In his 2018 editorial “I’m Not Black I’m Kanye”, Ta-Nehisi Coates tapped into the pulse of a generational dialogue around the perceived socio-political descend of Kanye West.
The centerpiece of the op-ed, which focused on Kanye’s now infamous visit to Donald Trump in the White House, gave readers a critical yet sobering analysis of an artist who built an international following by rejecting the rules of status quo ascension, only to later find himself enveloped in the embrace of the lowest form of status quo. At the core of its writing, Coates’ piece sought to examine the how and why that led to ‘Ye spiraling into a political belief that, on the surface, appeared to be highly antithetical to the exact fanbase that embraced his creativity and personhood.
“Kanye West, a god in this time, awakened, recently, from a long public slumber to embrace Donald Trump. He hailed Trump, as a ‘brother,’ a fellow bearer of ‘dragon energy,’ and impugned those who objected as suppressors of ‘unpopular questions,’ ‘thought police’ whose tactics were ‘based on fear,’” Coates wrote in assessing Kanye’s public affinity for Donald Trump.
The irony of the timing of Kanye’s White House performance is that it occurred five months after his culturally unnerving appearance on TMZ, where Van Lathan told him about all the harm his MAGA endorsing was causing his Black fans. At that time (May 2018), it seemed that ‘Ye was poised to do some soul-searching to avoid being irreparably ‘canceled’ by the culture. By October 2018, he was doing his Trump bro schtick at the White House.
Later, he went on tour with his “Sunday Service” gospel rap imprint and all but completely tempered his personal politics. Apparently, that was merely a strategy to reposition himself in the political stratosphere and now Yeezy wants to be president.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Kanye let it be known that he intends to run for the highest office in the land under a political party he’s titled the “Birthday Party,” because by way of his explanation when he wins, it will be celebratory like it’s everyone’s birthday. Deep sigh.
In the interview, West drops many interesting tidbits that allude to his prospective platform including: discouraging COVID-19 vaccination, ending police brutality, making Elon Musk his running mate and making the White House organizational model mirror that of the fictional nation of Wakanda from the superhero film “Black Panther.” If any of this sounds wildly irrational to you, I invite you to research the last decade or so of his public musings. The nonsense might then make some sense to you or maybe still not at all.
Kanye has also allegedly lost faith in his “dragon brother’s” leadership, telling Forbes that Trump’s White House “looks like one big mess…” and that he did not like to hear that Trump hid in a bunker when protestors appeared outside the White House after the killing of George Floyd. His disavowing of Trump as president actually makes sense if he’s legitimately planning to run for office. It would certainly be political death to cheer on the work of a potential adversary. But as of the time of this writing, ‘Ye still has not filed the necessary paperwork to officially launch a campaign and has already missed the opportunity to be on the ballot in several states.
Not that adherence to rules has ever stopped ‘Ye from Ye’ing, this setup however is a wee bit different.
But regardless of whatever the current status of the bromance between Kanye and Trump may be, Kanye cannot deny the impact that Trump’s ego, narcissism and gross political inexperience has had on his decision to believe he too can run the country. We don’t get to a Kanye declaration of candidacy without nearly four abysmal years of inept leadership by Donald John (Trump).
What we know is that Kanye has been a firebrand of outspokenness since the time he jumped off the desk at Rocafella Records, where he told Jay Z and Dame Dash that he’d be the greatest rapper ever, to the moment we were introduced to him through iconic records like “Through the Wire” and “Jesus Walks.” Before he had a second album out, his political commentary went viral during the historic Hurricane Katrina telethon when he legendarily opined that George Bush didn’t care about Black people. And of course, there was the moment that eternally tethered his name to Taylor Swift’s when he bum-rushed the stage at the 2009 MTV VMA’s to advocate for Black artists, specifically Beyoncé, in response to Taylor Swift winning Best Female Video.
But the transformation from early-career “College Dropout” and “Late Registration” Kanye to Yeezus, who compares himself to Walt Disney (not even being mindful of the racist connotation there), is a trajectory that has regularly attempted to avail itself to whatever norms of white supremacy it feels will work to its advantage.
And then there’s the narcissism that has always been a part of the Kanye brand that has undoubtedly been exacerbated by the model of Trump’s presidency. How else do you explain a celebrity who just registered to vote at 43 years old and wants to run for president feeling so confident to do so, other than him seeing another ill-qualified rich celebrity be able to pull it off? The “dragon energy” that is/was the magnet that drew Kanye to the MAGAverse is the same ‘energy’ that is fueling his desire to run for president with an equal lack of experience. That energy is clinical narcissism and unhealthy self-aggrandizement that he has seen work in the favor of someone he admires. What he is obviously missing is how mediocrity works differently when it pertains to whiteness.
Whether Kanye’s presidential aspiration is just a poorly-planned publicity stunt for his upcoming album, or whether he is seriously about to commit to a run, the underlying idea is that Donald Trump has made being an American president so grossly attainable that anyone with money and influence feels entitled to the Oval Office. Far be it for me to say that America has had a history of presidents worthy of its alleged ideals. Let me honestly say that practically every American president has aggressively or subtly serviced its inequitable empire more than its people.
This new era of prospective leadership however is emblematic of the horror show scripted by the Trump administration. Which is, at least, the millionth thing I directly blame his leadership for.