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R.I.P. Kanye

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Okay, show of hands, who’s been let down by someone in their life bef– great, that’s everybody! YEEZUS, TAKE THE WHEEL.

b208e991I miss the old Kanye
“All of the Lights” Kanye
Still problematic Kanye
But cuz, like, art Kanye
I hate the new Kanye
Rockin the MAGA Kanye
Hang out with Trump Kanye
Just go away Kanye

Kanye West is an American musician. That feels important to state off the bat — not because you didn’t know, you’re not fifteen years dead, but for some table-setting. He’s not a politician. He’s not a prophet. He’s not a genius (which what does that even mea–) Okay yes, technically, he is a fashion designer. But the only thing being fashioned around here today are some goddamn arguments.

We’re off to a great start!

A few weeks ago, Kanye visited our good friend Cheeto Baby Dick in the Oval Office, where they traded some compliments and awkward handshakes in an attempt to recreate the photo of Nixon and Elvis they both clearly have hanging in their bathrooms.

It was an event that seemed to cap two years of more-erratic-than-usual behavior for Kanye, during which his usual egocentric posturing was replaced by, you know, re-evaluations of the slave trade and unprompted support of a president who most definitely does not care about black people. Along the way he released ten-ish songs (he’s a musician, remember?), one of which gave us the lyric “poop de scoop” while another features the musical stylings of a guy named “Lil’ Pump” and just flat-out sucks ass. (“Ghost Town” is, IMHO, a true banger.) But yeah, the bulk of Kanye’s output since 2016 is trolling.

This is not necessarily new behavior. We’ve known the guy for over a decade now and gotten used to the Kanye Cycle, which goes like this:

  • provocation
  • retreat
  • music
  • exploratory weirdness
  • back to provocation

His next album, ‘Yandhi’, is due out November 23rd; expect him to be tweeting about how parakeets are the only animals to understand Bauhaus architecture day-of, or by December 1st latest. The single most predictable thing about Kanye is his “unpredictability.”

Point is, Kanye will be “good” again and his dalliance with Cheeto Baby Dick largely forgotten (already he’s distanced himself from fellow idiot provocateur Candace Owens)…and then he’ll be “bad” again, aligning himself with some other chode with whom he feels a Dragon Energy™ kinship… then good again, then bad, on and on until our planet implodes or Kanye himself dies (whichever comes first!). Dude’s a one-man Wrestlemania lineup: now face, now heel, either one a costume change away.

kanye-mbdtf-cover.jpg

I mean, he made a WHOLE GD ALBUM ABOUT THIS VERY DUALITY

Here’s where I admit that it’s exactly that tense, sometimes gross tug-of-war between Kanye’s better and worse angels that, for me, has forever been the epicenter of his appeal. He’s the artist who goes there, always, mining the split sides of his personality (MORE ON BIPOLAR DISORDER, COMING UP!) in ways almost no one else would dare. He’s a douchebag, he’s an asshole, he’s a scumbag, he’s a jerk-off, and he’s willing to lay it all out in a nine minute anthem that somehow justifies three minutes of computer voice. When he screams like a banshee on “I Am a God”, it’s uncomfortable and weird and somehow the most fire trap-based journal entry you’ve ever read.

…But we are living in a VASTLY DIFFERENT TIME than 2013, or 2010, or any other time in the Kanye Continuum. “Kanye being Kanye” — he’s brash, he’s annoying, he’s an overgrown child who will clearly work through it on the album “Turbo Grafx 16.” But “Kanye being Kanye” in a MAGA hat, flirting with dangerous political ideologies while Kavanaugh gets elected to the Supreme Court and we’re at the mercy of suicidal climate change deniers? What once felt like unfettered, even brave artistry now just feels…well, fucking selfish.

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Trump — sorry, Cheeto Baby Dick — is awful for about a thousand different reasons, but maybe his most toxic daily impact is the normalization of selfishness. Responsibility? Please. That was Obama’s thing, and it was lame and made us all look like pussies. The world is meant to be taken, drained, and if you’re busy thinking about any number past #1 you’re a sucker who deserves to have his milkshake drunk RIGHT UP, Eli, you BOY.

That’s an appealing message to a lot of people! And whether or not it’s manifested in actual policy change (which…it has), none of us can avoid the psychological spillover. We are living in a selfish America, learning on the FUCKING DAILY that the loudest one wins, nuance makes you poor, and headlines keep you alive.

…Anyway, there’s this rapper I know who once said, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex.” Do you think he might be comfortable in a MAGA hat?

To me, what makes this latest tour of controversy sting with genuine heartbreak is the way it implicates his fans (hell, followers, and I mean that in the religious sense) in that selfishness. Kanye once proclaimed that “if you’re a Kanye West fan…you’re a fan of yourself”–

–something that, five years ago, felt affirming and true. But in 2018, it doesn’t feel like nearly enough. While Kanye’s ranting over the ‘SNL’ credits about being bullied, other musical artists of his stature (INCLUDING T. SWIFT!) are spearheading voting initiatives and rallying their fans toward more, not less political engagement. Are musicians role models? This fall, with the future of our country at stake, they just might be. “Kanye being Kanye” doesn’t cut it anymore. Everything he says and does has real world consequences.

Call Kanye’s rants and White House visits “free thinking” all you want; dress them up as performance art, a brave experiment in radical love, whatever. Bullshit is bullshit. Kanye, like Trump, lives in a closed-off world where politics don’t actually mean anything, they’re just another forum for self-expression — or more accurately, a way to mask your issues instead of dealing with them. Issues like, you know, the way Hillary Clinton’s “I’m With Her” slogan made Kanye feel “excluded” (cool subreddit thread!) or how his now well-documented bipolar disorder* was actually just a misdiagnosed bout of sleep-deprivation. The guy doesn’t need a stupid hat that “makes him feel like Superman”; what he needs is FUCKING THERAPY.

*Lifting Fog is hardly the psychiatric arena to unpack the BIPOLAR of it all — to understand when Kanye is under the thumb of disease and when he’s just being a dick — but make no mistake: Kanye struggles with mental illness, and anyone taking advantage of that is a straight-up monster

Two years ago, in what now retroactively seems like a manic episode, Kanye took his talents to E3 of all places to debut a video game built around his deceased mother, Donda, flying to Heaven on a white horse. It’s…crazy.

But it’s also haunting and beautiful and unmistakably sincere, an act of public therapy as cathartic for fans as it (hopefully) was to him. When Kanye’s making stuff from that place — inward-looking but outward-facing; selfless instead of selfish — he’s a gift sent from above. Wounds and flaws on full theatrical display, backed by an electronic drum kit, offering himself to a world eager for some wild but deeply felt new shit. He is, in short, Yeezus. Here’s hoping he rises again.

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