I'll be real honest. I didn't want to give Kanye West my .089 cents for streaming his new album, Ye, via Tidal. Nope. Not the same man who said slavery was a choice. Not the same man who practically made a martyr of himself through songs that detailed the African American experience, like "Jesus Walks", or whose word vomit included simple yet contentious statements like "George Bush doesn't care about black people," not the same man who then turned around and endorsed the warped Trump-developed slogan "make America great again."
But because I am a student of the culture, and because West has been the public figure to fearlessly declare statements that many have dared not, I had to delve deeper and well... decide. And when I say decide, I mean decide on a lot of things...
Nine years after the passing of his beloved mother, Donda West, and a month after his wife Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in Paris, Kanye West was admitted into the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center for stress and exhaustion. Today, West refers to that period of his life as the "breakthrough" rather than the "breakdown." This is not surprising. The man we've come to know as Ye' has always exhibited the personality traits that he endears the most: pride, confidence, and egocentrism. Seldom have we seen an insecure or vulnerable Kanye West. And frankly, that is why many have come to love him.
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For someone like myself, who's known Kanye West more largely through his televised rants and candid moments rather than musical accolades (i.e.: The College Dropout, Graduation, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, etc.), it’s safe to say that Kanye West lives for and basks in his ability to create shock value, his access to publicity, and most of all the security of his ego. Therefore, I don't believe that anyone can really say they're surprised when Ye' vents his mind.
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However, being surprised and deeply hurt or dispositioned by Ye's comments are two completely different calibers of reactions. With statements like slavery "sounds like a choice," consecutively implying that blacks have presently perpetuated their own oppression, and publicly proclaiming his admiration for President Donald Trump because he managed to accomplish what many said he couldn't, Kanye has successfully infiltrated and divided his own fan-base, leaving the giant question of: are we canceling Ye' or nay?
Through press runs to promote his album, Kanye has done two major sit down interviews, one where he flew out The Breakfast Club's own Charlemagne tha God during the creation of his album Ye, and another with Los Angeles' own Big Boy at his album listening and release party. Initially, I was not highly intrigued to listen to either interview. And the album? Well, that wasn't even a thought. Why should I give my streaming money/viewership to someone who said slavery was a choice? However, as much as I was infuriated and displaced by his statements, actively perpetuating ignorance wasn't the solution to take either.
Of those who actively became turned off by his statements, were fans who had fallen in love with the ideology West had entered the game with and created a following from; pro-black rhetoric that marked albums like The College Dropout and Graduation. His recent abandonment of such led many to ask, was Kanye ever really black-enlightened? Were these ever really his true feelings? Or were they the rhetoric of writers, and/or the marketing plans of the team behind him?
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In his sit down with @CThaGod, Kanye acknowledges that he did begin his career with an authentic voice, one that veered off due to the pressures of the industry; acknowledging that what inspired “Ye” was his heavy desire to go against mass opinion and proclaim his rediscovery.
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Ironically enough, after the interview with Charlemagne was taped, Kanye made the decision to go back into the studio... and totally scrapped the entire album to start again from scratch. Leaving many to wonder, was Ye beginning to understand the extent of the feelings he had hurt with his rhetoric? Or was this simply a cleanup plan for the mess that he had created?
However, there are many on the other side of the fence that would agree with Ye. They agree he should have the freedom to speak his mind, believe what he wishes to believe, and not be held to the unholy standard of a role model (This is ironic from someone who calls himself Yeezus, but okay, let's go with it.).
What Ye values more than what he is saying, is his freedom to be able to say it. However, many miss this facet because the shock value of what he is saying becomes more compelling and distracting than his love for just wanting to speak his mind (and have us all listen of course). West prides himself on his ability to remain vocally honest while holding a position of privilege as a celebrity, and having publicly divulged his diagnosis with bipolar disorder. He simply basks in his ability to operate within that realm.
Though we'll never really know West's true feelings on Trump and the actions of his presidency thus far, when asked about the President and his campaign, Kanye stated, "when he was running, I felt something... the fact that he won, it proved something... it showed me that anything was possible." One thing that we do know for sure is Kanye's admiration for Donald trump stems from the fact that he sees something in him that resonates, connects with, and mirrors himself.
However, although we've reached this conclusion, there are still many questions that remain unanswered: will we ever really know for sure if Kanye was once genuine to the African American plight? Can we actively judge a man who's openly declared his battle with mental illness? Are we canceling Kanye? And if not, does this come down to a larger discussion of the African American community's inability to reprimand one of their own ala Bill Cosby and R. Kelly, a very large question at this time?
At the end of Charlemagne's interview with West, he asked, "What would College Dropout Kanye--if he was looking at pictures of Kanye now, what would he say?" To which Ye replied, "I think he'd be happy, satisfied, and he would believe it... This is a version of a College Dropout Ye'."
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