Brooklyn White
June 01, 2018 1:01 pm
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

When Kanye West returned to Twitter earlier this year and began sharing his deep (albeit privileged) spiritual stances, it was, sadly, nothing in comparison to what would soon follow.

In April, the conversation swiftly evolved into proclamations of Kanye’s undying love for President Donald Trump. He also expressed support of Candace Owens, a far-right commentator who has harshly criticized participants in the Black Lives Matter movement. According to Kanye, these tweets were all supposedly written with the intent of promoting “free thought” and starting “WORLD LOVE 1” (Kanye’s idea of a productive opposite to the two world wars that destroyed millions of lives). Then in May, under the same guise of “free thought,” he went on TMZ and said that slavery “sounds like a choice.”

Many were taken aback by the 40-year-old lyricist’s words and actions. It was hard to understand how he could go from criticizing the last Republican commander-in-chief to publicly supporting his reality TV-made predecessor, Trump, and his racist policies. Others believed that all of his recent behavior was directly linked to a string of new albums that West was brewing, including his own.

Kanye West is no stranger to ruffling feathers — he is an artist whose very essence has been intertwined with controversy for over a decade. How could anyone forget his notorious Hennessy-fueled rant about Beyoncé at the 2009 Video Music Awards? Granted, controversy and asinine remarks about politics and social injustice are completely different — yet I’m not entirely shocked that he would stoop to this level of ignorance just to make others aware of his newest body of work, which, on the evening of May 31st, was released.

The rapper’s first album in two years, titled Ye, is here.

While I haven’t listened to a second of it yet, I can say this project forces people to think about their code of ethics — specifically how it intersects with the art they consume.

There are people out there who believe it’s totally possible to separate the art from the artist. These individuals claim they have no problem disagreeing with a cultural figure’s stances and will openly enjoy the person’s artistic creations. I can’t help but wonder if still engaging with the music creates enough space to have a painful internal dialogue with yourself about the artist’s harmful behavior.

Honestly, I’m the most concerned about young people who separate the art from the artist — say, his fans that are 21 and under. I’ve given up on older people because some are so connected to Kanye’s role as a pillar of hip hop that arguing with them seems futile. But the young ones — the ones who are barely able to drink, whose opinions are still being molded by culture and critical acclaim — are the people I feel sorry for. By refusing to research Kanye’s ideology or engage in face-to-face dialogue about the flaws in Kanye West’s opinions about slavery and racism (outside of saying they “miss the old Kanye), these fans perpetuate complacency. They make it the norm to not truly think critically.

I personally can’t create a mental chasm that allows me to separate the art from the artist. No matter how hot the beat is.

Grace and forgiveness are real, but they are not things to be abused. Kanye has abused compassion from the listeners who loved him — possibly because he knows that he’ll never be 100% canceled; that’s just not how the game seems to work.

But character matters to me, and I’m not fully comfortable riding for someone who believes that one of the darkest parts of Black history was a choice.

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