Kanye West has finally done it. With a string of tweets, the hip-hop great has proven that even he, the Great Uncancel-able, can in fact be “cancelled”.
This week, West took to Twitter to refer to Donald Trump, the flagrantly racist US president, as “his brother” and declared that “the mob can't make me not love him.” He went on to post a picture of his signed “Make America Great Again” hat, which fellow egomaniac Trump gleefully retweeted.
The jig, it seems, is finally up. Not for Kanye, mind, who – despite his denial – blissfully set up shop in the Sunken Place [a metaphorical black hole inhabited by those silenced by rich, white people, deriving from Jordan Peele’s film, Get Out] several years back, but for his legions of fans, who have continually framed his pandering to racists as anything other than what it is.
Many are showing up to the #KanyeIsOverParty unfashionably late. Several people, specifically black women, have been side-eyeing him since his, “But you stay right, girl and when you get on he’ll leave your ass for a white girl” line in Gold Digger, back in 2005. But black women’s knee-jerk reaction to the lyric was always going to be batted off as bitterness. Rather than being illustrative of Kanye internalising the belief that white women are a marker of black male success, the line was posited as an astute and objective observation. This was believed to be the case even when, at the height of his success, he went on to marry a woman whose entire family have made a living from being non-black women who drape black culture over themselves like one of their many minks. Even in the face of his casting call for “multiracial women only” for his Yeezy Season 4 fashion show in 2016.
The line didn’t matter as, later that year, he was one of us again when he declared that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”, during the live broadcast of a celebrity-driven benefit concert for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The problem is, George Bush doesn’t care about black people and neither does Kanye West – at least, not anymore. And this is something he has made explicitly clear for several years. The narrative fans continue to cling to is that the change between old Kanye and new Kanye was instantaneous, as if he traded bodies with Milo Yiannopoulos one Freaky Friday thanks to a fortune cookie. Admitting that his comments on Trump (an incompetent president) aren’t out of character and his comments about Bush (an incompetent former president) are means admitting how long we’ve ignored who he now is. The road from Telethon Kanye to Trump Kanye has not been sudden by any means.
Kanye West poses in a "Make America Great Again" hat (Photo: Twitter)
Bar his outburst in 2005, West’s continuing racial discourse is inextricably tied to how well he's doing in his life at that particular point. He can stomach racism and inequality, as long as it’s not happening to him; his empathy is contingent on how removed he feels from it. And his inconsistent anger at the establishment is down to the fact he sincerely thought his blackness was something he bought and married himself out of.
When Kanye realised he couldn’t transcend race, he went back to being a black man. He concluded if he couldn’t join racists, he’d beat them. In 2013, when Kanye felt shut out of the notoriously exclusive fashion industry, he took to lamenting in interviews on Jimmy Kimmel Live and with Zane Lowe. He explained the world’s ire with him referring to himself as “a God” on BBC Radio 1: “To say you are a God, especially when you got shipped over to the country that you're in, and your last name is a slave owner's. How could you say that?”
Never was the self-centred nature of his “activism” more apparent than when he discussed being snubbed for a meeting with Louis Vuitton’s vice-president Yves Carcelle on 92.3 NOW radio. “Let me explain to you why you need to meet with me,” he said. “Everybody in New York City right now don't buy any Louis Vuitton until after January. Now do you want to meet with me? Influence. They think that I don't realise my power.” He decried discrimination again at Wireless festival the next year, and never once used his platform to highlight other existing black designers. His calls for a boycott were based solely on his own bruised ego, as ever.
Stripped of the bangers, he’s simply another man complicit in the denigration of his fellow people, hoping that his dismissal brings him further in line with white society
At the BET Honours in 2015 he yet again spoke about how race impeded his ability to break into fashion and then, in the very same year, changed his mind. As he had once demanded the faithful disciples of Yeezus to boycott Louis Vuitton, we were now to boycott talk of the racism he had been bemoaning for years. “Racism is a dated concept,” he said without a hint of irony in an interview.
Kanye’s endorsement last week of Candace Owens, a black far-right commentator, seems to have been a particular tipping point for his fans. But why would they expect anything else from a man who also praised Ben Carson, a black man who said Obamacare was "the worst thing since slavery", as “the most brilliant guy”?
“Black people that are focused on their past and shouting about slavery and black people that are focused on their futures, OK? That’s really what it comes down to, OK?” Owens said of Black Lives Matter protesters, who she wrote off as “whiny”. It could have easily been said by the rapper himself. For someone so outspoken, he was uncharacteristically silent on Black Lives Matter during its height, and echoed her sentiments in 2016 when he told black people to “stop focusing on racism.”
The only difference between Candace Owens, Ben Carson and Kanye West is that the latter gave us Graduation and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Stripped of the bangers, he’s simply another man complicit in the denigration of his fellow people, hoping that his dismissal brings him further in line with white society.
His admission that he would've voted Trump, had he voted at all, was still played off as a part of something bigger and subversive. Their meeting at Trump Tower, a month after his announcement, was also all part of this elusive plan we are yet to see the fruits of. It seems the breaking point may have come not at his first endorsing of Trump, but his ninth.
Kanye will still likely revert to racial awareness when things aren’t going his way. In 2016, one of his most problematic years, he still found himself demanding white publications to “not comment on black music anymore”, no doubt because he wasn’t too fond of the reviews of The Life Of Pablo.
"I love love love white people but you don't understand what it means to be the great grandson of ex slaves and make it this far,” he wrote.
His complicity has been written off as some type of performance art because of West’s perceived genius; even his latest Trump endorsements are being touted as a master marketing plan for his upcoming album. This is a man who previously took to donning the confederate flag and only offered a paltry explanation an entire two years later, during yet another one of his “woke” phases, claiming his failed attempt to court white supremacists was an actual attempt to subvert. We love to protect and project our own hopes and beliefs on to Kanye, but in the wake of yesterday there simply isn’t an alibi left. Whether it’s speaking out about racism or befriending Trump ahead of his own hinted bid for the presidency, it’s all for him and about him – something he showed us long before yesterday.