To a 20-something in the early aughts, cramming Four Lokos (RIP, original formula) before heading to a sticky-floored dive bar, Kanye West and his music may have had a certain appeal.
At that age and maturity level, petulant whining can sound revolutionary. But then, ideally, you grow up.
That’s certainly my story. And that maturity is pretty enlightening during the innumerable instances in which West, who formally changed his name to Ye last year, clamors for the public’s attention in deplorable ways. I have too much self-esteem to idolize Ye because I do not respect him creatively or intellectually. I’ve come to recognize he upholds his facade of brilliance in what seems to be an effort to mask his own self-hate and self-loathing.
Ye's most recent controversy, involving his donning of a “White Lives Matter” shirt at a recent fashion show, has shown that in abundance. And of the countless responses to the troll attempt, I’ve found only one to be of intense interest: a quote from Wanda Cooper-Jones, the mother Ahmaud Arbery.
“As a result of [West's] display ‘White Lives Matter’ started trending in the U.S., which would direct support and legitimize extremist behavior, [much] like the behavior that took the life of her son,” Cooper-Jones relayed through lawyer Lee Merritt, Rolling Stone reported. “That is the thing that Wanda and families like hers continue to fight against.”
That struck a chord with me because it speaks to a belief I'll hold until the end of my days: Ye's legacy of racist hatemongering will deservedly eclipse his legacy as an artist.
That was front of mind as I read about Ye siccing a swarm of hateful social media followers on a Black woman, Vogue editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, who criticized his “All Lives Matter” statement.
This really is a man who, according to his own words, sees Donald Trump as a father figure.
You’ll remember: Trump has used this tactic against several Black women. That includes Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, a mother-daughter duo who served as election workers in Georgia until Trump sicced his rabid followers on them, falsely accusing them of helping steal the 2020 election from him.
Interestingly, a publicist linked to Ye allegedly tried to force a confession to the allegations out of one of the women, according to Reuters. (A spokesperson for Ye has denied that the publicist was associated with the rapper at the time of alleged incident.)
And keep in mind: This isn't a shift in tone for Ye. He's been remarkably consistent about his derision toward Black people.
This is where some introspection among his supporters, past and present, is probably needed. Because he was never the pro-Black icon he’s been made out to be.
Think about it...
- Much of his early popularity was partially due to his deliberate positioning of himself as a foil to the image of gangster rappers, even as his music bore the same violence and misogyny as theirs. He’s always shown an obsession with purported preppiness — Abercrombie shirts and all — that he and others portrayed as a high-minded alternative to typical rap. (People should interrogate why this theme got so much uptake.)
- His most astute political observation — “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” — was far from brilliant or brave. To the contrary, it was a widely held belief among Black people, including many who expressed it with far more depth than he did.
- He spoke about having to clean himself obsessively after leaving his Black ex-girlfriend for his white wife.
- He said enslaved Black people made a “choice” to keep themselves enslaved.
- He joined a fascist political movement led by a man whose party wants to suppress Black votes.
I’m above excusing this behavior, or even arguing about it really. I don’t weep for Ye, and my ancestors don’t either. They knew what I know: Some Black people would sell them upstream for a quick buck. I also don’t romanticize once-beloved musicians. Sometimes they make sounds I respect and appreciate — sometimes they lose the ability. And there’s certainly no need to over-intellectualize what’s happened to Ye.
He’s lost the creative ability to resonate for anything praiseworthy, so all he has is hate and outrage. And his actions have earned him the destiny he truly deserves: one in which everyone who loves him either does so in silence or is forced to suffer the exhaustion of mining through his deluded thoughts in search of gems — brilliance — they likely won't find again.