Kanye West has a history of causing an uproar in the media with sometimes sensationalist comments, emotional outbursts, and, putting it mildly, eccentric behavior. Whether you’re talking about his 2005 remarks during A Concert for Hurricane Relief, when he said that then-President-elect George W. Bush “doesn’t care about black people” (which he later apologized for), or in 2009, when he stole the microphone from a shocked Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
Just when you thought his antics couldn’t become more outrageous, they did. Unlike his earlier comments, which endeared hip-hop fans to the icon because of the perception that he was a “voice of the people” and not controlled by the corporations that influence hip-hop. More recent behavior, such as his tirade at a 2016 Sacramento concert, and his support for President Donald Trump, have brought much criticism from his core fan base. And if Kanye isn’t more careful, it is only a matter of time before he is uninvited to the barbecue, and even sooner if he can’t match the impressive catalogue of earlier work, with the only questionable album really being Yeezus.
It’s not the music that’s getting the rapper the side-eye, but the questionable behavior and comments from him that has made people question the mental health of the Chicago native. Being linked with the Kardashians hasn’t helped his public image, especially within the industry, with rappers like Snoop Dogg calling him “weird.” His most recent behavior has caused many to pose the question, “Whose side is Kanye really on?” Has the Chicago rapper, who once was respected for his honesty and depiction of overcoming struggle — like the time he rapped with his jaw wired shut on “Through the Wire” — become out of touch with his fan base because of his posh lifestyle in Calabasas?
Is it a coincidence that Kanye’s music has been less well-received since he joined forces with Kim Kardashian? Or could it be that he’s the victim of a curse or dark magic that has been associated with the Kardashians? Or is the answer much simpler — that Kanye doesn’t have the same problems his fans have and one could argue that the rapper, since coming to fame, has done nothing but take for granted the privileges that he has been afforded. While we’ve seen him witness hardship and suffering, such as the passing of his mother in 2007, the question must be asked, when does the coonery stop?
It’s not that Kanye can’t endorse whoever he pleases, but you have to recognize how it seems because of the financial privilege and platform he enjoys. It’s hard for me to feel empathetic towards him when he cries about being $53 million in debt on Twitter. So, when Kanye West praised Conservative Activist Candace Owens, the backlash was immediately deserving. To later tweet the next day he was producing the next Nas album in addition to other projects, one could argue that the endorsement of Candace Owens was a clever publicity stunt and the tweet about her could be his latest ploy to get attention — or perhaps he really likes the way she thinks! Either way, the rapper, if he doesn’t start being more clear and concise with his statements, stands a major risk of alienating fans at such a political moment in our history — where people are divided for a number of reasons like, immigration, school shootings, or systematic racism — all issues Owens have mocked.
Watching past interviews, Kanye West isn’t necessarily always the most informed person. After the 2015 Grammys, he said that Beck should “respect artistry” and hand over the award to Beyoncé, when he had not even listened to Beck’s album. Therefore, someone who has such a fan base, should have more of a responsibility when commenting on issues that actually matter, or endorsing people who are possibly influencing other people’s political beliefs. But, we also have a president who tweets without being informed, as well. So how high of a standard can the public hold Kanye? While everyone doesn’t have to think the same, or support the same ideas in hip-hop, the music has traditionally been a voice of the streets. Kanye West is no longer using his voice effectively, and if these tirades continue, he needs to be stripped of that voice and disinvited from the barbecue.
Why the Backlash?
Kanye West praised Owens on Twitter, saying, “I love the way Candace Owens thinks.” And to get a better understanding of why people would be upset over Kanye giving props to the avowed Trump supporter, she’s criticized the Black Lives Matter movement and NFL athletes such as Colin Kaepernick for not standing during the National Anthem. While some of her views may be unpopular, a lot of the ideas she support are very pragmatic, such as her opposition against a “victimization agenda.” She also makes a good point of blasting the democratic agenda that has done very little for African-Americans since The Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, her blind support of the Republican party seems ridiculous and naive (no less than blacks who blindly support Democrats); Couple that with the fact that she has criticized Jay-Z for being a slave, mocked teenagers at Parkland, and an endorsement by Kanye seems more out-of-place than a reality star in the presidency.
The truth of the matter is that Kanye’s comments were vague because he doesn’t state which thoughts of Owens have resonated with him specifically — but he likely tweeted this in the first place to get a response. Owens has been vilified by many in the African-American community, and her intentions appear noble but misguided. While she makes some enlightened statements, one would argue that she is clearly out of touch with the African-American community and is almost cold-hearted in the explanation of her viewpoints. Her opinions offer little empathy for how Black America has been victimized by Democrats and Republicans alike. And in her praise of Republicans, she forgets to mention how some of them have been documented as racist; For example, Republican State Rep. Steve Alford’s recent remark, at a public meeting, about marijuana legalization:
What you really need to do is go back in the ’30s and when they outlawed all types of drugs in Kansas [and] across the United States. What was the reason they did that? One of the reasons why — I hate to say it — is the African-Americans, they were basically users and they responded the worst off to those drugs. It’s because of their character makeup — their genetics and that.
Keep in mind, this is an elected official. One would make a strong argument that he is not the only one who harbors this same sentiment, regardless of his political party. This is the type of prejudice that results in African-Americans being racially profiled and arrested for crimes they didn’t commit. Where I differ with Owens in her rhetoric about having a “victim mentality,” is that she forgets to mention the victimization that is still occurring within the black community — where we are harassed and discriminated on a daily basis — making it nearly impossible to forget.
Yes, I believe that African-Americans can achieve success, but don’t tell me there aren’t obstacles or perils, even when you’ve achieved some degree of success — like the bogus charges against the Eagles’ Michael Bennett. The point is that Candace Owens is out of touch with the black community. For starters, she grew up in a predominantly white community in Connecticut. And while I don’t believe her ignorance is intentional, it is definitely harmful. However, Kanye has no excuse other than mental illness. And if that’s not the case, it almost seems like a willful attempt to mislead people who are distorting the truth, which is what hip-hop is supposed to be about.
My favorite hip-hop star doesn’t need to be aligned with the a voice of misinformation and willful ignorance. It makes the culture look ridiculous when the same people who are oppressing us are praised; And that is what Candace Owens does in her work. I don’t think Hillary Clinton was a good choice for president, but Donald Trump wasn’t either. It’s not fear of imagining the worse, but a president who picks cabinet members that are not against segregation in schools, certainly doesn’t seem progressive and someone that those in hip-hop should willingly support.
Separation of Hip Hop and Politics
I’m freaking out. @kanyewest ….please take a meeting with me. I tell every single person that everything that I have been inspired to do, was written in your music.
I am my own biggest fan, because you made it okay. I need you to help wake up the black community. https://t.co/Uz1nB9K0Oz
— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) April 21, 2018
One can notice that at times, the “groupthink” mentality has been getting ridiculous within hip-hop. While I don’t agree with everything Candace Owens says, I can respect her for being an independent thinker and having her own thoughts without calling her the typical names she’s been called online: “Uncle Tom” or “Negro bed wench.” One of the things I will note, is that she was absolutely thrilled at the Kanye West endorsement and attributes his music to the way she thinks. One issue I’ve noticed within hip-hop, is the conformity that is required for acceptance when you are labeled an “Uncle Tom” — like some did Killer Mike for his NRA interview.
The truth of the matter is that some Democrats are racists, some Republicans aren’t, and vice versa. However, I am tired of hip-hop artists telling me who I should be voting for or supporting. I feel that, sometimes, it’s a great deal of ignorance within the community that doesn’t allow us to have real conversations to bring change, unless we all think the same. For instance, it was a number of artists that supported Barack Obama, whom I really think was an excellent speaker and even a role model for all people. But what did he do to help our community?
It also happens in music. When Joyner Lucas released “I’m Not Racist,” he was criticized for simplifying racial tensions, but other artists are criticized for not speaking about social issues. However, one can respect an artist for not speaking about an issue they aren’t informed about. Hip-Hop doesn’t need the support or endorsement of politicians. And as a culture, we need to be careful about linking ourselves with candidates who really don’t care about our communities. This can be seen with Jay-Z supporting Hillary Clinton, or Kanye West endorsing Candace Owens. It makes our culture look bad and our leaders, not only contradictory, but foolish. While participation in the political process has been a positive thing, there needs to be a separation between hip-hop and politics. Politics represent the establishment. And in this genre, which started as an underground movement in the Bronx, just so it could join forces and be part of the same establishment that it was supposed to be rebelling against, it’s a problem.
If we are going to support candidates, let’s support people who are actually from the culture, like Dupre Kelly, who is running for City Council in Newark. However, a lot of these individuals are just pandering to our community and doing interviews on The Breakfast Club. We are giving them platforms and they will be the same ones who destroy it, like Kamala Harris. People like her are the reason Meek Mill is in jail. But there are positive candidates on the Democratic side, like New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, and even a few good Republicans, such as Utah Governor Gary Herbert. Do your research and don’t let these hip-hop artists tell you who to vote for.