Kanye West has been going through quite the week(s). Trouble had been brewing since the early days of the Saint Pablo tour, which had been shrouded in complications that included wife Kim Kardashian's robbery in Paris, multiple walk-offs and nonsensical rants, but over the last week, he's now turned to a pro-Trump, anti-Beyonce and Jay Z cry, and the morning announced the cancellation of the entire remaining tour.
It's simultaneously easy and difficult to understand the possible motivations for his new stance, but it's leaving old and new fans at a difficult crossroads- is this simply the age old 'any press is good press' (something Kanye fans can attest he is a master of), or is this a sign that the Kanye we know is no longer? And more importantly, what does this mean for West fans moving forward?
West has always been incredibly complicated, and his constant need for both privacy and constant attention makes it hard to understand the complex person that lies underneath. He's part of the Kardashian clan, exposing him and his family to a life of tabloid news while he openly hates paparazzi. This was always part of the appeal - his brutal honesty in his early work that showcased how perfectly he understood his own shortcomings and chose to use them as his lyrical focus- that's what made him so great. What resulted were prolific works in College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, 808s and Heartbreaks, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He was the voice of a few generations, and he knew how to command attention to the things he believed in. He was an outsider- not in a gang, but middle class, a producer first and rapper second, high-fashion lover that wanted to change the world. He wasn't like the others, and that's what drew everyone in. He was an outspoken artist that went on live television to openly state that President Bush didn't care about black people, and now, almost in a situation that's too ironic for words, he's supporting the president who has been endorsed by the KKK.
What's even sadder is that in-between his rant about Jay Z and Beyonce and President Trump, is that he makes valid points about radio airplay and the problems within the music and technology industry; sadly these points inevitably fly over the head of 90% of listeners as most tabloids and fans only hear the insanity spewing in-between the valid arguments. The end result is that the serious discussion West tries to put forward are buried in the gossip-blog worthy portions of his rant.
It also doesn't help that there have been rumors of West's mental instability, coming from those within his inner circle (or at least were at one point) like Rhymefest (credited for "Jesus Walks" and "New Slaves" among others), who has publicly expressed his concern for his friend, and the mysterious distance that has grown between himself and Jay Z also brings great concern as well. Paired with the deadly combination that can be the Kardashians and their need for constant fame and attention, it's hard to tell what the new motivation to publicly state his Pro-Trump stance, or why even privately he would have this opinion, might be. Could it be a case of mental illness, a case for wanting attention and simply going after the most controversial statement he could think of in the most liberal of states he could be in, or is it genuine respect for the president people can't stand?
There's no way anyone besides West himself that can begin to untangle why he's supporting Trump, especially when it comes to light that he had donated money to the DNC and to Clinton last year.
Now, I want to quickly mention- some are arguing that spending time talking about West is nonsensical when President-elect Trump is causing mayhem every step of the way. Why should we focus on celebrities at a time like this? But people who argue this are forgetting the power that West has on multiple generations. People older than me (I'm 23, for the record) and people vastly younger than me, all have found comfort in West's music at some point. Whether he was rapping about golddiggers, or modern day forms of slavery, or diamonds, or love, his power and reputation span across multiple generations of fans. Artists like Lil Uzi Vert point to 808's and Heartbreaks as a major inspiration, while MBDTF was touted as a perfect album by Pitchfork. Kanye's influence, like it or not, is insanely powerful, and for a man with West's potential reaching power to not quite grasp what he's saying showcases a significant disconnect from his fanbase. Not to mention he didn't even vote this election, but to show support for everything West has argued against in the past feels like when Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz found the man behind the green smoke, a moment we unveiled some truth.
West has insisted in the past that he's doing this for the youth, but this is the first time the youth are rebelling against West, and it looks like things are about to become even more off-kilter.