Kanye West—the Person versus the Artist

“It was something about when I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman. You made a Superman. That was my – that’s my favorite superhero. And you made a Superman cape.”

On October 11, Kanye Omari West said these words to the current president of the United States as they met in the Oval Office, in reference to his infamous red “Make America Great Again” cap. This nationally televised conversation was only the latest in a series of events that comprise the bizarre, disturbing, and frankly inexplicable relationship between West and Donald Trump. A musician that has always been eccentric, is now seeming to fully embrace a right-wing conservative school of thought, and it’s alarming. We, as the confused and angry public, are torn between viewing this as another publicity stunt or as a true radicalization.

Ever since he met with the then president-elect at Trump Towers in December of 2016, West has had an affinity for Donald Trump. Even before this encounter, he confessed that if he had voted in the 2016 presidential election, he would’ve cast a ballot for Trump because he approved of his “non-political methods of speaking.” As many Ye fans have voiced their outrage over his ostensible infatuation with Trump, it’s crucial to truly understand who Kanye West really is. As many are aware, this is not West’s first foray into politics. From his famous “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” remark in 2005 to his announcement to run in the 2020 presidential election at the 2015 VMAs, West has never been shy about his opinions, political or not. However, people, especially the Black community, feel that he is making a fool of himself and that he is disgracing Black people as a whole. Beyond simply voicing admiration for a person who has made racist, sexist, xenophobic, and ableist comments as well as attacking virtually every minority group through its policies, West has gone so far as to call Trump his “brother.”

Many critics of West have used his bipolar disorder (that he claims is a misdiagnosis) as a scapegoat for his erratic behavior. CNN anchor Don Lemon alluded to West’s mental illness as he was responding to the recent White House meeting, stating that West needs to “go get some help.” During Lemon’s panel discussing the meeting before it occurred, CNN contributor Tara Setmayer affirmed: “He clearly has issues. He's already been hospitalized.” The argument that Kanye’s behavior is due to his mental instability is inherently problematic because it contributes to the stigmatization of mental illness. This isn’t to say that society shouldn’t call out Kanye for making illogical and muddled statements, because we should, but placing the blame on his disorder, especially his hospitalization for said disorder, is exploitative and damaging to all people who live with mental illness.

Recently, West renounced his politics in a tweet, stating that he was being “used to spread messages” that he apparently does not believe in. He concluded that he would turn his focus to creating, and he even went so far as to donate a large sum to Amara Enyia, a Democratic mayoral hopeful in Chicago, his hometown. This sudden shift leaves something to be desired, it as it now seems like West is trying to save face and that he’s disingenuous. Regardless of whether he’s sincere or not, the damage has been done. Only time will tell if West will be able to bounce back so easily from his friendship with Democratic Enemy No. 1.

But, Ye could just be pretending. This could all be a master scheme to gain Trump’s trust and destroy the system from the inside. It’s a possibility— we don’t know. But honestly, it doesn’t matter. Kanye West has millions of fans (particularly young, impressionable ones) and he has an enormous amount of power to shape the culture domestically and internationally. At best, he is being irresponsible with his role as a public figure, and at worst, he is knowingly corrupting the minds of the next generation. It’s a shame that someone who has created beautiful music has chosen to attach himself to one of the most destructive forces in the modern world, “apology” or not.