Feeling the nonconventional: Kanye West and his machinations
Kanye is up to some shenanigans and amidst speculation of a mental health crisis or a public relations stunt, the public isn’t having it. Before reading on, you need to understand that I have always been an avid Kanye fan (see here) and have lavished in his confidence and self-centeredness (again, see here). I own the hard copy of most of his albums (I’d usually cop them on the day of release, because I had to make sure my fav’s fav got all his well-deserved coins). I’ve given ‘Ye the benefit of the doubt and explained away most of his behaviors that probably didn’t deserve explaining. Though, Kanye’s most recent interview with Charlamagne Tha God gives me pause. Read on.
Kanye West is so desperately seeking real, unadulterated freedom that he will, whether knowingly or unknowingly, attack the freedom of those who may never have a platform as large-scale as he does. Real unadulterated freedom is the ability to operate in the world without wondering how your skin color is perceived by or affects others. It means succeeding based on hard work and being praised for your accomplishments. It means your intellect and your emotions aren’t qualified by the way that you look but, instead, they are validated. It’s objectivity--something West knows he can never attain in this realm, unless he aligns himself with the devil, making him a new *eye roll* radical or unless he pretends what holds him back doesn’t exist, until it does.
Having taken a number of personal development classes myself, his language in this interview struck close to home. There is no good or bad, it’s all up to one’s perspective. Speak into existence the reality you want to see and believe it/work toward it until it manifests. Operate with love, so that one attracts love. Done. Agreed. Got it. What is most nerve-wracking about his interview, though, is his convenience of thought and humility and race and racism when it comes to analyzing his own behaviors and patterns. He gets a pass and is victimized by racism but it is an illusion for everyone else. He doesn’t believe in humility but requests it from others. To the question of whether he had gone too far when he spoke of Jay-Z’s family, he copped out: "If we family, doesn’t that mean they’re my family too". Not holding his feet to the fire, Charlamagne digresses, not getting a real answer or demanding culpability, they move on. Kanye West says he was hurt the Knowles-Carters’ didn’t come to his wedding. Jay-Z, I’m sure was also hurt that his family was spoken about in front of the masses (enough to pen lyrics about it in his latest album, 4:44), but that goes, for the most part, unacknowledged. West’s feelings are the ones that matter and despite his pregnant pauses, he doesn’t seem to use that time to concern himself with the feelings of others. And despite not believing in humility and even accusing Jay-Z of going about things in the “wrong way” (note the irony), West does take the time to apologize to white Nike CEO, Mark Parker because he has grown as a father--Jay-Z’s manhood x fatherhood is thus deemed non-existent. Kanye has allotted value to the gatekeepers, to whiteness, and they are worthy of his “growth”, but not another self-made man, not his “big brother”.
To the matter of President Barack Obama having called Kanye a jackass, he suggests that he’s owed an apology (again a man who says he is not a fan of humility, demands it). Skkrrrt. ‘Ye is clearly unraveled at the fact that Barry (does this work? I mean he is walking around in shorts now) hasn’t acknowledged him as his favorite rapper out loud. Clearly needing external validation to revel in his own self-worth, this particular example helped me to understand his attachment and outright love for Trump: convenience. But we’ll get back to that. Actually, let’s talk about it now. West was granted a meeting by and with Trump: acceptance by the majority. Trump acknowledges him publicly: favor by the majority. West says Trump is his “boy”: access to the majority. West says he loves Trump, but falters when it comes to his emotions for Obama: solidifying his participation in the majority. We are taught to measure our value by how close we can get to whiteness and in West’s behavior, we see him seeking to get closer to the aforementioned individuality. Twisted, but true. Black people are constantly responding to racism, whether Clarence Thomas or Angela Davis, we are forced to assert our humanity in the ways we know how.
One of the major problems here is that Kanye’s principles aren’t consistent and though no human should be expected to be linear, their morality should (ideally) be. Kanye wants the world to bend for him and manipulates worldview in order to acquiesce to his ego (shrouded in pseudo principles prefaced on ubiquitous love unless his feelings have been hurt, then they should humble themselves--a very biased and selfish take on the concept). Racism only exists when it is keeping him from taking what he deems is his rightful role as a gatekeeper. When it persists as a very real reality to everyone else, then it becomes unreal—a simulation.
Elevating mindspace is real. And divorcing yourself from the physical to endeavor upon the world as a spirit that happens to be in physical form is also real. Optimism and joy and wanting to live in a world that “should be” sans oppression and racism and malign from an industry you so desperately want to be a part of, is real. (That was a long sentence, but just re-read it until it makes sense). I understand the concept of the ideal. But what Kanye fails to do is temper his new understanding of life with actual real-world facts. What he fails to do is remove himself from the center of the universe, a universe where others reside and who will feel the wrath of his poor decision making. I write this with compassion. And I take into account that he may be depressed (he admits to being on pills to "calm him down" at the time of the interview) and conflicted with a world he wants versus the world he was given. But actions, despite intent, have consequences.
The mind is the most terrifying and amazing place to be and when you traverse it alone, building and creating a personalized logic, not to be disturbed by the existence of others; you can drive yourself psychotic when you realize “others” do exist and not just in the way you want them to exist.
Kanye’s interaction with racism makes sense. He’s brilliant. He has brilliant (money-making) ideas. He has brilliant, money-making ideas in a capitalist society in which money is the primary motivator and the only measurement of success. But he is denied what he believes to be (and I tend to agree) his rightful place in industries like the fashion industry or the creative world. He drops gems in this interview (if you have the patience)--he’s refused the right to build generational wealth. He is also refused the right to dignity after having made a, what I will assume, timing error. He understands racism so vividly that he has to understand how he is trapped in the intricate web that it is. And when you’re trapped, you always seek a way out. He understands racism so much that he may very well try to pretend it doesn’t exist because that is the only way that he can gain freedom. Because to be Black in America, with or without ambition, is to be chained--no matter your genius.
He is reminded in his grandiosity that even if he is in a Benz, he really is still seen as just a N&*!a in a coupe. His reality is now met with what, previously, was simple theory and he is left to deal with the truth of racism which is damning to anyone who understands their self-worth.
Kanye sees himself as an outsider and in Trump sees a fellow "outsider" infiltrating the system. He calls himself a nonconformist but even when asked why "we" always need validation from white people Kanye, again, resorts to convenience:
"Because our cape got taken when we were three years old. We broken. We in the simulation. We want our BMW...we not monks, we in the simulation. I can't talk nobody out of wearing Gucci."
When it comes to the access to wealth, Kanye falls back. Despite his messages against control and manipulation, he ignores how controlled he is by capital. His politics are convenient. He resides on the superficial because going deeper would require him to give up his access.
What he’s fighting for, is the right to oppress others. He wants to be a gatekeeper. He wants to be “Ralph, doe”. And, in a capitalist society, when money is supposed to buy you access, and it doesn’t, you lose control of your dreams and of self. 'Ye is forced to realize, on a grander scale that access will always be denied to him because of his Blackness. He can’t get whiteness (read: freedom) no matter how hard he tries. And that is enough to drive anyone mad.