Kanye West started his career out as the everyday voice of the concerned citizen. He wasn’t a tough guy physically, but he also wasn’t afraid to speak mind his about controversial issues. We love him and we always will. For the most part, I still feel like he has good intentions and speaks from the heart. I respect it even when I disagree because he’s honest. On the other hand, Trump is the devil and you can’t make a deal with Lucifer and win. I hope he comes out of this one alive, but I don’t know, it’s looking kind of sketchy. The situation would be different if Trump wasn’t really actively a full-time, fully functioning manifestation of Satan in real life. Personally, I think people will still buy the music, and this is probably another publicity stunt.

I remember there was a period in time where many of us were ecstatic about Kanye’s high ranking position in mainstream music culture. He once made music that reflected portions of the Black-American experience that were often neglected by other hip hop artists. But then a shift started to occur and something unusual happened as he expanded his influence.

The fans started to ponder “Where is the old Kanye?” Truthfully, every rapper goes through this shit no matter how big or small you are in the game. The fans develop a sense of emotional attachment to your persona and your music. People listen to our songs when their children are born, at their weddings, when they have sex with their life partners for the very first time, or when they finally become first time home owners. Hip Hop records are known to represent more than a mere moment in time for our listeners. We all change and this includes both the artists and the listeners.

Certain songs have helped people navigate through losing their jobs or the death of a close family member. Kanye West, at one point was like bull matador riding the primary algorithm for this type of vibration. He made songs about everything — the masses felt it, consumed it, and loved it. He once had a quote were he basically called himself “Tupac for back pack rappers”.

These aren’t the exact words, but the sentiments reflected the fact that at a very early point in his careerhe felt as if his vibrations were comparable to Tupac’s on an abstract level. Yes, these two men are totally different, but they were both rebellious souls. Yeezy wasn’t in tune with the industry and he was marching to the beat of his own drum. He led a one man campaign to showcase his energy as the anti-sale out. He paid for his own video’s out of pocket, and he released singles that shouldn’t have worked on commercial radio. He didn’t give a damn about the execs and their opinions. He was crowned the politically incorrect and socially inappropriate champion of black music. He is the forefather of Drake, Childish Gambino, Chance The Rapper, and many others in the same vein.

We owe him this respect in those regards because he forced the music industry to recognize a different aspect of the black male identity. There is no denying the fact that he changed the entire world of music for decades upon decades. His impact can’t accurately be measured in this life time. When he finally does leave this world he leaves us as a genius. He’s done enough work to be revered as an immortal in the American Music Hall of Fame.

The question of the matter is where do we separate the man from the music? I think he’s an interesting and sometimes polarizing figure. But he’s a publicity mastermind and he understands the culture can’t completely get rid of him at this moment. I’m excited to see what he does with the production of Pusha T’s next album. I’m excited to see what him and Nas are creating together.

I’m also exuberantly excited about the fact he’s working with St.Louis’s very own young super producerChase the Money. I look forward to seeing what his Good Music imprint does with Chicago’s underground prince of the moment—Valee. He finds a way to crank out something timeless in the studio one way or another. Even if he doesn’t produce or write the track—he’s one of the greatest curators to have ever lived. He’s a visionary and he understands his self sonically. In the studio, he’s one of best masterminds hip hop has ever birthed. Our culture has an emotional attachment to him because of his work. He’s shifted his art from music to fashion and leans into the controversy at every turn.

Right now, folks are in an uproar online because of a series of tweets on his Twitter page—praising Trump and saying some other crazy sh*t I honestly didn’t bother reading. Truth be told, people are thinking either he’s really lost his mind or this is another publicity stunt in which he’s trolling the general public. Politics today are a sticky subject and many of us feel like the old Kanye would’ve engaged with the politics of today a bit differently than the new Kanye. We assumed our collective consciousness once held a different type agency within his personal perspectives.

He met with Trump and the internet instantly said Kanye must be brainwashed under an MK Ultra experiment. I’ve even read conspiracy theorists claim the old Kanye West was kidnapped, cloned, and murdered. Tupac died and was crucified in order for us to fully respect him.

But while he was alive, many people during his time thought Pac was just as crazy as we currently think Kanye West is right now. Tupac was a different type of rapper though, he was substantially younger than Kanye and he was the first prototype for a rap star constantly gauged by the eyes of the media on this level. He was raised in a strong black radical family and had constant examples of this strength thrusted in his face by his mother.

READ: WHO KILLED TUPAC DOCUMENTARY TO AIR ON A&E

There’s a different type of mission statement being radiated through Tupac’s actions. Even if we didn’t agree with him at the time— it was still clear he was negotiating the struggles between growing up and uplifting the concerns of the of poverty stricken ghetto’s of the United States. Pac was all about opposing, but he also did his fair share of proposing. He wanted to take action and he was serious about potentially fixing things. Due to his background as a Panther cubhis political analysis was effortlessly sharper than most rappers. He set the tone for us to assume that any well spoken, well dressed rap star was qualified to publicly voice their political opinions and affiliations. He left this void unfulfilled when he was assassinated. Sure others did it before him, but there are times were Tupac might as well had been running for President.

He was qualified to speak on certain things because of his lifestyle on both sides of the coin. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see what happens if Tupac Shakur lives to become a 40 year old man with a super model wife and two children. He didn’t survive his 20’s—they killed him before he could actually experience his best life.

Maybe he grows up to let us down?

But then again, maybe he actually does succeed in changing in the world and things end gainfully different than the way they did in 1996. I think its fair to say Kanye West has never really shared a political analysis deeper than anything that directly uplifts the visionary goals of Kanye West as a creative. Sure, we loved the Katrina speak out on live television. Personally, I thought Yeezy was the realest rapper alive for such a move. Yeah, I too was fist pumping with everyone else when he interrupted Taylor Swift.

Yes, I absolutely respect the way he won’t budge for these corporations and often challenges racism in corporate art spaces. Yes, this helps black designers invade the racist confines of the fashion world.

But overall, this doesn’t really shift the material conditions of black people, in a manner in which I truly think I should take time to care about his personal political positions. Most of his personal politics have always apprehensively reaffirmed some sort of capitalistic synergy. I think certain black folks have always understood this to be true about his messaging, while the crusting upper black middle class—who can afford to go to an HBCU with ease and shop at Gucci without boosting the clothes—not so much.

This is reflective of our entire culture as we’ve shifted towards a space that allows non-revolutionary behavior to participate in revolutionary acts of bravery, and assume maximum space as if they’ve actually changed the conversation for poor people. On the ground level, the realest people are usually the poorest people.

They’re also the ones that are watching this sh*t on Twitter and pondering why is everyone else so butt hurt? They’ve never thought for one second that Kanye West is an actual radical outside of the spaces where he truly is such. Bougie negroes often think speaking out of turn makes you the newest voice of the rebels. The new Kanye is a rebel on a certain level, but then on another he’s actually not at all. I’m not here to say he has to be or shouldn’t be. That’s’ not the point of this article whatsoever.  We should be clear about the content of his art and the things he seeks to represent in 2018. To me, this is always a problematic notion between black politicos and black artists. Just because a person says “F*ck Trump” doesn’t necessarily mean I heartily agree with their politics. Most of the time, people in the streets no longer even listen to the rappers, the activists are championing.

I actually find myself wishing y’all would stop giving rappers the microphone, and letting them speak about things they haven’t read one single book about. Most of the time, I’d honestly like to say share with us your reading list before you start speaking about the conditions of the day publicly. The public gets it wrong sometimes and this isn’t an excuse for the artists, but we do. We’ve made the man Mandela, but he’s always claimed to be Steve Jobs.

Those two identities are remotely different and even though both are drenched in the spirit of revolt—only one actually ushers in an uncomfortable political analysis about the material conditions of blacks in the global diaspora. Only one represents a complicated narrative of uprooting apartheid and challenging racism. In the early days of his career, he did compare himself to Tupac. That was the old Kanye. The new Kanye hasn’t been on that vibe since shortly after we met him. It’s 2018, and we’ve long had the receipts of verification for what he seeks to be made of his legacy. Let us always remember he compared his self to Walt Disney not Mutulu.

 

 

READ: R.I.P. TO THOSE WE HAVE LOST TO THE SUNKEN PLACE

Tef Poe

Tef Poe

Tef Poe is an American born Rapper, Author, Harvard University Nasir Jones Fellow. His most recent album Black Julian 2 is currently available via Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal.
Tef Poe