Kanye West has been on a tear. All of the news that’s come out about Kanye in recent weeks—from his album release date to his management situation—is based on ‘Ye’s Twitter account. His timeline has become a meeting place of sorts; it’s the spot where fans, gawkers, and industry professionals not unlike myself camp out to see what he will type next. Some of the tweets are “regular” by Kanye’s standards: about music and fashion and his desires to be the most influential person to ever exist. But the worrisome tweets are the ones that show how Kanye plans to become the most influential person to ever exist. The path is nothing short of alarming.
“You don't have to agree with trump,” ‘Ye tweeted Wednesday. “But the mob can't make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don't agree with everything anyone does. That's what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.” Trump, in turn, quote-tweeted and said, “Thank you Kanye, very cool!” The same afternoon, ‘Ye posted a photo of himself (with industry big-wigs Lucian Grainge and Lyor Cohen) wearing a Make America Great Again hat, the flaming red accessory that automatically indicates alignment with Trump and his policies.
The problem with all of this is that Trump is a white supremacist. I’m not here to argue. Kanye, on the other hand, is a black man from Chicago who has changed the very black landscape of hip-hop for the better. By openly saying he loves the most powerful white supremacist in the country, who also happens to be the leader of the free world, Kanye is alienating the audience that has boosted and supported him, an audience that’s likely made up of non-alt-righters.
Kanye even ripped a page right out of Trump’s playbook by calling genuine reporting on his questionable business announcements “fake news.” He says he wants to promote independent thought, but he’s standing behind a man who regularly threatens to silence the fourth estate—the press. ‘Ye tweets that he’s not in the Sunken Place, like he’s in on the joke, but his actions point to him being in that very location.
Kanye's political views are far more important to him than they were two years ago. The Life of Pablo era Kanye didn’t have much to say about politics at all. He just rapped about rich people problems. Looking back, he used to relate to problems like ours, as evidenced by his everyday struggle raps on The College Dropout. Now, he’s laser-focused on fighting his immediate obstacle, classism, while racism or social justice issues are left to the rest of us. We’re separated in our paths to getting free.
Kanye has become our problematic fave. He’s nowhere near the only one right now, nor is he the worst offender. He’s floating in the same pool with the likes of XXXTentacion and R. Kelly, but on the far shallower end. Technically Kanye hasn’t done anything wrong. X has actually been charged and jailed for domestic abuse against a pregnant woman, among other charges. R. Kelly, meanwhile, is walking free, despite mountains of documented allegations of abuse, pedophilia and kidnapping. While ‘Ye and Kelly and X don’t measure up to one another in terms of actions, their problematic behavior is having an impact on their fans.
Whether it’s bad ideologies or histories of violence, it is impossible to separate the art from the artist. That person still created the thing you love, and you still want to enjoy it. You might be able to shove all of their crap into a corner and listen to their music on the other side of the house, but that shit still stinks and it’s not going anywhere. So where do you draw the line? Step one is understanding there is an actual line to be drawn. You have a limit of what you’re willing to look past, of what you’re willing to agree to disagree on.
If it hasn’t already happened, there will come a time where your fave will fuck up. You will feel a moral tug, and you will have to make a decision of whether or not to continue to ride with them, because there is a danger in supporting fundamentally flawed artists. When they’re exalted and thrust up high, they either don’t know they’re doing anything wrong, or they know and think they’re beyond being reprimanded. Somehow in this twisted industry, the onus of responsibility for owning up to an artist’s actions has fallen on the fans, not the artist.
A friend asked me if we’re currently in the era of problematic faves. No—this is just the era of knowing our faves are problematic. And eventually, by encouraging them through their music, we become complicit.