The Art Of The Rock Star Rant

“I hate business people,” Kanye West said in his recent on-stage rant in London. He surmised that particular thought with, “How much shampoo can you sell with your face on it and s***?”

It’s amusing, of course, when you consider that Kanye is romantically entangled with the master of monetizing every breathing moment of her own life, but what can he say? Old habits die hard. Kanye will always pop up every so often with a late-night Twitter rant that makes you want to bust out the Pop Secret and just refresh refresh refresh. The guy who co-wrote a song called “H.A.M.” is kind of expected to go H.A.M. and this is one particular region where ‘Ye goes H.A.M. like no one else. Google “Kanye West rant” and there are literally 5 million results.


Isn’t it just like Justin Bieber to try to give ‘Ye a run for his money? Between Bieber’s Twitter rant last week and Instagram rant this week, he confirmed the obvious: The hormonal hopscotch that is teenagehood is even worse in the spotlight and yeah, it gets to the Biebs sometimes.

In his tweets, Bieber went on fairly reasonably about wanting be judged on his music rather than his lifestyle, but things got more heated in his Instagram note on Thursday (March 14). He initially called out Lindsay Lohan’s problems before editing out his shade on the photo-sharing site. “Everyone in my team has been telling me, ‘Keep the press happy’ but I’m tired of all the countless lies in the press right now,” he wrote. “Saying I’m going to rehab and how my family is disappointed in me.”

On the Kanye crazy scale, Bieber’s rant is 100 percent sane human stuff. You almost feel bad for the kid, even if he is slightly cocky (“I’m 19 and it must be scary to some people to think that this is just the beginning”). When you’re as young and entrenched in responsibility as Bieber is, a small sliver of irresponsibility is probably something you crave. Must feel good to rattle off a Twitter rant after a long day of reading rumors and vitriol spread about yourself on the Internet.

The big differences between Bieber and Kanye’s rants are their targets. Bieber is perhaps smarter in his rants, picking one target – in this case, the ominous “press” – and sticking to it. He shows love for the Beliebers and never alienates his people, which really maximizes the “us vs. them” vibe. Kanye, on the other hand, jumps from beef to beef in his rants, literally dissing anything and everything in such a way that makes his rants reach instant legend status.

In that way, Yeezy’s kind of like Morrissey, whose recent targets alone include Beyonce, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Kimmel, the cast of TV’s Duck Dynasty, the Royal Family, and anyone who’s ever eaten a cheeseburger at the Staples Center. Both ‘Ye and Moz seem to hold such deeply-rooted resentment and mistrust of so many tangible things and less tangible ideas, “The Man” chief among them. Of course, one of them is an insatiable egomaniac and the other can’t stand himself at all (or are they both a little of each?), but hatred run deep in the hearts of both kinds of men.

Other recent rock star ranters, however, haven’t gone quite so H.A.M. as Moz and ‘Ye, staying on point with clear targets a la Bieber. And make no mistake, there have been plenty of examples as of late. In the last month, there’s clearly been something in the water they give celebrities in their fancy free gifting suites. The frequency with which big artists have ranted recently – mostly on-stage – has to be unparalleled, at least since the advent of YouTube and social media. In a pre-Internet or even pre-YouTube era, would the whole wide world have known about all these rants? Not unless their everyday reading material includes music reviews from local newspapers from around the world. Moreover, many of these rants wouldn’t have even existed without social media.

Kanye’s tirade may have included criticism of his BFF Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake (who was the definition of PR class act about it) and, indirectly, his baby mama, but Lil Wayne has to win this round on newsworthiness alone, for admitting something truly shocking. That’s the thing about these rants – most of them are shocking and even entrancing because a celebrity is making a mistake before our eyes. But Weezy’s NBA All-Star Weekend rant at a Beats Audio event on February was particularly spectacular because he admitted to sleeping with Miami Heat player Chris Bosh’s wife. Oh yeah, and he told off various players for the Miami Heat, who Wayne says called for his banning from NBA events after he reportedly made a veiled threat to a fan at a recent game. Wayne dropped a powerful and potent beef bomb, whereas Kanye dropped a bunch of small-yet-feisty disses.

The Who’s Pete Townshend also had a bone to pick, but instead of verbally haranguing professional athletes who willingly put themselves in the spotlight and earn millions for it, his target was a 7-year-old girl with a freaking sign and her father at a Canadian concert last month. This is not Townshend’s first time at the rodeo, but he’s somehow missed the memo that “get off my (proverbial) lawn” works for the rest of the AARP set, no expletives necessary when dealing with actual youths. And the reason for all this? A little girl on her father’s shoulders, holding up a sign that read, “Smash your guitar, Pete!” (Smashing a guitar is not an unreasonable request for Townshend, BTW. It’s akin to a sign that reads, “Breath air, Bono.”) Townshend tried to be decent by reportedly telling the father from the stage, “I want to tell you two words, but I can’t because you have a child on you.” And then he clearly mouthed the words anyway. High road, right?

Flash forward a few weeks, and behold, the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir pulled a Jack White, storming off-stage when the crowd wouldn’t quiet down at a recent Bay Area concert. “You can just have the house” is the new “get off my lawn,” I guess. Weir, the gentle hippie he is, later returned to the stage, but not without fighting words during another quiet song: “Shut the f*** up.”

So who’s to say this trend is relegated to one kind of musician, or a certain generation? Mouthing off is nothing new for rock stars – they’re just nearly impossible to silence in this day and age.

More from Jillian Mapes

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