I’ve always liked Kanye West. Not enough to buy those God-awful shoes of his, mind you, but I counted myself as a distant admirer long before I ever even listened to his music. What others perceive as arrogance, I regard as hilariously antagonistic chutzpah. He’s an entertainer whose entertainment value extends beyond his music, which is an undervalued commodity in an era defined by nondescript DJs, most of whom have about as much personality as an Acer laptop.
But after many years of defending him from the proverbial pitchfork-wielding mobs, my seemingly infinite capacity for contrarianism appears to have reached its limits. The recent unhinged Twitter tirades, ever-present gaggle of Kardashians and shows of support for Donald Trump have all swirled together to program me with a gag-inducing Pavlovian response to the shit that now dribbles out of his head via his mouth or fingers. I’m sick of him and can’t find any more excuses.
Many of his detractors will probably wonder why it has taken me so long to flee what has, in retrospect, been a long-sinking ship steered by a stubborn captain who arguably hasn’t changed very much over the years – I mean, it’s not like he’s gotten any more obnoxious than he was before – but back in the Golden Age of Kanye it felt like there was something there to defend.
When was the Golden Age of Kanye? I’m not going to try put an exact date on it, but it sits roughly between the release of The College Dropout, which marked the beginning of that mid-2000s period where he was one of the central innovating figures in popular music (I challenge anyone that has even a mild appreciation of hip-hop to contest this while listening to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,) and 2012, when he began dating Kim Kardashian – a landmark that other people, not only myself, regard as the beginning of his decline.
‘Ye is very much a Marmite kind of guy. Most people will either describe themselves as lovers or loathers, and rarely have I heard anyone express a middling opinion about him; something he himself even references in “Bring Me Down” with the line, “Everybody feel a way about K but at least y’all feel something.”
But when the tide turned against him in 2009 after he interrupted Taylor Swift’s Video Music Awards acceptance speech, just so he could drunkenly tell the world that Beyonce had the better music video, it only made me like him more.
Now, I’m fairly indifferent to Beyonce, and the only tune of hers that I’ve ever played out of my volition is “Say My Name” (and it’s not even really a Beyonce tune), but I know enough about her to know that she is both a superior performer and an artiste to Taylor Swift, who, if we’re going to be perfectly honest, owes much of her success to being a bland, inoffensive blank canvas for white America to project itself onto like a department store mannequin.
I’m not going to take a stance over who should’ve won because, frankly, I have seen neither video and nor do I actually care. But I saw an ally in Kanye because he was landing blows to celebrity egos in a way that I could only dream of. Abusive tweets are just impotent rage, so Kanye gave me the proxy joy that comes with seeing famous feathers ruffled.
They’re undeservedly worshipped like Gods by the incoherent masses (a misplaced privilege that Kanye obviously enjoys as well), so I always viewed him as a cat amongst the pigeons. I see his prowling through Beverly Hills, lodging noses out of place as an important public service. Which other pop cultural figure of his stature is going to stand on live television and obtusely bark out “GEORGE BUSH DOESN’T CARE ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE” like a Tourette’s patient? No one. I’m not disputing that he was always an ass, but for a while he was an ass with a higher purpose, which made him worth defending.
The quality of his musical output has arguably been in decline since Watch the Throne (and this isn’t just my view, various commentators from across the internet have said the same), which is unfortunate, because it was always his main selling point. Instead of doing what he does best, he’s turned his attention to making ugly clothes and dropping trite tech industry platitudes about changing the world.
As I mentioned earlier, his egotism used to be amusing, but that was at a time when he defined himself as a musician, so he had something to back up his brashness. Now he’s a nauseating testament to one of the world’s inherent injustices: famous people are given artistic opportunities regardless of whether or not they’re any good at them.
Tom Ford is a poor screenwriter, but he is given the opportunity to make banal (although visually stunning) films because of his name. The same goes for Yeezy. It’s a crushing reminder that success in capitalism is defined by marketability rather than quality – if it wasn’t, Paris Hilton wouldn’t be booked as a DJ, or to do anything else except to stand there and look pretty, for that matter.
But all of these criticisms pale in comparison to his recent support of Donald Trump and his marriage to Kim Kardashian.
To some, these details may seem irrelevant but, as we’ve already established, Kanye West isn’t simply a musician so he can’t be judged on his music alone. The latter has been a growing source of antipathy for me because the Kardashians represent everything that is, in my eyes, wrong and ugly in the value system of the 21st century.
I’m not going to go into a lengthy diatribe, because I despise the Kardashian Klan for very obvious reasons: they embody the consistent triumph of culturally and intellectually bankrupt vapidity, which they help glamorize and frame as aspirational. They contribute to the dumbing down of humanity and are perversely adored for it. Kanye’s association to them dismays me because the company we keep and the choices we make say a lot about us as people.
When it comes to celebrities, it’s difficult to separate fact from myth. Few of us can say that we know Kanye, or any other public figure for that matter. We only know the constructed persona that they project. But choosing to share your life with someone as vapid as Kim K. is a thoroughly damning self-indictment.
If someone creates great music, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that they must have good taste. And good taste is widely regarded as a marker of intellect or broader depth as a human being. I had always assumed that people with good taste and those who contribute to human civilization have a critic’s aversion to people like the Kardashians who degrade it. Kanye appears to show that this isn’t the case, and that I was terribly naive to assume otherwise.
Maybe his musical talents aren’t the product of conscious good taste, but rather an intangible instinct that comes to him unconsciously through the body, like sporting talent.
Cristiano Ronaldo can do incredible things to a ball, but it’s unlikely that he’d be able to articulate even to himself how he does it – Harry Kane sure as hell can’t. This is why great footballers rarely make great coaches, and history’s great coaches – like your Alex Fergusons and Jose Mourinhos – were rarely ever elite footballers back in their playing days.
Either way, Kanye has shown his personal values to be closer to those of the trash culture that the Kardashians represent and that I so despise. His association to this cultural spam has made me despise him, too.
The Kardashians’ reality TV empire is the dregs of popular culture. ‘Ye might not be Steve Reich, but he’s still one of the most respected musicians in his personal field. The circles that he moves in are the vanguard of music and fashion and media. He validates the Kardashians by association, and if her makeover since her days as a valley girl feeding off the crumbs of Paris Hilton’s fame is anything to go by, his stylist dresses her, too. Had she married the guys from LMFAO she’d still be filthy rich and incredibly famous, but Kanye bestows her with a degree of cultural capital, thus validating her.
Sure, they’ve been married for nearly three years now and dating for even longer, so maybe I’m a bit late to the hate fest, but I endured his relationship with Kim in the hopes that they would get divorced. And considering all the acrimony between Kanye and his previous ex, Amber Rose, a KimYe breakup would’ve no doubt led to some highly entertaining mudslinging.
But then he strutted into Trump Tower to show his support for America’s demagogue-elect, and that was the final straw for me. In the case of his marriage to Kim Kardashian, you can put it down to that illogical aspect of love that drives people to act in unusual ways. Maybe there’s something to Kim that makes all her inherent trashiness irrelevant to Kanye. While I can’t endorse this I can understand it. But in regards to Trump, he has no excuse.
Kanye West is not a downtrodden, blue-collar Wisconsinite who feels abandoned by the Democratic Party and powerless against the lapping tide of globalization that threatens to take his livelihood away. Unlike the uneducated, he is not vulnerable to a snakeoil salesman like Donald Trump peddling false hope to the desperate. He’s either completely fucking stupid, or he truly believes in the Trump agenda. It doesn’t matter which one it is, because like with Kim K., his words and his actions validate Trump’s degeneracy.
We will probably never know if something has changed in Kanye, or if this is the person that he always was and it has only become apparent now, but Trump is the enemy. By standing with him Kanye is too, now.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.
- Lead Image: JUSTIN MCCONNEY / People