It had been months since we heard from Kanye West. Other than random musings about art no one’s really heard of, the Twitterosphere may have been way overdue for a Yeezy-approved style rant. The rapper, designer and makeshift philosopher certainly delivered with real-time tweet after tweet, relaying thoughts and open-ended ideas with little to no context.
After announcing a slew of music releases, including his first album since 2016’s “The Life of Pablo,” West went on to champion controversial conservative commentator Candace Owens, bewildering longtime fans and friends. But West didn’t stop there. He tweeted his admiration for President Trump and then got a thank-you retweet from the man himself.
The internet was aghast with West tweets given that he was a vocal critic of past presidents, including hip-hop’s favorite, Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, Trump supporters reveled in West’s declaration of affection for the president and jeered those who criticized the rapper.
It’s hard to tell whether the series of moments that left many fans slack-jawed was real or a publicity stunt for West’s upcoming album. Washington Post staffers Nia Decaille and Aaron Williams sat down to talk about Kanye’s return to Twitter and all the antics that followed.
Aaron: I remember, like, buying “The College Dropout” at Target. I grew up being, like: Wow, he’s different. He sounds a lot closer to who I am than, say, 50 Cent. I didn’t grow up in the streets. You know? I didn’t get shot at.
Nia: I remember on [BET’s] 106 & Park when they did that whole, like, battle [between West and 50 Cent]. I think that was almost like a shift, like, for me watching it happen.
Aaron: Yeah, 2007-2008 was when 50 put out his second album, “The Massacre,” and then Kanye was coming out with “Graduation.” And “Graduation” sold more. It was kind of at that point that hip-hop had shifted from, like, the majority gangster sound to something that encompassed more black life. Because of that you got people like Drake, Kid Cudi, Wale, Kendrick, Nicki Minaj, etc. All of those artists are post-Kanye. … On one hand, I’m, like, I will forever love Kanye for his contributions to hip-hop, but I can’t reconcile him going on Twitter and saying wild stuff, right?
Nia: Yeah, wild is really, like, the tip of the iceberg. I mean people keep making that distinction on my timeline like, “What happened to the Kanye that got on TV and said George Bush doesn’t care about black people?”
Aaron: So now he has assorted tweets, like, he’s screenshotted Chance the Rapper tweeting “Black people don’t have to be democrats,” Which is true! Black people don’t have to be Democrats.
Nia: But a lot of people under this administration have felt like they aren’t being heard, that their neighborhoods are still going to continue to be over-policed, that they’re still experiencing violence on different levels. … [West is] tweeting about love, but a lot of people have really felt like some of the things you say, especially in this context, are actually really, really painful and counterproductive to getting justice or just equality in general.
Aaron: I agree with Kanye. I think that we should have more love in the world and things like that. But, it’s like when you have a conversation about racism and someone’s like, “Well, there’s only one race — the human race.” In the absolute abstract, you’re correct. Like race is a made-up thing. … But the world does not operate in this fairy-tale land where race doesn’t exist. … So it’s like for him to be like, “Well it’s all about love,” yeah, you’re right, I agree. But you’re not giving any kind of constructive means to achieve that.
Nia: So, getting back to my argument about Kanye actually not being who we thought that he was … Fans have specific ideas about Kanye that they hold on to really dearly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the whole Kanye. … Maybe he hasn’t been this person we thought all along. And this brings me to another point: We say because he’s a genius that we give him credence to go off and do these things because the music is going to be great.
Aaron: This is something I struggle with as a hip-hop listener. My earliest memories are listening to Tupac and Biggie. I learned as I’ve grown older that just because you have a reverence for an artist doesn’t mean you should give them credence or a pass for bad behavior. One of the biggest examples is Dr. Dre. I’m from California. I’m from the West Coast. Dr. Dre is like a patron saint. But I go back to “The Chronic,” which is one of the best hip-hop records ever produced, and it’s incredibly problematic. It is misogynistic. It is homophobic. It has problematic views on what black men should be. In some ways, yes, it’s a product of the environment they grew up in. But I know plenty of people who grew up in that environment who are not like that. So, I’m not going to give Dre a pass, right? And same way with Kanye — like, yes, he’s a genius. Yes, he’s contributed so much to hip-hop and music. But that doesn’t excuse him from making problematic comments about race and identity.
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