It’s a strange time to be a Kanye West fan right now.
The hip-hop pantheon is in the middle of releasing new projects under his label G.O.O.D. Music, including his own studio album, ye, which released last Friday. In the past, this has only been good news. But recently, Kanye has been in news headlines for all the wrong reasons. His Twitter rants, support of Donald Trump and comments on slavery have his core fans wondering if the 21-time Grammy winner is in touch with today’s social and political climates like some of his colleagues are.
It begs the question: Should his core fans — most of whom do not align with West’s political beliefs — tolerate his ignorant views? Can you still consume his media if you disagree with his rhetoric? Or in other words, is Kanye cancelled?
“Book in real time”
In order to understand the dilemma we have to go back to last April when Kanye was active on Twitter, or his “book in real time,” as he described it. It was an exciting time for not just Kanye fans, but for all Twitter users who got a kick out of his wacky and meme-able tweets. It was one of his first public appearances since he left the stage in the middle of his concert in 2016 for health concerns. His fans were happy to see him well.
Kanye originally came back tweeting about what made him deservedly famous in the first place: his music and his clothing line. For many of us who put Kanye on a pedestal for his cultural impact, it felt like we were getting a behind-the-scenes look into our idol’s life and work. It felt good to be on Twitter.
But it’s all fun and games until someone starts supporting Donald Trump. Sadly, that’s exactly what West expressed. He claimed in a tweet that he and Trump both have “dragon energy.”
You don't have to agree with trump but the mob can't make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don't agree with everything anyone does. That's what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) April 25, 2018
His tweet was immediately hit with backlash by his core fans and the general Twitter community, but one notable person praised him for praising the president: President Trump himself.
Thank you Kanye, very cool! https://t.co/vRIC87M21X
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2018
What the hell Kanye? You didn’t say writing your “book in real time” meant you were going to openly support white supremacy. His tweets on Donald Trump go beyond support; it’s borderline fandom. He dons a signed MAGA hat for the world to see. As someone who has opposed Trump’s rhetoric for years, this was infuriating to see.
But the grossest incident came when he expressed his views on slavery when he appeared on TMZ. In a discussion, West claimed that 400 years of slavery “sounds like a choice,” as if Black Americans choose to be systemically imprisoned. Thankfully, a Black employee at TMZ stood up to West after his comments, saying how disappointing it is hear how out-of-touch West is with the rest of society.
Should politics affect our support for someone?
It should be noted that the tweets weren’t the first incident of Kanye’s support of Trump. His support goes back to when Kanye took a visit to Trump Tower only a month after the election to discuss “multicultural views,” specifically on the topic of West’s hometown of Chicago. The meeting was over a year and half ago, and no progress on the issues has been made.
But should somebody’s political views affect whether or not we support them? A lot of people would find it closed-minded and childish to discredit someone with different political beliefs. This is true to an extent. We should be open to what people have to say, unless they support hate. That being said, in today’s political climate, you are either for Donald Trump or you are against Donald Trump.
Since the the first day of his campaign trail, Donald Trump has expressed, among many things, xenophobic, racist and misogynistic views. His views are divisive, and it is evident that he does not support minorities and marginalized communities. Donald Trump is obviously on a side, and most of Kanye’s fans are not on that side.
West’s lyrics and actions throughout his career have exemplified support of marginalized communities, especially the Black community. He was outspoken of President Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and has been vocal on mass incarceration, which makes his recent views on slavery even more mind boggling.
But even Kanye has expressed that he does not support all of Trump’s views. This leads us to ask, what does Kanye believe? If he supports Trump, but not 100 percent, then which of Trump’s views does he support? Just the misogynistic views? Just the racist ones? It’s ridiculously confusing. Kanye refuses to “pick a side,” considering himself to be a “free thinker,” but most of his fans have chosen one. And that’s why we are outraged.
Should we separate the art from the artist?
In this day and age, it’s culturally accepted to not separate the art from the artist. The #MeToo movement wouldn’t work if we kept watching Kevin Spacey films or episodes of Louie. When an artist has done or is doing something problematic, it’s common to boycott that artist.
So will we boycott Kanye West in the height of his label dropping new music? Even though we should, we most likely will not. And that’s evident with his newest album reaching number one on iTunes in the United States. The general public seems to always give Kanye a pass on his crazy public antics, as long as he keeps releasing musical masterpieces.
When you think of Kanye solely as an artist — even though it’s not possible to make this separation — Kanye truly is a musical innovator. He changed the course of hip-hop back in 2004 with his album, College Dropout, by rapping about faith, love and family in a time where gangster rap was mainstream. His 2013 album, Yeezus, influenced an entire generation of hip-hop musicians to mainstream trap drums and autotune. Kanye West has had an enormous impact on the music industry. This is why it’s so hard to write off Kanye as a nobody when he is and always has been an important influencer of culture.
But we can’t just forget everything either. No one should consider themselves a bad person or a bad ally for listening to West’s music or making Kanye West references. But when somebody brings up the fact that Kanye supports someone whose views are xenophobic, racist and misogynistic, there’s really no way to defend him.
Yes, Kanye is out of touch, and he doesn’t deserve much sympathy for it, but you’re going to like what you’re going to like regardless. If you’ve liked Kanye’s music for more than half your life like I have, then you’re going to listen to his music.
It helps me sleep at night knowing that West is not in a position to directly affect the rights and well-being of regular people like Trump is. But someone who is in a position of privilege and is regularly discussing that people need help should be active in helping their communities. Chance The Rapper is donating $1 million to Chicago Public Schools; Pusha-T is increasing voter turnouts in Virginia. Maybe Kanye should follow in the footsteps of his mentees. And maybe there’s still time to give him that chance.
Is Kanye cancelled?
So is Kanye West cancelled? Probably not. His influence is huge and his core fans will follow him to any extent. It would be right of us to cancel Kanye, but again, the general public seems to be giving him a pass, something we don’t allow to many others. His views are wrong. His ideology is wrong. To say that Trump has done more for black people than Obama is just plain wrong. In a time where kids are being stripped from their families, dreamers are worried about being deported and white supremacists are openly killing people, it is absolutely not okay to support Donald Trump.
Hopefully Kanye realizes this one day. If he doesn’t, he is bound to lose much of his audience. You can’t say you support love when you support somebody who drives hate into people.