I’ll never forget August 30th, 2016. It was a near religious experience, finally seeing the man I had preached the gospel of to everyone I knew, fighting the rancour others lashed towards him. Kanye West himself floating on a stage meters away, a man more mythical and brain-boggling than I had ever encountered, and my love for him was never stronger.
You might ask what made me so infatuated with an obviously erratic and dividing character, what had pulled me into his cult of fanatics; and to be honest, it was the essence of self-empowerment he embodied
Kanye has long said that “If you’re a fan of Kanye West, you’re a fan of yourself.” It might seem outlandish or narcissistic of him to say, but let me personally assure you of the intense truth within the statement. In his words, I found an honest way to understand emotion and personal fault, a way to approach improvement and combat the procrastination that had plagued me for ages.
No one can tell me they listened to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy without feeling like an emperor of Rome. No one can tell me they listened to The College Dropout without dreaming of taking a road less travelled. No one can tell me they listened to Yeezus without wanting to destroy society’s capitalist constructs. No one can tell me they listened to Kanye and weren’t captured, in awe and inspired by his generational talents and introspective ideology of self.
But that’s no longer who Kanye is. It was in the weeks after I had seen him that he began to break down at live shows and eventually took himself away from the limelight, only to come back a shell of his former self. His newest albums continued to be beautiful, yet inconsistent. His attitude remained intense and unflinchingly honest, no matter how scrutinized. As a musician, I still adore him; I can’t go to the gym without listening to his music, past or present, to give myself that essential push of confidence. But as a man, Kanye has left me confused and hurt, unable to counterpoint his actions by pointing towards his genius work.
I loved defending Kanye with every bone in my body, it was a side hobby and a craft I had perfected. “He’s a narcist” they’d say, no, “He’s just introspective”. “He’s an asshole, look what he did to Taylor Swift”, I’d counter, “Listen to his music and you’ll know he feels bad, you’ll hear that he understands his mistakes.”
“He’s sitting with a racist in the White House and wearing MAGA gear!” Silence on my end. I have no lyric, song or album that can answer this. I can no longer find a passage of verse that defends a man who was my hero.
I was able and willing to defend someone who wasn’t sociable, egotistic and downright rude; but I can’t stand behind someone who is supporting ideas detrimental to our global situation. Kanye West is allowed to believe whatever he wants to. In the same way that he was freely permitted his thoughts on George Bush in 2005, his thoughts today are not some crime. And I’m not saying that he, and every other American, are to be lumped into political parties that they ‘should or shoudn’t’ be supporting based on race, religion, career, friends or enemies. But with the platform and influence he has, Kanye has to look at the larger implications of the ideologies and actions he links arms with. Misogyny, racism, greed, homophobia and division. This is what Kanye stands beside as he wears that blood red hat, as he goes on a MAGA loving SNL rant and as he hugs Trump in the same office that only years ago was a symbol of hope instead of despair.
And by standing by Kanye, I make the conscious choice to stand behind those cancerous ideologies infecting American society and the world entire. In blindly safeguarding a past idol I lose a self-respect for my own beliefs, I wouldn’t be able to call myself active in the fight for equality and human freedoms so regularly oppressed in our backwards climate. Sure, I love his music, but I can’t sit with earphones popped in and ignore all that he does and says; there must be a consciousness while listening to realize that the man who may be a genius artist is also detrimental to a resolution of peace and understanding in our global society.
When I think back to August 30th, 2016, I no longer see an untouchable figure of art and empowerment. I now see a man who is no less mortal than any of us, no less flawed and broken than we may be. I will forever be indebted to Kanye for the positive change he was able to bring about in my life through his art, but no longer will I be a yes-man to his damaging speech and ideology. In my heart, I hope he can reconcile this damage in the same way he has in the past, but I know that forever he’ll be tied to a way of thought future generations will criticize to no end. And for that, I must step away and resist championing his accomplishments as a defence for his actions, because just ask Kanye said, “Everything I’m not, makes me everything I am.”