Kanye West is known for showy displays through his fashion choices, as a rapper-producer and through the public expression of his intense opinions. To further express himself in a way that truly says "KANYE!" Mr. West has just purchased a personalized, one-of-a-kind watch that costs $180,000 and features a portrait of his face poised behind his iconic sunglasses -- drawn in diamonds:
Not one to usually humble himself by following someone else's lead, Kanye West seems to have actually been inspired to make this investment in accessories by fellow pop star Usher. Usher was the first to create a self-portrait in diamonds that he can also wear on his wrist, but his was a whopping $250K:
You can read the details about Kanye West's $180,000 watch, and Usher's $250,000 watch on the Luxist blog. Let's keep the discussion of these two flabbergasting displays of ostentation and self-love here on BV.
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Kanye West and Usher are both talented and charismatic men who have brought happiness to millions by sharing their artistic gifts. They have also made millions of dollars, and considering that this is a free country, they can spend it on anything they want. Contrary to what many liberals believe (and I am a liberal), it could be argued that a star spending $200K on a diamond-encrusted image of his face is actually a sign of the overall health of our economy. Sure, it reeks of waste and selfishness, but look at the countries in which being self-centered and desiring riches will get you nowhere. Most people from those places have been trying to come here for decades.
From Communist China to the former U.S.S.R., when these nations prohibited all capitalistic practices and denounced the value of the individual, they were not able to provide their citizens with comforts and opportunities equivalent to America's average standard of living. There is something about the open and active desire for wealth that creates greater access to it for more people in a group. The overall standard of living in capitalist countries is just higher and that is the reason. Ugly old greed.
Where we lose is on wealth distribution and access to wealth creators such as connections and quality education. Recently released numbers show that the United States now has the widest gap between the rich and the poor that our nation has ever had in its history. Countless stories depict the fall of millions from the ranks of the comfortable middle class into the land of the impoverished. As Americans struggle to find jobs, the idea of Kanye West spending the equivalent of three good salaries on a bedazzled picture of his mug is a little sickening. And yet it is his right, and moreover it's that right that is the prime mover behind all the businesses that have given Americans jobs, and will give the jobless new jobs in the future.
So, in a way, Kanye West's $180,000 watch is what makes America great. The motivation behind Usher commissioning a $250,000 precious-stoned, time-telling, portable picture of himself is the motivation that will create the small businesses that get millions back to work. It's because of these kind of wealth displays that America has any wealth to show. Hopefully, we will get better at sharing it. Doling it out fairly, through taxes and charity, will keep our society equal in terms of opportunity (as long as the Republicans are kept in check).
You have heard all the "rich black people buy stupid stuff" complaints before, so there is no need to go into that here. For once, let's move past that. We have to keep looking at the motivating power of luxury displays, and think long term, or else these financial choices made by two rich, prominent African Americans will look eerily as silly as Souljah Boy wearing a Lamborghini-shaped necklace made of diamonds. And in 2011, we've got to do better.