What Happened With Ledisi Was Messed Up. But I Can't Get Mad At Beyonce

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Russell Westbrook is a force of nature. A basketball singularity whose sole mission is to spaghettify anything existing between him and getting to the rim. Opposing point guards. Gravity. Other teammates. Common sense. It doesn't fucking matter.  He's not the best player on his team. But he is the most unstoppable. Because, 0 for 16 or 10 for 16, it does not matter. He does not change. He will not be deterred. He will not stop.

Admittedly, it took me some time to fully appreciate Russell Westbrook's game. Part of it is aesthetic. When Westbrook is off, he looks like every college receiver or cornerback who finds himself in a pick up game with guys actually on the basketball team. It's not just bad basketball. It's like he's playing a completely different sport. More than that, though, I was judging him by an unfair and completely illogical standard: my own.


Although I was a decent athlete — I could dunk pretty easily and I was usually stronger than most other point guards I played against in high school and college — I wasn't what you'd call a freak of nature. Instead, I relied on a bit of guile, a little sorcery, and quite a bit of cheating to succeed. Basically, I was Chris Paul. A much, much, much worse version of him — the meth head man's Chris Paul — but him nonetheless. And, as a guy who strived to always made the right, fundamentally sound play, watching Westbrook play would aggravate me because I was expecting him to make the plays I would make if I were him. Which, I later realized, was the point. I wasn't him. If he played a more controlled/cerebral game, he would no longer be Russell Westbrook. He would be…someone else. A much less effective someone else. And I couldn't appreciate what he brought to the table until I got over myself and stopped obsessing over what I'd do if I were him.

I am also not Beyonce. (Surprise, I know.) And I won't pretend to know what goes on in Beyonce's head. But I know Beyonce is a superstar. And I know she is a force of nature. And I know that people who are forces of nature just do not think about things the same way people who are not forces of nature do. Decisions that might seem offensive or illogical to us are instinctual and necessary to them. If they didn't think and act that way they wouldn't be who they are.

There's been quite a bit of discussion recently about how Beyonce's rendition of "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" on the Grammys came to happen and shouldn't have happened at all. A summary: John Legend and Common were set to perform "Glory", the song they wrote as the theme to Selma. Beyonce approached the Grammy people and volunteered to sing. Which seems harmless until you realize that the version used in the movie was sung by Ledisi. And Ledisi is very much alive and able to sing the song she sang. But Ledisi didn't sing the song she sang. Beyonce did. Which, well, kinda sucks. It sucks even more when you realize Ledisi's version would have likely been better. (And by "likely" I mean "definitely.")

Now, some people on the internet are upset with Beyonce, claiming that she should have not volunteered or that she should have invited Ledisi to sing with her or that she could have just created a scholarship fund in Ledisi's name. She (Beyonce) should have realized how unfair this was, and used her considerable celebrity influence to rectify it. That's what they would have done if they were in that position. And, admittedly, that's what I would have done too.


But that's the point. We — and "we" means "everyone reading this" — are not Beyonce. The decisions we'd make about something like this and the things we'd do are not the decisions she'd make and the things she'd do. She is who she is because of that. Being upset with her for not being more considerate and magnanimous is like being mad at a Tiger for eating a cute little gazelle kitten or whatever the fuck else rude shit tigers do. You don't fault tigers for going tiger. And, this was just Beyonce going Beyonce.

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About the author

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB and a columnist for GQ.com. His debut memoir in essays, What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins), is available for preorder.