Kanye West has never been a guy who stays in his lane. He dropped out of college to produce music. He was raised in an upper middle-class home but rapped about the ‘hood. He’s a black man from Chicago who firmly supported Barrack Obama and firmly disapproved of George Bush, and who now backs President Trump.
Kanye is a brilliantly creative person, which means we shouldn’t write off his political statements because, at times, they seem… half-baked. But Kanye’s political statements are sort of…half-baked.
Is he three steps ahead of the rest of us? Or is he two steps behind? Is it brilliance, or self-centeredness, or a lack of an understanding of issues, or a deep clarity about the importance of success that moves him toward the political right?
Let’s take a look.
Kanye is two steps behind.
he’s made a few mistakes when talking about political issues
The 13th amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime for which someone had been convicted.
“Abolish was the wrong language,” Kanye said after the backlash. “I misspoke by saying abolish. Amend is the right language.”
endless focus on himself
Here are just a few statements from Kanye over the years:
“I’m doing pretty good as far as geniuses go … I’m like a machine. I’m a robot. You cannot offend a robot … I’m going down as a legend, whether or not you like me or not. I am the new Jim Morrison. I am the new Kurt Cobain … The Bible had 20, 30, 40, 50 characters in it. You don’t think that I would be one of the characters of today’s modern Bible?”
“My greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live.”
About his wife, Kim Kardashian:
“Kim doesn’t understand what a blessing I am to her.”
At the 2009 MTV Music Awards, Taylor Swift was receiving an award when Kanye left his seat, joined her on stage, took the mic from her hand and said Beyonce deserved the award Swift was about to receive.
There was backlash from that too. Even President Obama joined in, calling Kanye a “jackass,” which was a pretty harsh remark for the then-President Obama.
West once again headed for the stage in 2015, when Beck won Album of the Year at the Grammys over favorites Beyonce and Sam Smith. This time, Kanye veered off at the last minute–but he didn’t go unnoticed.
For years, Kanye’s raps about racial injustice made him culturally relevant. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, his fame went beyond his music fans when he said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” And, in 2010, he refused to perform in Arizona after new stop and search laws were directed against immigrants.
Kanye does not seem to have a consistent ideology worked out, and–in that way–seems more like a passionate man who speaks from his heart rather than a political machine that has considered issues on multiple levels.
Kanye is three steps ahead.
he’s a brilliant musician
Kanye was raised by his mother, a college professor at Chicago State University. He also had a relationship with his father, who was a photographer of some merit and a former Black Panther. Kanye attended the university at which his mother taught and pursued a degree in English before dropping out to follow his passion in music.
He started by producing, and eventually made his way into creating his own music.
Now, Kanye is one of the best selling musicians of all times. He has won 21 Grammy Awards, more than any other of his time. Three of his albums are ranked on Rolling Stone’s 500 Best Albums of All-Time list. Time magazine twice named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
All of West’s studio albums have gone platinum.
it’s not about policy
“But I can tell you that when he was running, it’s like I felt something,” Kanye said about President Trump. “The fact that he won proves something. It proves that anything is possible in America.” He added, “When I see an outsider infiltrate, I connect with that.”
Kanye has been a truth-speaking outsider for much of his adult life, and he connects with President Trump on this level. But there’s more. President Trump pulls out of agreements, shakes up the existing order, fires the people around him–he’s independent minded and that’s a quality Kanye firmly believes in.
So, setting aside specific policies that Kanye doesn’t seem to care too much about, is speaking the truth and doing it independently and leaving behind norms and being persistent so different than the Black Panther role model his father might’ve been, or the rapper that Kanye became?
racism doesn’t matter to Kanye
“Well, racism isn’t the deal breaker for me. If that was the case, I wouldn’t live in America.” Even as a rich black man, he continues to face discrimination. “In this gated community, I deal with it.”
Kanye is a rich black man, married to a white woman, rapping to an audience of all colors. He talks about racial injustice as well as Trump’s win and what it meant to him.
“I know Obama was heaven-sent but ever since Trump won, it proved that I could be president.”
What matters to this black man is whether or not HE can win.
Booker T. Washington once said, “I have begun everything with the idea that I could succeed, and I never had much patience with the multitudes of people who are always ready to explain why one cannot succeed.”