Kanye will forever be important despite his recent turns. I would fall asleep at night as a bored black teen in suburbia listening to the music of Drive Slow or Late on Late Registration.
I’ll get to the point. After Kanye’s Golden Era with College Dropout, Late Registration (his magnum opus in my opinion), and Graduation to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he went through a lot. His mom died and this is similar to the character of Pink played by Bob Geldof in Pink Floyd’s musical The Wall. Even though Pink’s mother isn’t shown as passing away, the maternal bond is central to both characters. Yet, Pink and Kanye both came to rely on their mothers though Pink’s mother was suffocating, whereas Kanye’s mother was his anchor. This maternal bond (I won’t go all Freudian because I don’t feel well read enough into Freud to say it) was central to both people. Further, Kanye has a had problems with women though in more recent music he’s challenged his notions such as those found in his analysis of the Madonna Whore Complex in the song Violent Crimes on the ye album. This is similar to the character of Pink in The Wall with Pink as having a rocky relationship with his wife since he’s a traveling rock-and-roll musician. Pink has issues regarding fear of loss, control, etc., and can be heard in the lyrics of the song Don’t Leave Me Now which says, “I need you to put through the shredder in front of our friends, oh baby, don’t leave me now” , “How could you go? When you know how I need you…to beat up on a pulp on Saturday night, oh babe…don’t leave me now”. The lyrics depicts a man who blames his spouse of his behavior and can’t operate without having someone to coddle his bad decisions and take his abusive behavior. I’m not insinuating this Kanye, yet, still male and female relationships (or any type) can be rocky and at times have an unhealthy level of dependency going both ways where love and abuse or the ability to tolerate are seen as the same, and the negative behaviors can exacerbate as people push limits, essentially to see if the other stays around. Kanye’s relationship with sexual feminist icon Amber Rose seems similar to that of Pink’s character to his estranged wife, especially since Amber Rose left him for another rapper in an industry where masculine posturing and ego are everything, and she sexually doxed him by revealing alleged aspects of their private sex life to the world.
So think about this… He lost his mom, his trophy girlfriend is attacking his masculinity in a masculine industry (historically speaking), he’s constantly in the media, he’s an artists advocating for black America while critiquing it, etc. That’s a lot to handle for a person. Black people, white people, etc., especially since rap music is so popular, took the opportunity of Kanye’s ill advised association with Donald Trump to shame him but also bring back old Civil War tropes attacking his black identity and I even saw supposed liberals equate Kanye to nothing more than a self-hating black man eager to “go back to slavery”.
Pink in the film after hearing of the infidelity of his wife in between the songs The Happiest Days of Our Lives, Young Lust, and One of My Turns, goes in a psychotic breakdown and endangers a groupie. Further, Pink’s father dies in WW2 at the Battle of Anzio and Kanye’s father was estranged from him. In addition, after Pink’s mental condition finally collapses after Comfortably Numb he starts fantasies of fascism as a type of subconscious defense mechanism to protect his deep rooted vulnerabilities and lack of stability. He equates his lack of stability to minorities, gays, “people with spots”, other ramblings and even screams to the entire crowd of his fantasy fascist supports that he’d wish they’d all be shot. A man with deep rooted issues but he’s human. Kanye’s play with fascism – which is common in the arts such as some of the works of David Bowie – during the Trump Era to me wasn’t an advocacy for fascism, but the anger of a black man within Western Civilization as he juggles the old question of “to be or not to be?”, i.e., to be a champion of our Western home or to stand at odds with it due to its history of systemic abuses which played a role in effectively…creating us.
Pink Floyd isn’t racist or fascist and their depiction of fascism in the film was a criticism of it. The film came out during the Margaret Thatcher years which was full of right-wing “Oi Oi” hate groups associated with the National Front and the conservative Tories in power. This is very similar to the far-right peripheries of the Trump Administration’s grassroots right-wing populism with groups such as Proud Boys by Zionist Nazi, Gavin McInnes, with his sad fantasies of reliving the glory days of an all white Cecil Rhodes-Rothschild Commonwealth (and, the fact Degrassi isn’t what it used to be. Gavin was born in England, raised in Canada, and helped with the hipster movement thus spawning the branch out movement of Alt Right). It should be noted that regarding the UK in the 1970-80s, punk music was being appropriated by Nazi Skinheads away from the original Skinheads who were multi-ethnic. The original punk movement was a blend of working class white youth culture mixed with black Caribbean and Black British youth culture in unison, but Neo Nazism branched out as economic conditions worsened under austerity. So, because of this appropriation, Kanye can be understood as doing that but in reverse. Taking symbols of hate against blacks but turning N-gger into N-gga.
Kanye’s play with fascism can be seen in his ironic lyrics in Black Skinhead which is really Kanye appropriating the hyper-masculinity of the far-right for his own purposes to scare the actual fascists. This can also be said about Kanye wearing the Confederate Battle Flag. By taking a symbol which was used to oppress blacks but then appropriate it to analyze it, it can help reduce the unilateral power of the symbol via its inherent white supremacy. Essentially, if that’s what you are, then this what I’ve become but I’m going to analyze it my way and your supremacy doesn’t intimidate me, i.e., we can go loco to loco any-day. The power of White Supremacy for example isn’t mere law or violence but its appropriating masculinity from minorities (and also hyper sexualizing females into caricature tropes – the Asian subservient women, the “freaky” black woman, the sultry Latina) in order to equate masculinity purely to Anglo Saxon and European standards. Thus by keeping this hidden fascism in the back of systems as a contingency plan. It’s a way how white supremacy sustains itself by positing that its form of masculinity is the apex predator of the caste system in both honor, virility, prow, level-headedness, etc. It essentially makes “outsiders” feel uncomfortable.
Seemingly normal Republicanism of Center-Right politics if pushed too far as bleed into far-right nationalism and this is something the political right has known and used for years without saying it because by not saying it, it creates an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, etc. Kanye’s loose association with the Blexit Black Republican movement in the Trump Era wasn’t Kanye being a “traitor” or “sell out”, but provoking African Americans to keep their political options open considering African Americans for the last half century plus have been Democrats and this association with Democrats hasn’t alleviated the important issues affecting the Black Community. It may not have been wise under this President but Kanye’s right to at least talk about African Americans considering Republicanism was him attempting to expand boundaries. And of course, most people didn’t get it, such as most people not “getting art”, i.e., lacking the ability to get context and seeing things simply in stark dialectics or polar opposites.
Kanye was one of my idols and I still support the guy. He’s a black man fighting for freedom and not just freedom from the perspective of black liberation but total “ubermench” or “starchild” liberation. Yet, there’s a profundity to Kanye that most might not get. In Greek philosophy there was a man by the name of Diogenes the Cynic who was known for living an eclectic lifestyle, having sharp cynical wit, and living a life as a homeless beggar to show the uselessness of certain aspects of society. I see Kanye in this mode. There’s smarts behind the “madness”. Kanye also has an element of a type of old Testament figure channeling some higher power as people suffer in something which might be called a “mental desert”. Anyways, for a young African American kid who was born in the late 80s and witnessed the power of the music industry on the black community during the transition of hip-hop to gangster rap, right a moment where Great Society programs of the 60s and 70s started to pay off such as the solidification of a solid black middle and upper middle class in suburbia, a person such as Kanye was a fresher in the early 2000s. It wasn’t just about killing, screwing, slanging. There were only two types of black people depicted in the media. The Wills and the Carlton’s. It might be funny but it really was a detriment because of course everyone wants to be a Will, which is great, but by depicting such as stark dichotomy, which was a fabrication for comedic purposes by Quincy Jones, it showed to a generation of young African American men that power, style, and suave mattered more than law, business, management, science, art, philosophy, etc. However, I’m not hating on rap because it is art but simply saying its not the entire meta-truth or objective truth of the black experience.
Anyways, Kanye instead of entirely rapping about the grassroots realism that many African Americans face such as murder, misogyny, bravado and nihilism, Kanye analyzed not only that but the silent lives of the black middle class, but he leap frogged backwards by borrowing from Ray Charles, chain-gang hymns, the Harlem Renaissance, gospel, etc. Kanye was/ an existential meteorite of hyper-aware blackness, operating in a 4th or 5th dimension, that analyzed it from all angles included those that many African Americans don’t realize about themselves. Kanye can vacillate between bourgeoisie and proletariat, between “house slave” and “field slave”, but instead of picking either/or (shout out to Soren Kierkegaard) His pop cultural references were vast spanning foreign film, classical musical scores, political commentary, high art, low art, fashion, etc. Let’s be honest, hip hop changed after Kanye, and some might say for the best, yet, for a genre still dominated by black artists, he did open the window to express yourself in ways that were more experimental, existential, etc. Being black I do know that the community is highly social, i.e., we typically tend to be a monoculture and it typically takes martyrs to take the heat to level up the community.
Kanye’s vast array of samples and influences spanning true hip hop to Duran Duran, the film Juice with Tupac and Omar Epps, the film Welcome to America with Eddie Murphy, Bloods versus Crypts, the ability to not get a taxi as night, Richard Pryor to Bill Cosby in the 80s (a big deal), to Michael Jackson to Fellini films to surreal anime, etc., in my opinion will always set him above and apart from other rappers. I’m sorry but most rappers in the day didn’t take it to such erudite levels. Essentially, he’s the Picasso of Hip Hop. I call in the modern day Gatsby, the hip hop Bukowski with an emphasis on Bukowski in the sense of complexity since Bukowski despite being seen as a woman-hater (I’m not advocating his behavior) was really being a cynic to cover his deep wounds around love and acceptance. He spoke to the common man in a non PC way while making the common man ponder notions such as poetry, stream of consciousness, etc.
I can relate to Kayne because as an African American my interests are vast. I can also empathize before judging. It wasn’t easy to simply “be like everyone else”. To white people or others, black culture is a form of punk, but when you’re black it’s just…life, so when African Americans think outside the box I always support those people and find it honorable, because equality isn’t merely a matter of nationalism or economic empowerment, but it’s a matter of representation in various fields, while also showing the world the diversity of talents and the depths of your comprehension skills.