In recent weeks, we have heard a lot from the man, the mogul and the artist, Kanye West. Kanye West has returned in usual fashion and has taken to his typical marketing strategy of meaningful twitter rants — tweets about his ideas, people he’d like to meet with and, once again, controversy.
For most Kanye fans, we were in our early to mid-teens when he first came out and we grew up with him. We saw Kanye when he had the shutter shades, a pink polo and a Louis backpack. Kanye showed us that kids from the hood can be different and proud, and his music/lifestyle opened the door in hip-hop for a lot of the new age artists. Kanye made songs like “Jesus Walks,” “All Falls Down,” “Family Business” and “Heard ‘Em Say” that built on the hip-hop legacies of A Tribe called Quest, Mos Def and Common. He conveyed beautiful pro-black concepts and messages through his art, which was why we allowed him into our hearts.
Throughout his career, Kanye spoke outwardly against racism, oppression and the overall convoluted system that controls America. We felt that we had a voice rooting for us and attempting to shut the system down. Ye stated on live television that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” regarding the former President’s Hurricane Katrina efforts, which did little to aid marginalized communities suffering in New Orleans. We elevated him to the point of stardom he is currently at today because he was always the controversial voice that spoke our truth. That is why this hurts so much. By openly supporting Donald Trump and distancing himself from “conventional black thought,” it’s like he’s turning his back on us.
Kanye West has conveyed in his tweets and in his most recent single, “Ye versus the People,” that conventional black thought is a concept used to control and put fear into black people. It is the concept that because you are black, you must adhere to a certain ideological mind state or the black community will disown you. He believes this is a tactic by America to keep us enslaved and limit our ability to think freely. However, Kanye West, someone who has contributed largely to this idea of “conventional black thought,” refuses to acknowledge that this concept only applies to hatred. Across the spectrum, what most people within the black community hold near and dear to their hearts, as an oppressed people, is unity. Our music, lifestyles and struggles have all led back to unity. As a people, we cannot tolerate hate in any way, shape or form; which is why if you have any hate in your heart, the black community will not support you.
Trump’s campaign has allowed hate groups in the U.S to flourish without consequence, has ridiculed black protestors, objectified/assaulted women and has degraded people from our country and immigrants alike. He has used his platform to promote hatred, which has allowed hate crimes and overt discrimination to flourish and grow because of this. He has built a nation that is comfortable with brandishing a narrative of hateful thinking. Kanye believes that by wearing the MAGA hat he can promote unity and love to snuff out hatred, but instead he is being used as a pawn to further a more hateful agenda. As Janelle Monae said recently, "If your free thinking is used as fuel by oppressors to continue to oppress black people, minorities — I think it's bullshit and not OK.” While I believe his heart is in the right place, his methods are surely off.
Ye has assisted in the evolution of hip-hop into the introspective, expressive, honest genre it is today. He has revealed much of his fallacies, insecurities and fears with us on 808s & Heartbreaks. He has cultivated a style in which the voice can be a musical instrument, as he did on the songs “Lost in the World” and “Runaway.” He made it popular for God to be mentioned in hip-hop outside of gospel with “Jesus Walks” and “Ultralight Beam.” Without Kanye West, hip-hop would not be as emotionally expressive as it is now; he has largely contributed to the progressive hip-hop era we live in.
I believe Kanye’s support of Donald Trump, is misguided, but not malicious. Kanye has always been the voice of the people and so I will not give up on him just yet. Ye’s parents and grandparents were activists, and he’s been a revolutionary voice for black people since the inception of his career. If Kanye is wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, then I have faith that he believes that he is on the right side of history and in our corner once again, although I disagree with his methods. If anything proves to be true about Kanye, his heart is always in the right place, but his methods are always questionable. As the infamous Kendrick Lamar once asked, “when shit hits the fan, are you still a fan?” And here I believe this holds true more than ever.
Please Kanye, take the hat off!