It’s Quiet for Kanye
So…Kanye West had a listening party for his new album, Ye, last week in Wyoming. To no surprise, it was attended by a lot of celebrities, including Chris Rock, Nas, T.I., Teyana Taylor, Desiigner and Lil Yachty. Reviews of the album have been mixed, but I’m not concerned about any of that because I decided that I’m gonna pass on all Kanye music till further notice.
I think it’s worth noting that I started writing this post at least 5 days ago and kept abandoning it because Kanye stresses me out. To some extent, I think he intends to have this effect on people.
While I wasn’t surprised to see all those famous faces at the listening party, I was a little disappointed in every single one of them, especially Chris Rock and Nas. Most of the other black celebrities there were younger and would probably yield a net gain from being associated with Kanye, so I get it. It’s like working at a 9-5 where you have to suck up to an annoying boss to get promoted. We’ve all done it.
T.I. is not a young celebrity, but he’s also not someone I consider to be particularly smart, so he gets a pass too.
I am more concerned with Chris Rock and Nas, and how their their public support — these niggas flew to freaking WYOMING — for Kanye West goes directly against their years of pro-black messaging. Chris Rock routinely quips about race and racism in his standup performances, and even made a documentary about the adverse effects of Eurocentric beauty standards on black women. Nas has spit all manner of pro-black bars for years — I’m only a casual Nas fan and so many lines come to mind. How do they reconcile this with shmoozing up to a guy who says slavery is a choice? Make it make sense. No Mo’Nique.
I’m not naive, and I understand that problematic faves do exist. I have been unable to quit Chick-fil-A after all these years even though I know better; it’s a shame that well-prepared chicken is my Achilles’ heel, but this is my black-ass truth. I have, however, canceled Papa John’s since John Schnatter (its founder and largest shareholder) never gives us a chance to forget or even ignore the fact that he’s a trash human being with lots of shitty views. The key difference between Papa John’s and Chick-fil-A is that while both are controlled by people with harmful views, one is a little less shameless about it and never skips an opportunity to share; he has more “strikes,” if you will.
It is impossible to be absolute when it comes to canceling problematic people and things, so if you’re a pragmatist like myself, you probably have your own method for determining who and what you boycott. My method is strike-based, and strikes can be voided with good deeds or, if I like your product enough, a public apology or even a semi-retraction (followed by years of no new incidents). Of course, not all strikes are created equal and are each as dependent on the offense as they are the offender. In other words, Katy Perry would be canceled forever if she ever wore blackface, but Beyoncé gets a pass for being black (and for being Beyoncé).
Justin Bieber is definitely on camera saying the n-word, but he has apologized and there have been no new incidents of racist behavior (to my knowledge, at least), so he’s in the clear in my book. Kanye Omari West, on the other hand, has run out of strikes with me. And based on my observations, he has run out of strikes with most reasonable people.
From Confederate-flag-branded apparel to mindless support for Trump to talking shit about Obama to saying slavery is a choice, he has officially done too much. It is difficult to let go of an artist whose music was the soundtrack of very crucial years in my life, but I am left with no choice. Does this mean I will never listen to his music ever again? I hope not, but I can’t say. All I know is that he’s getting a kick out of trolling the very people who made him a star — the very people who stood by him when white people were trying to get him the fuck outta here — and giving credence to a lot of dangerous sentiments against those people, and I can’t support that in good faith.
PS: I understand that Kanye is mentally ill and should be treated with the requisite amount of compassion, but I think it would be unfair to all those suffering from mental illness to blame all of his behavior on that. Mental illness doesn’t make you a black Republican overnight.