The influential Kanye West
Kanye West, as a creative, is revered as one of the most influential figures of his generation. Considered by many as a genius for his contributions to music and fashion, Kanye West has lived his life perpetually in the public eye, in front of the cameras, and naturally with the cameras always rolling a man known for his outspoken approach has left himself open to his fair share of criticism. With his Adidas cosigned label Yeezy reportedly valued at upwards of one billion dollars, and his cultural significance in a broader sense transcending multiple areas of interest, Ye is undoubtedly one of the most polarising but ultimately powerful black men in pop culture. There is a reason genius is said to go hand in hand with madness, and with every headline that Kanye West seems to generate, another appears in response to question his mental health and ultimately undermine his message. Ye is no longer considered as just an artist, in fact, so much so that his music is regarded as secondary to his work in fashion and his newfound active participation in political discussion. What Kanye West looks to use his platform to advocate, perhaps wouldn’t have been the most obvious to predict but actually makes a lot more sense for Ye than most would have you believe.
Ye & Trump
The alarm bells and sirens began to reverberate around the liberal world when Kanye West exited his near year-long media hiatus in rather spectacular fashion by pledging his allegiance to what would be considered by the majority as the most unlikely of leaders for a black man – President Donald Trump. In the tweet pictured above, Kanye West proclaimed Trump as his brother and that message was met with a resounding ‘WTF’ by the wider music community in which Ye made his name, not excluding the artists’ personal fan base. According to polls, only 10.5% of black voters have supported the Republican candidate in the past 12 presidential elections, compared to 87.3% who have backed a Democrat. It has been reported that a colossal 92% of black Americans disapprove of Trump’s presidency, compared to just 7% in his favour. For Kanye – one of the country’s most prominent black voices – to call the president his “brother” was all but certain to provoke an intense backlash but was a move that was quintessentially Kanye.
The Chicago born icon has always had a knack for going against the grain, and his unwavering self-belief has definitely lead to a lot more Ws than it has Ls. West is accredited by many as being the driving force behind the changes in fashion culture in recent years, changes that have put Virgil Abloh at the top of the tree at Louis Vuitton and changes that have redefined trainer culture globally with his Yeezy brand. So challenging popular perception isn’t something that is all that new to Kanye West, but to be an influential black man in America openly endorsing President Donald Trump was something even some of the loyalist West supporters couldn’t get behind. The storm continued a month later in an interview with the gossip website TMZ, where Kanye went on to say that 400 years of slavery “sounds like a choice”, naturally causing a public uproar from the black community. Ye was characteristically unrelenting in his point of view, however, and his support of the President didn’t go unnoticed, and in October of 2018 West and Trump finally met in the Oval Office of the White House.
Kanye West in the Oval Office
The meeting was as unconventional as you are ever likely to see in the Oval Office, sat slouched across the desk from Trump, Kanye West wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap continued to hold court. Monologuing almost uninterrupted for close to 10 minutes on a broad variety of what appeared to be off the cuff topic ranging from welfare to prison reform, the ‘Yeezy Effect’ and a host of other politically driven topics, even managing to slip an F-bomb into the conversation for good measure. Immediately after the highly publicised meeting, to say the media went crazy would be an understatement; a more accurate description of what transpired is that the liberal media tried to bury Kanye West. Using his mental health as a justification to belittle his message. West was labelled a “Minstrel Show” an “attention whore” and a “token n****” of the Trump administration, and the same Kanye West who, before announcing his political stance, was touted as a “genius” and “the king of hip hop” is now being vilified due to what side of the fence he sits on. Kanye West’s popularity makes him a threat to the Democrats electorally if he can mobilise the black vote for the Trump administration, and that is where the backlash from the Liberal media has come from to discredit him.
Challenging stereotypes is something that Kanye West has become very accustomed to, and he takes particular exception to the notion he as a black man has to be a Democrat. His comments about slavery (although not articulated correctly) and his support of Right-wing black activist Candace Owens hinges on the idea of rejecting a “victim mentality”. When asked a question in the Oval Office about his much-quoted statement about former President George W.Bush which reads “Bush doesn’t care about black people”, Kanye stated that “when I went on to NBC, I was very emotional, and I was programmed to think from a victimised mentality. A welfare mentality.” He went on to say that “I think that with blacks and African-Americans, we really get caught up in the idea of racism over the idea of industry.” For Kanye West what is overtly apparent is that he doesn’t make excuses for what he can and can’t do, and what he is very good at is doing what is perhaps above and beyond what you would expect from him.
Yeezy Factory Chicago
West might not be the most articulate speaker, but make no mistake about it; he has a voice. The work he has begun in Chicago to help provide jobs for the community by establishing a Yeezy factory in the windy city has proven that Kanye West isn’t just a lot of noise. It would be an oversimplification to label Ye as only a Republican, notably when he reportedly donated $200,000 to Democrat Amara Enyia, currently running to become Chicago’s first black, female mayor. I think like with most things with Kanye, he doesn’t wish to be put in any kind of box, whether that be socially, politically or culturally and all that really matters to him is progress. Whether you agree with everything that he spoke about in the Oval Office or not, or whether you liked the way he said it. I think the essential take away is that Kanye West is good at putting the cat among the pigeons, Kanye West is good at creating a discussion, and it is usually a discussion people don’t often want to have. Whether he is talking about his mental health issues or political or social issues, or even if he is challenging the considered norms in fashion, Ye is always breaking down walls. I’m not saying Kanye West isn’t crazy, because I think he most certainly can be, but I would just suggest that all the best people are, and if we were more open-minded to what creatives like Kanye West have to offer, I think we’d all be surprised as to what could be achieved.