We obsess over Kanye West.
Even after denouncing him at nearly every turn, we still tune in to see what absurdity he will say or do next, or what new low he will reach.
Think we don’t? Well, I am writing this article, and now you are read… well, just keep reading, there’s even more irony to come.
We analyze Kanye’s every move, especially when it comes to his adoration for the current president.
We question the audacity of his pledge of allegiance to POTUS 45 all the while proclaiming that black people are not monolithic. How dare Kanye even have – or worse, express – a political view that is not aligned with our own? We’re supposed to all think alike, aren’t we?
With each new Kanye “low,” such as his recently formed, but mostly uninformed opinions about slavery and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, black folks call him a sellout, a coon or crazy, believing that no socially conscious hip-hop celebrity in his right mind could express those views, much less align with Trump-era politics.
Conservative white men over 60 couldn’t cite a Kanye West song title if you gave them free tickets to a Kentucky MAGA rally, yet they have newfound respect for the rapper all because the red cap is quickly becoming Kanye’s signature, or as he refers to it, his “Superman” cape.
Speaking of his songs, some of us still buy or stream his music, believing in vain that he will return to a semblance of his best artistic output from years ago (that ship passed with 2013’s Yeezus). Heck, we even still called him socially conscious while his latest single, “I Love It,” a duet with fellow rapper Lil Pump, is easily one of the most misogynistic songs of 2018. I guess it makes sense to some that a rapper can be “woke” and still refer to women as “ho’s” and “bitches” in a top-10 pop song during the #MeToo era.
We look for shreds of coherency in Kanye’s diatribes, and even when we can’t make sense of it all per our own belief structure, we’re still compelled to watch and listen to him…over and over again.
Take his new Twitter rant about “mind control” posted via a nine-minute video on Saturday, October 13, just one week after “deactivating” his Twitter and Instagram accounts, and just two days after a meeting with Donald Trump at the White House. In the video, which, as of this writing, has over half million views and more than 12,000 likes, he spoke of the “control” of a song publishing company that won’t sell him the rights to his own music (for $8 or $9 million) even though he “has the money.” (Sony/ATF, a Japanese company, reportedly paid $2.3 billion to bring its total ownership of EMI – the publishing company that owns songs by Kanye West and others – to 90 percent.)
He then spoke of the mind control of social media, which he says is “all lies.” He noted that it lied when it said Hillary would win (she didn’t, obviously). He said it lies about his own popularity (“everybody loves Ye”) and that his “Mensa-level IQ” scores put him on the same level as Sigmund Freud. He later rang up the spirits of Fela Kuti (the Nigerian musician and human rights activist), Bob Marley and Tupac Shakur, saying they all flowed through him, contributing to his status as the “best living recording artist.” You can see a YouTube clip of the full video here:
Of course, any self-aggrandizing claim of that stature is debatable and will be equally met with laughs and scowls. But when you really think about it, what other hip-hop artist has our collective attention like Kanye does now? Isn’t that what great artists do?
Great artists also get season-opening gigs on SNL, and really great ones get the rarity of having three song performances, as Kanye did on September 29. He was wildly cheered on by the SNL audience then (until his post-show rant as the taping ended).
Just two weeks later, his White House visit with Trump was mocked during SNL’s cold open to many laughs at the rapper’s expense, mostly about his perceived mental illness. If we really believed Kanye West was suffering from mental illness, should we be laughing?
Is Kanye West, in fact, mentally ill? He says he was misdiagnosed as being bipolar when, instead, he’s just “sleep deprived,” as he revealed during the now-famous White House visit. Only Kanye, his doctor and those around him really know.
Is Kanye being used as a political pawn? I’m sure the president would welcome whatever photo opportunity presents itself to gain credibility in the black community (not that he needs it, apparently), no matter how non-representative the black person in that photo op is.
But that doesn’t make Kanye West “crazy.”
It makes him oblivious. It makes him opportunistic. And yes, maybe it even makes him a tone-deaf sellout from the black community’s general perspective.
But you don’t have to be “crazy” to be those things.
Instead, maybe we ought to question the psychology of the people and institutions that continue to give Kanye a platform, despite our stated disdain for the rapper we once embraced as one of our own.