The Case for Kanye | Is Kanye in the Sunken Place?

Kanye West is in pretty much everyone's bad books right now. Those of you who keep up with pop culture, and even those of you who try your hardest to escape it, have probably heard just what it was he said to completely alienate even some of his most loyal followers. Just in case you didn’t get the memo, allow me to enlighten you. According to Ye over here, slavery was a choice.

When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years?! That sounds like a choice. Like, you were there for 400 years? And it’s all y’all?

Of course, black people everywhere and I mean everywhere were up in arms. Even white people got mad. We’re no strangers to Kanye’s big mouth, but this time it seems Kanye has gone too far. The big question on everyone’s lips was what the hell happened to Kanye.

Some blamed it on the Kardashians. “Kanye doesn’t have any strong black women in his life,” I heard someone say. Others blamed it on his luxury Calabasas bubble, “When you make shoes the people you grew up with can’t afford, you know you’ve lost it,” said another. Some said he doesn't have the right people around him. Wendy Williams say's it's because he's "not well". Everyone seems to think there's something wrong, but are we just trying to find a reason to explain why Kanye isn't fitting the idealised vision we've painted of him.

I’ve had a long-standing (albeit one-sided) relationship with Kanye West. He has always commandeered a huge amount of respect in the black community – and from me. Almost every hip-hop lover can pinpoint the exact moment they fell in love with Kanye West. Whether it’s his polarising statements, his ability to be unapologetically himself in a world that doesn’t really allow black men to be much of anything, or his brutal honesty when it comes to the oppression and disadvantages of the black community. He always stood up for us. The moment he said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” On CNN was the moment I knew that Kanye Was someone I could get behind, somebody I could trust and I wasn’t the only one. That is precisely why I believe everyone is taking his comments so damn hard. What we once loved Kanye for has now turned us away from him, even with his biggest defenders.

While Ye has his faults, a lot of faults, his attitude towards women and his God complex to name a few, but for every bad thing he’s done, he’s done something equally good. For every Slavery was a choice moment, is a Bush doesn’t care about black people moment.

This is a cliché, but it’s true. Celebrities are human. They’re not gods, and we shouldn’t treat them as such. You don’t suddenly become a moral beacon for the world when you make it big. You're still a regular old human, except when you fuck up, the whole world buys a front row ticket to watch your downfall. Ye fucks up, all the time. And we need to leave him room (as well as other celebrities) to do that. To grow. If a professional creepy old man like Woody Allen can marry his adopted daughter with no apparent repercussions on his career, I think we can let Kanye live.

Don't get me wrong. I’m not a Kanye apologist. When he fucks up, I'm the first to conjure up a scathing Twitter read. I was one of many who felt betrayed when I heard what he said and I STILL feel a certain type of way about the way he treats women. Especially the way he constantly slut-shames his ex-partner, Amber Rose, notoriously saying he needed to take 30 showers to wash her off of him. Then there's his weird affinity for satan Donald Trump.

Charlamane said that it’s easy to see where Kanye’s admiration for trump comes from. Trump is unashamedly honest, polarising, is publically berated for saying whatever he thinks… is this starting to sound familiar? Kanye obviously sees himself in Trump and that’s where this “Dragon energy” bullshit is coming from. But Kanye needs to be very careful that he doesn’t ostracise the people that got him where he is and the people he’s fighting for with his headline-grabbing antics. But we need to acknowledge that the way we come for black men who fuck up is not the same way we come for white men.

I was quick to completely cut off Kanye. But in my attempt to make sense out of his betrayal, I watched his extended TMZ interview. After that, I saw that it was very clear that Kanye hasn’t become the latest Uncle Tom or minstrel. Well, at least the transition isn’t quite complete yet. He still very much cares about black people. You heard it when he was talking about Chicago. You saw it in his eyes. In the interview with TMZ, he said,

You were there for 400 years, and it is all of y'all? It is like we are mentally imprisoned.

I think this is a clear case of bad communication with a sprinkle of stupidity. Black people were mentally imprisoned during slavery? No shit. That was kind of the point Kanye. When you look at the history of systemic oppression in the U.S., the slave-making handbooks and the punishments for runaway slaves – well the punishments for any kind of slave, actually the life of any slave, it’s obvious that slavery was not a choice. What I think and truly hope and xpray Kanye meant was that slavery is something that takes place in the mind. Which is true, but I think what Kanye doesn’t understand is that this was done deliberately. Slavery was more than just physical punishment and trauma, it was psychological. That’s why it was so effective. People were told they weren’t human and treated as such, and to not be human means you live a different kind of life. You think of yourself in a whole different way. You relate to others differently - maybe too much money and Kardashians have Kanye a little confused. He might be a little too far from the struggle to see it for what it is. And this man needs a reminder honey.

Kanye is a notoriously bad communicator. He claims he doesn’t read, and honestly Kanye, it shows. From the incorrect references on YEEZUS to the shaky statistics he quotes, the man is a walking fake news bulletin. He's also out of touch. In a Kendrick World, we all have a much higher bar for wokeness. A bar that is getting further and further out of reach as long as he’s still immersed in a Kardashian bubble of whiteness and luxury. I understand what Kanye was trying to say with the Slavery was a choice moment, but for a rapper, he seems to have a hard time communicating clearly. Let me lay it down. Kanye talks in soundbites, in headlines and sometimes, okay a lot of the time, its to his detriment. My friend put it rather nicely when he said “Kanye talks like my mum trying to explain a documentary she’s just watched to me.” The sentiment is there but all the information is hyperbolised, muddled up or just plain confuuuuseed. As Charlamane the god said, when you have as much power and influence as Kanye, you’ve got to be very careful what you say because your words have power. People are going to listen to you. You don’t have the luxury to say stupid shit and have no one care like us nobodies. Yeah we know what you may or may not have meant, but there are forces that wont care about that and use you as a weapon against your own people. I see this as a missed opportunity. This was a chance for Kanye to make a statement, to start a conversation and boy did he do that. He just started the wrong one.

All I’m saying is don’t give up on Kanye. I don’t think he’s quite given up on us. I think as any black man living in America, he's tired. He's trying something different and he's also dealing with a mental disorder. He doesn’t make it easy to love him, but I think Kanye is still on our side. He might have a really weird way of showing it but I firmly believe that “the old Kanye” is lingering deep down there, somewhere not too far from the surface. If we're going to support Kanye, we need to support all of him. Not just the parts we like. If you're still eating Chipotle, shopping at H&M and watching House of Cards, then you can't tell me nothing.

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