Social media is currently bullying Kanye West for saying he “would have” voted for Trump during his San Jose concert Thursday night.
The obvious issue is that Trump rose to power by bullying minorities, and Kanye built his brand by speaking up on behalf of the oppressed.
Now, everyone is scrambling to figure out how, when and why Mr. West went from this:
“I get down for my grandfather who took my mama, made her sit in that seat, where White folks ain’t want us to eat. At the tender age of six she was arrested for the sit-ins, now with that in my blood, I was born to be different.” The Old Kanye (circa-2004)
“I didn’t vote, but if I did I would have voted for Trump.”– The New Kanye (November 17, 2016)
Shocked fans booed and threw concessions at their hero’s unprovoked hypocrisy. And social media didn’t take long to follow up with memes, think pieces and promises to boycott Ye’s overpriced Adidas apparel.
But there’s nothing abnormal about Kanye’s latest outburst. We have to remember that his vocal recklessness is what made him a star in the first place. And it’s been the primary factor sustaining his fame ever since.
Whether Mr. West was calling out George Bush, screaming on Sway or blasting critics and academies for overlooking his genius, his stardom has always relied less on his musical talent than his talent for spectacle. His flawlessly-crafted albums were simply the glue that justified his over-dramatic persona.
Donald Trump’s successful campaign for President owes a lot to West’s example. Both gained power by manipulating media to convince poor people that they were their champions; That they were cut from a different cloth than everyone else in the corrupt systems they were campaigning so hard to take over. All it took was yelling, hand-waving and complete disregard for political correctness.
The pink Polo, backpack-wearing Kanye that charmed the world in the mid 2000’s did so by embodying everything we were told a successful mainstream rapper couldn’t be. He was emotionally vulnerable, clean-cut, shamelessly-privileged and socially conscious. Next to 50 Cent, the incumbent king of rap during Kanye’s come-up, the outspoken nerd in Louis Vuitton looked as refreshing to rap fans as Donald Trump looked next to his blatantly corrupt political foes.
It’s been almost eight years since Kanye snatched Taylor Swift’s White privilege, and it’s time we realized that Ye didn’t do it for Beyoncé. He did it for Kanye.
We should know that because every spectacle Ye’s created since the 2009 VMA’s — from his Walt Disney and SteveJobs-inspired monologues to his countless Twitter outbursts — has been in his own best interest, not the peoples’. He may be too high on fame to realize it yet, but it’s time the rest of us accepted it.
As a symbol of Black excellence and key holder to the industry, You may feel you benefit from Kanye’s 1% privileges by proxy, but please don’t expect him to sacrifice those privileges for you when all falls down. And he’s not the only one. It’s time we all stop holding pro athletes and pop artist to the standards of political revolutionaries when they’re usually just as hopelessly reliant on the system as everyone else.
So if you still thought Yeezus was your martyr, you need to revisit your scripture and double check his resumé. When you do, you’ll realize there’s not much difference between the Kanye who deconstructed consumerism on “All Falls Down” and the one who sells his own overpriced consumer goods to his own flock of “New Slaves” with a diamond-encrusted smile. But at least a White man isn’t at the end of his over-priced sneaker transactions. Kanye’s radicalism has always been tied to his product. That’s why his movement will always stop at the cash register.
When Kanye told the nation that George Bush didn’t care about Black people, we mistook him for our modern day Ali. An entertainer who was willing to endure the neo-lynchings that await outspoken Black men in America. All because his conscious outweighed his ego. In reality, he was just perfecting the sacred American art of self-promotion.
But when the world turned on Kanye for Debo’ing Taylor Swift‘s VMA, he must have realized the love of the people couldn’t protect him from the wrath of White Supremacy. After losing his spot on Lady Gaga‘s tour and facing unprecedented levels of harassment on social media, he fled to Europe to intern at luxury fashion houses and all but disappeared from popular culture.
Ye returned 9 months later exclusively donning suits and shouting “Rosewood,” an aesthetic that was inspired by the John Singleton film of the same name. He proved then that he was more concerned with transcending Blackness than overthrowing White Supremacy. Yeezy was never the “Spook Who Sat By The Door,” and it’s time we accepted that.
On social media, Kanye’s revolutionary unraveling has been blamed on everything from his mother’s passing to his refusal to stay on his anti-psychotic meds. But there’s nothing new about his behavior. And his Trump comments should come as no surprise to those who’ve been paying attention.
There is no new Kanye. He has been out for self from day one — and that doesn’t make him a bad person in the slightest. But the sooner we realize he’s not speaking for our rights, but for our entertainment, the closer we will be to identifying the true new leader of the free world.