By: Alex Marcheschi
Kanye West quite literally wrote the soundtrack to my life. I can still vividly remember the first time I heard “Gold Digger” in seventh grade, my brain exploded. I had never heard anything like that, it was absolutely perfect. I didn’t even know what sampling was before that song. I got on Limewire and downloaded it as quickly as possible and pushed that shit onto my iPod like I was Wile E. Coyote pushing an anvil off a cliff.
I used to cut the grass with “Gold Digger” on repeat, rapping along and making hand motions that undoubtedly concerned my neighbors in white suburbia. Rap music was frowned upon in my house, so hearing “Gold Digger” on the radio was my first real taste of Kanye. It was like when a little Mormon boy steals a sip of Sunkist, I got hooked and knew my life would never be the same. After that moment, I dove headfirst into Kanye’s discography.
“Through The Wire” entranced me, and it was also the first time I heard about Emmett Till. “We Don’t Care” gave me a rare glimpse into the African American inner city mindset. “Family Business” legitimately made me cry. I could go on for days, basically it boils down to this: there are no bad Kanye albums in my mind and I simply can’t rank them due to sheer reverence. I cut the grass to “Gold Digger” when I was 12, blew out the speakers in my first car to “Who Gon Stop Me” when I was 18, bumped Yeezus on the way to my first real job later on and I haven’t stopped listening to Kanye since.
He’s obviously had his controversial moments, from “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” to the Taylor Swift and Beyonce moment. I loved it all. I mean, just look at this man:
He married Kim K…whatever, that’s cool with me. I actually don’t have a huge problem with the Kardashians, they’re the greatest PR wizards of our time. However, Kanye has been getting weird lately, to say the least.
He took the now infamous “Make America Great Again” hat selfie. He said “Trump is my boy.” He said slavery occurring for 400 years “sounds like a choice.” He’s been posting flat out historically incorrect tweets and claiming that they’re true under the guise of “free thought” and he told Charlamagne that his big picture goal is to become the greatest architect of all time and to build cities. It’s a lot to take in.
Here’s what I think is actually going on: a few years ago Kanye arrived at the conclusion that he is no longer perceived as a human being by the large majority of the population, hence his song “I Am a God.”
He started making decisions based off what his “team” was telling him his fans would like best, and he lost himself. He was hospitalized for mental health issues and came out on the other end alive.
He knows how to phrase an idea in the most controversial way possible. When he says, “Trump is my boy”, he doesn’t mean that he agrees with his stance on certain issues, he means that he, along with many other rappers, rode with Trump before he was president and he’s not going to stop now. He told Charlamagne that he loves Trump because Trump proved that Kanye himself could be elected president. That’s what’s happening here.
Kanye isn’t stupid. When he said 400 years of slavery sounds like a choice, he meant that he believes he would’ve led some sort of rebellion to overthrow the system. He wasn’t putting himself in the shoes of the slaves in the past. Obviously people tried that and it didn’t work. He was doing what Kanye West does, verbally shooting from the hip. He was not thinking about the consequences. It’s what makes Kanye who he is. He’s never been scared of the consequences of anything.
So, here lies the biggest question surrounding Kanye’s recent statements: how should it affect my fandom? Or more specifically, how should it affect my fandom as a white guy? I don’t want to be labeled as a racist solely because I still rock with Kanye. I didn’t vote for Trump and I don’t support him, but I believe that Kanye should be able to say whatever he wants to say.
The fundamental problem with all of this involves viewing artists as beacons of moral and societal wisdom. Usually it’s easy to separate the human from the artist. For example, Eminem raps about how he would murder his own mother, but we know Marshall Mathers the human wouldn’t actually do that. The wild card element with Kanye is this: he doesn’t have an off switch. If he’s alive, he’s performing. Kanye The Performer and Kanye The Human are one and the same. He never stops. His clothes are a performance, his thoughts are a performance, his interviews are a performance, hell, even his house and his marriage are performances.
Right now Kanye West is a raging bull with his balls tied to his leg like a rodeo beast and we’re all cowboys. If he hasn’t thrown you off his back yet, by God he’s going to try to before his albums drops, just to watch you come crawling back when the music he drops is simply too fuego to resist.
To Kanye, this is all a performance. The world is his audience and he’s feasting off of our energy, no matter what kind of energy it is. He’s getting high off of the hate, and he knows just how good it’s going to feel when he wins us all back.