Is Kanye’s latest trip an act of rebellion, or just an act of celebrity? – ThinkProgress - Only Hit Lyrics

Is Kanye’s latest trip an act of rebellion, or just an act of celebrity? – ThinkProgress


I’m torn about what to think – or say – about the spectacle that Kanye West has become — or that has become Kanye West.

Without question, he’s as brilliantly talented a rapper/music producer/fashion designer/entrepreneur as ever there was, one of those pop stars who’s popular enough to be recognized by a single moniker – whether its “Kanye” or “Yeezus” or some other nickname du jour.

But it’s also just as obvious to anyone who has tracked his nearly two-decade career that he’s a magnet for self-inflicted controversy, including but not limited to proclaiming himself a deity, declaring former President George W. Bush a racist, or embarrassing singer Taylor Swift for winning an industry award.

But in the past week or so, Kanye has set fingers a-tapping on social media and lips a-flapping in mainstream media with comments that cross over from self-promotion into the arena of politics and American race relations.

This most recent of Kanye news boomlets began last month with a tweet, in which he praised conservative pundit Candace Owens, a black woman who is popular among the pro-Trump legions in social media circles. According to The Washington Post, Owens joined YouTube less than a year ago, but has amassed a following of about 200,000 subscribers who’ve been drawn to her outrageous statements, such as a video that mocks those fearful of newly-ascendant white supremacists following last summer’s protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Kanye followed that Tweet — which elicited praise from many of President Donald Trump’s right-wing (and very white) supporters — with several others that directly and favorably embraced the president. “You don’t have to agree with trump but the mob can’t make me not love him,” Kanye tweeted. “We are both dragon energy. He’s my brother. I love everyone.”

Ever the opportunist, Trump loved him right back, tweeting: “Thank you Kanye, very cool!”

In a sense, this love fest between Kanye and Trump is old news as the rapper has been something of a friend and confidante to him well before he entered the Oval Office. “I told y’all I didn’t vote, right?” the rapper said during a November, 2016 concert tour stop in California. “But if would’ve voted, I would’ve voted for Trump.”

But, wait, that’s not the strangest twist to Kanye’s warped-mind exhibition. This past Tuesday, in an interview with TMZ Live, Kanye offered up these thoughts for consumption: “When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years?! That sounds like a choice.”

That comment sent Black Twitter into cosmic spasms with the uproarious #IfSlaveryWasAChoice meme.

It’s worth noting, of course, that this is hardly the first time that Kanye has ventured into the no-man’s-land of American racial politics, seemingly for the purpose of igniting a controversy for its own sake or to sell Kanye-branded merchandise. As the Washington Post’s Soraya Nadia McDonald reported, back in 2013, Kanye made a spate of public appearances decked out in the Confederate flag. The reasoning he offered then has some peculiar echoes with his most recent public statements.

“React how you want,” Kanye said in an interview with Los Angeles radio station 97.1 AMP, “Any energy is good energy. The Confederate flag represented slavery in a way. That’s my abstract take on what I know about it, right? So I wrote the song ‘New Slaves.’ So I took the Confederate flag and made it my flag. It’s my flag now.”

At the time, it was explained away as a strange, but savvy, money move:

But now, judging by the range of virulent rejection of his fans and cheers from erstwhile detractors, Kanye appears to have crossed some invisible and indistinguishable line.

Kanye is a tricky figure. It’s not as if he’s incapable of rational thought and, on occasion, offering keen social observations. To put it another way, Kanye is an artist, one that’s earned a monstrous measure of celebrity.

And celebrity is a helluva drug. “[A] celebrity is surrounded by parasites and enablers, and it leads to paranoia,” said Patrick Wanis, a human behavior expert who frequently shows up in media accounts about famous people.

For all the hype this has brought to the news cycle, I remain uncertain that any of it truly matters to ordinary people, living and working outside of Kayne’s personal orbit. Is it really necessary for everyone with a smartphone and Twitter account to render a quick judgement on Kanye’s motives — or, worse, his mental health? Ultimately, what does Kanye’s misunderstanding of politics, race relations or history matter to the average American beyond some quick yuks

Such is the essential state of play within the cult of celebrity. Looking on from the outside, we can never know who is in on the con, or who is being gaslighted by whom. Is Kanye deceiving all of us, or deceiving only himself? We might read these sensational, tabloid tales and feel better about ourselves — in that there-but-by-the-grace-of-god-go-I sense — safe in the knowledge that no matter the level of wealth and fame that a Kanye West or a Donald Trump might obtain, such a strange and disordered life isn’t worth coveting.

And so, I remain flummoxed by it all, stuck with the notion that this could all be some three-dimensional chess game that the rich and famous play when they need to hype a new album, sell a line of Yeezy sneakers — or divert attention from serious policy matters. Perhaps Kanye’s current celebrity hullabaloo is just an overwrought bit of marketing, a con job to garner the world’s attention and profit from an individual’s troubled soul. If so, am I a fool to play along? If not, why should I care at all?


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