Yeezy vs. the People | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Yeezy vs. the People

Comment Writer Kieren Williams argues that Kanye West's recent Twitter outburst has negative repercussions for the black community

Kanye is back, and he’s more Kanye than ever.

Since reactivating his twitter account the internet has been ablaze with his self-declared wisdom. In classic Kanye-style he hasn’t shied away from anything, no topic is too grand or too small for him to tackle and true to form he never fails to amaze, confuse and anger us all.

Never far from controversy and always interested in garnering attention, he has backed Donald Trump and worn a MAGA hat, suggested slavery was a choice and fired his management and lawyers – declaring he had no manager. But judging by his next tweet his wife definitely wears the trousers in the West household.

I’ve always felt like either Kanye can see something we can’t, or we can see something he can’t. Since coming back onto Twitter this has only been reinforced, but my opinions have shifted from less than idyllic teenage years to thinking Kanye refuses to see the blinding truths we all can’t escape from.

Either Kanye can see something we can’t, or we can see something he can’t

I was happy to see Kanye back, smiling in the studio and announcing so many albums that it’s lined my summer up to be a very good one. I have zero problem with Republicans, but I do have a problem with Donald Trump. Donald Trump who’s list of evils and wrongs is seemingly unending, and then Kanye seemingly spiralled, intent on making everything worse, talking without thinking – and trust me I’m an expert on that. But he seemed to be entirely oblivious to the most glaringly obvious things, for example, slavery was not a choice. All this whilst Kanye was out declaring undying support and love for his ‘brother’ Trump.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times he’s had to clarify his comments in recent weeks because of how they’ve ranged from the stupid (wanting to put the doctor who was involved in his mother’s death on his album cover) to downright awful (claiming slavery was a choice – but check out #IfSlaveryWasAChoice, it’s hilarious). The entire time he’s maintained his innocence, claiming we’re kept in mental prisons and his wearing of the hat is bringing equality about and freeing us from our prisons.

They've ranged from the stupid to downright awful

He tried this in 2013 wearing the confederate flag. But maybe that was one of many warning signs we should have spotted as Kanye fell further and further away from who he was, who we hoped he was as a black man and as a leader of the black community. When he stormed on stage to say Beyoncé should’ve won the Grammy, it now seems less a statement of artistic integrity and more a cry out directing his anger randomly. Saying George Bush doesn’t care about black people is less the cry of a free-thinking revolutionary now and instead a lash out at politics without thinking or understanding (I’m not saying George Bush does care about black people though).

A lot of this conflict and chaos and controversy is summed up in a recent song of his aptly named ‘Ye vs. the People’. In this he offers an unsatisfactory defence of his actions. He claims wearing the hat brings equality, but it doesn’t bring equality any more than wearing the confederate flag did. I understand the argument about taking back the symbol, Malcolm X was vital in doing the same with the word ‘black’, a once derogatory term which is now in our everyday vocabulary. Malcolm was a leader on the black community, Kanye has abandoned and spat on any chance of ever being a fraction of what Martin was. But in wearing the hat Kanye has succeeded in aligning himself with Donald Trump and making himself complicit in his actions. It’s already happening. At a rally in Michigan, Donald Trump was already using Kanye as justification, as evidence of his supposed success in the black community. Kanye doesn’t understand the implications of his actions, or rather it seems he refuses to recognise them. He doesn’t want to be responsible for the consequences of his own actions, he wants a world that simply does not exist, especially for him of all people. We all have to face consequences for our actions, but Kanye is Kanye West. He is the enigmatic trailblazer whose career has spanned generations and whose mind has set the pop culture alight. His actions have deeper and more widespread consequences than most. He can talk about being trapped in mental prisons and his own free thinking all he likes but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t separate him from the grim reality of things, of the true nature of the man he is endorsing. As a black man, he was a leader to so many. Black leaders so often came from popular culture in recent times because we had nowhere else to turn for them. Tupac wasn’t just a rapper, he was a defiant revolutionary; Michael Jackson was a demigod, he glided across the stage. And as we lost both of them in turn, are we now losing Kanye?

Kanye doesn’t understand the implications of his actions

One thing I have noticed in amongst this all, is the offhand comments about his mental health. This is problematic at best and furthers the toxic culture that surrounds mental health, choking people out of potential help at worst. We cannot just contribute behaviour we don’t understand to mental health issues, this will only worsen stigmas and attitudes already plaguing this topic.

The level of ignorance Kanye has shown so far astounds me, and this is coming from a hardcore Kanye fan from my earliest music days. He didn’t even know of the travel ban that’s threatening to ruin so many lives when asked about it by T.I. Yet he has become a mouthpiece for Donald Trump’s toxic message which disregards females as to be ‘grabbed by the pussy’, Africa as ‘s***hole countries’, Nazi’s as ‘fine people’ and everything he doesn’t like as ‘fake news’. All because Kanye thinks this is the way to equality by endorsing this president. Not the last president, not the first black president and another Chi-town Native. Kanye instead attacked Obama (claiming he’d done nothing to actually help Chicago), only to be hit with a barrage of evidence to the counter – for example the ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ programme.

Kanye West has become detached from the world which birthed him, which supported and lauded him through decades of peerless work only to be abandoned by him in his ivory tower on Calabasas Hills. Kanye no longer lives in the world he once did, of a black male, fighting the system every step of the way to get to the top. Because once he got to the top, he stopped, looked around and decided things were good, that he could do what he wanted without reckoning or reprise regardless of what the world thought. He turned his back on the black community and his music fans alike.

Kanye West has become detached from the world which birthed him

The saddest thing is that he won’t ever feel the consequence of his actions. He will continue this path of self-proclaimed free-thinking whilst endorsing a message which will have very legitimate repercussions for so many of his fans who put him on the pedestal which has allowed him to leave the world behind. Why do you think there’s been such a spike in Nazi rallies recently? They’ve been told it’s acceptable to monger such fear and hate in their own country by the president, and Kanye is playing into this system, he is enabling it. I will always be a fan of Kanye’s music but I’m finding increasingly hard to be a fan of the man himself. His ignorance and close-mindedness is a problem. This is a black man abandoning his roots in a world where they will always define him, abandoning them for a man like Trump. To end with a quote from the main man, Kanye himself.

I really think it’s time to ‘wake up Mr West’.

A degree that's Lara Croft, a blog that's way too personal, a penchant for raising cain and an inability to shut up (ask my kickboxing coach) (@ASAPKieren)


13th May 2018 at 9:00 am

Last Updated

13th May 2018 at 11:09 am

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