In the words of the great Dr Maya Angelou: ‘when someone shows you who they are, believe them’. For the last 15 years, Kanye West has been a permanent feature of popular culture, and has shown so much about himself through his music, fashion, and general outspokenness. What he hasn’t managed to show us, he yelled and tweeted until it became crystal clear.
For pretty much anyone vaguely familiar with him, his talent and abrasiveness are a part of who he is, something embraced by both himself and his fans, accepted as part and parcel of being blessed by the genius that is Kanye Omari West. Kanye fans are grateful that he didn’t allow ‘dream killers [to] kill his self esteem’, because if he didn’t use his arrogance as “the steam to power his dreams”, we wouldn’t have got The College Dropout, his classic Grammy award winning debut album.
Kanye fans appreciated him rapping through the wire after a devastating car accident left his jaw broken in three places, because he inspired us to never allow anything to stop us from pursuing our passions. Kanye fans appreciated him speaking up for ‘black single female[s] addicted to retail’, and his transparency in admitting that he needed Jesus the way ‘Kathie Lee needed Regis’.
Kanye fans loved him educating the world about conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone, and defended him for using a charity telethon in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to let the world know that ‘George Bush doesn’t care about black people’, because well, he was right wasn’t he?
Just like how he was ‘right’ to interrupt Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards to let her (and millions watching at home) know that Beyonce had a better video. US President Barack Obama may have called him a jackass, but he gave us his magnum opus in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a year after, and so a drunken rant is a meagre price to pay for ‘Runaway’ and ‘All of The Lights’, right?
But how far is too far? At what point do fans, fellow collaborators, and celebrities begin to call out a man of such fame and power for his damaging rhetoric, oversized ego and social irresponsibility?
Was it his crass comment about needing to take ’30 showers’ to move on from his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose to his current partner, Kim Kardashian, after Rose was with him during the darkest period of his life after his mother Donda passed away? Was it proclaiming in 2015 that racism no longer exists, and has been replaced by classism?
Was it going on 45 minute rants at his expensively priced concerts, then ending shows early and leaving thousands of fans bitterly disappointed? Was it his press run in the build up to his polarising Yeezus album? which featured fiery interviews where he claimed to be the next ‘Warhol, Steve Jobs, and Walt Disney’ before blowing up at interviewers for ‘not having the answers’ to the questions that they were asking him.
Finally, it appears that his support for alt-right pundit Candace Owens and US President Donald Trump, particularly him donning [no pun intended] a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat has proven to be the final straw amongst many of his fans. Despite what the likes of Chance The Rapper or Kim Kardashian believe, the issue at hand is not Kanye West being outspoken, or him being a Democrat or Republican.
Black people don’t have to be democrats.
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 25, 2018
He’s a free thinker, is that not allowed in America? Because some of his ideas differ from yours you have to throw in the mental health card? That’s just not fair. He’s actually out of the sunken place when he’s being himself which is very expressive
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) April 25, 2018
Outcry about Kanye West speaking his mind is like complaining about the heat on the Central Line. Instead, people are disappointed, if not surprised, at his support for a man who failed to condemn White Supremacists in Charlottesville, bragged about sexually assaulting women, proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, and has been found guilty of discriminating against African Americans in his real estate business. Kanye clarified that he does not agree with ‘everything’ Trump says, instead offering a quite bizarre observation that he and Trump are “both dragon energy”. With luck, one day he’ll give us further insight into this energy, which will no doubt be repackaged and sold to the purchasing public for ridiculous sums.
Thank you Kanye, very cool! https://t.co/vRIC87M21X
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2018
For a man to claim that ‘love is the most powerful force in the world’, supporting a man who has become synonymous with prejudice and bigotry is a funny way of expressing it. For all his undoubted brilliance as a rapper, we must decide that either Kanye is totally comfortable expressing himself using the English language, or we are to look beyond the words he actually uses and look for some hidden message that will render his sentiments as acceptable.
Kanye’s ignorance is, to quote the man himself, so amazing. In his words, slavery ‘used to be’ a trend, but now exists in the form of mental slavery. Chattel slavery literally still exists in Africa, particularly Libya where people who look just like Mr West are being sold in a similar way to his ancestors. Freedom of speech and thought are rights afforded to him, and which he has used to make tens of millions of dollars for himself.
Ironically, despite his claim that ‘self victimisation is a disease’, he has spent the last 5 years of his life complaining about his first-world problems of not being given the platform to work with major corporations such as Disney, and Apple. He sides with the likes of Candace Owens, who believes that organisations such as Black Lives Matter, who are literally working to protect black bodies from brutalisation by the State, are forms of vicitmisation and identity politics which are to be to be rejected, since they ‘blame the system’ for the communities’ collective failures.
To be truthful, any romanticisation of the ‘Old Kanye’ who wouldn’t commit any of the transgressions the ‘new’ Kanye has ignores the sad fact that there has been no change in the man’s personality over the last 15 years. His unattractive personality traits have been forgiven due to his brilliant music, political stances which we (his fans) agreed with, or the entertainment that his eccentrics brought us. His political stances may have changed, but the man has always been this way, and it is up to all of us to ensure that someone afforded with such a platform is called out for using their position of power for harm.