy, but in this part of the rap it changes to refer to blacks. This becomes obvious with the mention of "40 acres," which refers to the "40 acres and a mule" promise made to freed slaves in 1865. Because the subject changes, while the idea of masking insecurities with money is still present, I feel that Kanye is suggesting that these insecurities come from racial discrimination.

  4. It's definitely an interesting argument that those who splurge their money on material things are less at peace. In a way I agree in the sense that these objects do seem to merely cover up an inner self-consciousness, almost like the rapper is shielding himself with jewelry and a fancy car. Another argument is that the artists are simply rewarding themselves for their accomplishments. I personally believe the first point as the purchases rappers often make are on flashy objects that provide no inner-peace, just an outward self-esteem boost.

    This argument is supported by Juvenile's "Huh" video that we watched in class. If you recall, the rapper was jumping around flashing his gold teeth and car in an evidently poor area. This begs the question, "What the hell is he thinking?" He literally jumps around in a struggling project that used to be his home, while his former neighbors are living in poverty. Someone with a sound psyche would more likely reinvest money into their community than flaunt their wealth to those less fortunate.

    Although there are certainly exceptions, I do agree that flaunted wealth is a sign of inner psychology insecurities.

  5. I agree with your argument that people spend money in order to calm an inner-insecurity. It is a fair point to make that people spend money because they are self-conscious and want people to think they are a certain something. At the same time though, I would agree with Eric and Kelvin in saying that this is Kanye's personae, and that we do not know for sure if Kanye actually feels this way.

    Personally, I think that when someone is buying cars, jewelry, and other expensive items, that the only reason is to show it off. The functionality of all those items is not any better than other cheaper items. For example, driving a Ferrari versus a Prius. Sure, the Ferrari has a better engine, etc, etc. but the Prius is still going to get you wherever the Ferrari will. People only buy that car because they can and to show off that they have the wealth to afford it.

    I do believe that every group of people has their own sets of problems and for rich people, maybe it is insecurity and self-consciousness. However, I do not think that famous people have a handle on life. If you look at some of the celebrities and the way that they act, I almost guarantee that you wouldn't say they had a handle on life.

  6. I don't think that insecurity and wealth are correlated at all and I don't think that Kanye is saying that just because someone is rich, he or she will also be self-conscious. Kanye is definitely saying that discrimination against his race has made him self-conscious, but at the same time, has enabled him to make his money. This is evident when he says "We shine because they hate us, floss cause they degrade us." However, it is a fallacy to say that just because someone is rich, he or she is self-conscious. I think that athletes and rappers flaunt their wealth so much because many of them went from being extremely poor to millionaires overnight. As a result, they spend so much money and flaunt their wealth because it is all so new to them and they do not know what to do with it. Because so many rappers do this and because rap culture is one that thrives on braggadocio and swagger, it encourages such absurd displays of wealth. I think that individuals who accumulated wealth over time are much less likely to flaunt their wealth than individuals who went from nothing to everything overnight. For example, Warren Buffett, the third wealthiest man in the world, still lives in a house that he bought for $31,500 in 1958.


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