Last week, after Drake followed through on his closing “Duppy Freestyle” threat to invoice GOOD Music for his assistance selling more copies of Pusha T’s Daytona — due to the buzz generated by the rappers’ battle — Chicago rapper Che “Rhymefest” Smith replied to Drake on Twitter, writing, “When G.O.O.D. Music sends the money they owe you, will you please help us rebuild Kanye’s mother’s house for the youth of Chicago. I spoke to Kanye about it. His response was ‘f**k the youth of Chicago.’”
Kanye West’s reported response to Smith’s request, whether exaggerated by Rhymefest in the interest of a spicier narrative or not, reflects his attitude toward his other long-term supporters. His recent comments and publicity stunts feel like a curse to those who’ve weathered the storm of his prior offenses and social faux pas. His Make America Great Again hat, his embrace of Donald Trump, whose policies have proven to be embarrassing and harmful for any number of Americans, and his unwillingness to simply admit when he’s wrong and apologize have undermined all those fans’ hope in his work and his legacy, leaving them just as disappointed as Rhymefest and the kids of his Donda’s House charity.
While Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian-West, leaped to his defense with a Twitter tirade of her own, accusing Rhymefest of mismanaging funds and threatening to have the charity taken from him, her counterattack only highlighted the problem with Kanye. Rather than addressing the request or dealing with the issue privately, as she apparently hoped Rhymefest would have done, she increased the drama. Rather than seeking a compromise, or using the moment to help the charity named for her late mother-in-law, she chose to lash out — the same way Kanye does when he is challenged.
While both sides have valid arguments, their beef doesn’t serve anyone, least of all the underprivileged kids that will suffer as a result. The truth is, however overblown the violence in Chicago may be in national media, it is real, and it’s prevalent and it’s present in those kids’ lives, and they need somewhere to go. Every second the adults in control of the charity spend fighting is wasted; the priority should instead be helping the kids.
In the same way, Kanye’s tantrums in the face of valid criticism — whether online or in private — further undermines his position in hip-hop’s canon. Rather than recognizing that his number one priority should be creating music that moves people and stands the test of time, he’s engaged in a drama-seeking publicity campaign, trying to use shock value and outrage to fuel the buzz behind his spate of upcoming GOOD Music albums. While the music may ultimately be good, the negative attention has almost certainly soured many of his longsuffering fans’ enthusiasm, and just might backfire.
The fact that Kanye West is so willing to turn on his long-time friend Rhymefest, who helped him pen his Grammy-winning hit “Jesus Walks,” just proves how out-of-touch the mercurial self-proclaimed genius really is. From his cloistered compound in Calabasas, he pronounces “F*ck the youth of Chicago” even as he uses his Twitter to condemn the violence there, mimicking his apparent inspiration Donald Trump without having set foot back in his old stomping grounds in years. When his old friend offers a solution, he turns him down for petty reasons — a pair of fake Yeezys worn to the studio in Hawaii during the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy recording sessions — and remains quiet as his friend and wife argue in a public forum.
It’s all the same to Kanye — it’s all attention. But that same attention should have been redirected toward his mother’s charity. Even if Kanye had financial troubles that prevented his direct assistance, as Kim later explained on Twitter, he has a massive platform. Rather than bigging up condescending conservative mouthpiece Candace Owens, he could have been plugging Donda’s House, his new music, or any number of endeavors. He’d apparently rather bask in the notice and notoriety of his controversial tweets than point the spotlight anywhere than at himself. Maybe that’s what Kanye’s other one-time, long-time friend Jay-Z really meant when he said, “Nobody wins when the family feuds.”