"I say f*ck the police, that's how I treat 'em. We buy our way out of jail, but we can't buy freedom".
The College Dropout was the first album I ever listened to all the way through. It was more than my formal introduction to hip-hop, I couldn’t fully explain it then but Kanye was also my introduction to social justice well before I even understood what it was. His words resonated with me on a spiritual level - speaking to a Black experience that wasn’t necessarily mine but still collectively shared.
Now, do I think Kanye is or was ever a true champion for Black people? No, but for a long while he was open, candid, and dedicated in communicating his Black experience. He has always been unapologetic in his expression and though his positions today seem to be in direct conflict with those of his past, he has largely been encouraged and rewarded by the Black community for having no filter his entire career. The confidence with which he speaks isn't surprising. Alas, Kanye no filtered his own prophecy into existence, he just didn’t know he was talking about himself the whole time - “I know there's dudes ballin', and yeah, that's nice. And they gonna keep callin' and tryin', but you stay right girl, and when you get on he'll leave your ass for a White girl”.
This is such a loaded lyric, heavy with the truth. It touches beyond Black men seeming to end up with white or non-black women more often than not after achieving wealth and fame, but that this success in general will pull you away from your community if you aren’t careful. I don’t believe in curses, so I’m not going to hold the Kardashians responsible for what’s become of him. But that speaks to another thing that’s been consistent about Kanye; his frustration, or rather lack of understanding as to why Black people have difficulty rising above their circumstances. Despite apparently being aware of and sympathetic to the causes and injustices behind it all, he’s lowkey always been a bootstraps kind of guy. When you've earned as much money and success as Kanye there are few things, if any, that can be responsible for your mistakes other than yourself. His actions are wholly his own and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Of course it is still exceedingly disappointing to see an ideological shift in Kanye toward positions so clearly attached to people and policies the vast majority of people of color view as dangerous and counterproductive to the issues facing their communities. But what I find most disappointing is this notion that Conservatives, and now Kanye, like to peddle - that Black people and minorities are essentially brainwashed and don’t know better, which is why we vote for Democrats.
We can’t understand policy? We can’t stand with the platform that seems to address or at least acknowledge our issues in the ways that we see them? Wildly disrespectful to suggest we're incapable of making informed decisions. The Democratic party and the Left have their issues just as all parties and ideologies have their shortcomings, but if you think for one second that Republican policies address, understand, or even care about this country’s racial issues then you’re out of your fucking mind. Kanye himself said it plainly, from “and I’ll never let my son have an ego. He’ll be nice to everyone wherever we go, I mean I might even make him be Republican so everybody knows he loves White people" to “Middle America packed in, come to see in my Black skin [...] if I don't get ran out by Catholics, here come some Conservative Baptists claiming I'm overreacting like them Black kids in Chiraq, b*tch”.
It’s not just the Republican thing. Kanye suggested that Black people only vote for Democrats because they want more welfare, seemingly unaware that the largest beneficiaries of welfare in this country are White people. This falls in line with his ‘mental slavery’ obsession and that frustration I mentioned earlier being thrown into much clearer light after coming under fire for saying that 400 years of slavery “sounds like a choice” to him. That’s funny because Kanye has been working with and running after the White man for the past few years trying to advance himself even further. The dude is struggling to get his publishing rights and yet somehow he would be the one the break the bonds of slavery a couple centuries earlier? A joke. All his lyrics discussing an externally enforced lack of social mobility, efforts to change the circumstances (voting, protest, riots, etc.) being stamped out, and sabotaged education systems among other things contributing to a rigid maintenance of the status quo apparently went right above his own head. He’s gone in the opposite direction.
He’s beyond all that now. He’s with all the rest of the free thinking Republicans who all believe the same thing, supposed MENSA level IQ in the house. Some say that Kanye’s accomplishments, especially in high fashion, are strides for the race and the culture but he didn’t do it for y’all, he did it for him. Kanye and Don aren’t so different, the same can be said of Kanye and the Republican party. It’s about the individual, it’s about the brand, even if it’s at the expense of everyone else, sometimes even at the expense of your own integrity.
Kanye is Kanye first and a Black man second and oh how nice that must be. To be so wealthy and so accomplished that people see you for you and not for your skin color. It’s almost like if you live like that long enough and hang with the right people in the right spaces you just might be able to forget about the skin thing all together. Wherever his path may take him I'd urge him to keep his own advice in mind; at the end of the day “even if you’re in a Benz...you’re still a n*gga in a coupe”.