Kanye West told artist Axel Verdoordt in a recent interview that he hopes his work “represents humanity for the next 500 to 1,000 years.” The quote reminded me of a musing I’ve always had when it comes to Kanye: If we were waaay in the future, in a time when white supremacy has hopefully been dismantled, Kanye’s push for free thought and idealism above all would be commendable. In 2018, however, he’s continuing to make a fool of himself.
He once tweeted that Twitter was “designed specifically with me in mind just my humble opinion hahhhahaaaahaaa humble hahahahhahaahaaaa.” In theory, Twitter is an ideal vessel for the impulsive, outspoken artist to have 24/7 access to the public. But eight years later, his tweets are showing that we don’t at all want to know what he’s thinking — unless it’s music-related.
On Sunday, he tweeted that “people demonize people and then they demonize anybody who sees anything positive in someone whose been demonized.”
That’s true. But the problem with the tweet is that he’s not merely philosophizing, he’s weaponizing it against people who were legitimately upset that on Saturday he expressed admiration for conservative pundit Candace Owens. Owens is a conservative Black woman who even fellow Republican Eugene Craig called a “Tomi Lahren in Blackface.” In her bluntly-titled I Don’t Care About Charlottesville, the KKK, or White Supremacy video, she opined that Black Lives Matter organizers should “extend their slogan to ‘Don’t Shoot, Because We’ve Already Got It Covered.”
What’s ironic is Owens, who Ye admired as a “free thinker,” specializes in respectability politic-laden talking points concocted by so-called conservatives whose policies conserve an oppressive status quo for Black America. She doesn’t seem like someone who would have gotten to speak on College Dropout.
Kanye still defended her, though. In a subsequent tweet, Kanye noted that “the thought police want to suppress freedom of thought.” Since his return to Twitter, he’s been on an ongoing spiel about freedom of speech, which has aligned him with some strange bedfellows. His tweet about Owens was supported by Roseanne Barr, and even Alex Jones offered him a chance to come on his show.
In a recent conversation with Hot 97’s Ebro Darden, Yeezy allegedly claimed that he still “loves Donald Trump.” He also said he admires Owens because she’s “challenging conventional Black thought,” as Ebro attributed to Kanye. What Kanye doesn’t realize is that the world is full of brilliant Black thinkers but he’s choosing to co-sign reductive ones.
The confounding ordeal exemplifies the “New Kanye.” He wants the world to be full of free thinkers so bad that he champions ones with actual restrictive thoughts, blind to the consequences of his actions that exist outside of the Kardashian bubble. It’s unclear how much of Owens’ dangerous racial pathology he agrees with. He told Ebro that he planned to clarify his thoughts, but decided to “take the heat.” Ebro incisively interpreted that response as Kanye longing to stir publicity by keeping people discussing his polarizing tweets.
Kanye is now willing to go to the very margins of society — and good sense — to extol people who reject the status quo like he does. The problem is, the zephyrs of free thought don’t cloud everyday people from the realities of 2018’s systemic oppression. Whatever good intentions he has will continue to be mangled by his tone deafness.
In a vacuum, Kanye’s ambition to push boundaries and defy definition is admirable. That inquisitiveness spurs him to pull from myriad musical influences and innovate with every album he releases. His mindset used to be aspirational, but these days, regardless of his intentions, he’s coming across more delusional.
For instance, writer Ivie Okechukwu-Ani, who identifies as a Black Nigerian, went to Kanye’s infamous Yeezy Season 4 “multiracial” casting call. She acknowledges that Kanye may have “intended to show us a world in which everyone is ‘multiracial’ or in which race doesn’t matter,” but her experience was that “women of color who look nearly white” were preferred by the casting directors. Though there were models of all shades in the actual fashion show, Kanye’s casting call idea was universally derided across the blogosphere as another example of colorism which plagues the Black community.
Kanye recently tweeted, “let’s be less concerned with ownership of ideas. It is important that ideas see the light of day even if you don’t get the credit for them.” That may make sense to him. After all, he allegedly ghost-produced for Bad Boy producer Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie during the label’s height and has never spoken on it. In 2018, however, that’s one of the worst takes a popular musician could make in a music industry where artists are constantly being appropriated and otherwise having music stolen from them. Kanye has the cachet to make moves without being credited, but upcoming producers and rappers don’t. Creator Ezra Miller replied to his tweet, alleging that he “made Travis Scott’s website for about a year and half and I never got any credit (or money) for it.” Kanye didn’t reply.
The barometer for “Kanye being Kanye” has plummeted from amusing, secretly-relatable-self-absorption such as “I’m too busy writing history to read it” to “post-racialisms” such as “racism is a dated concept” and “self-victimization is a disease,” as he recently tweeted. As he gained a cross-cultural fanbase who believed he could do no wrong — and married into a family full of ethnically ambiguous looking women who are constantly called out for cultural appropriation — he’s insulated himself into a utopia where his musings are law. Now, he’s expressing love for people who are too emboldened by hate to even condemn the KKK.
He once had his finger on the pulse of Black culture, but for the past five years it feels like he’s been getting into bed — literally and figuratively — with people who have no respect for it. Ebro alluded to Kanye discussing having an opioid problem in his Hot 97 interview. Recovering from that and the mental health crisis he suffered at the start of 2017 may have secluded him from the goings on in popular culture, but that doesn’t excuse his coarsely offbase “philosophy,” or co-opting of retrograde pathology — that’s not as innovative as he thinks — just to prove an infantile point about going against the grain. There are countless free thinking Black intellectuals better than Candace Owens that he could pay attention to in order to glean a better understanding of modern racial dynamics — if he cared to.
Most of us can agree that a harmonious world without systemic racism, discrimination and other vessels of oppression is ideal. People would be free to create and speak their mind without regard to how their intentions could be misconstrued or be inadvertently insensitive to hoards of subjugated people. That’s not the case, however, and won’t be in Kanye’s lifetime.
Given Kanye’s track record, there’s a strong chance even those people who’ve muted his Twitter feed will find something to love from his upcoming output — even if they don’t at all understand the mindset that created it. He famously rhymed, “racism still exist they just be concealin’ it.” Who knew that one day he’d be one of the main people doing just that?