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Kanye’s Depressing Trump Talk

He’s always said inflammatory things — but this feels different

Getty Images
Getty Images

Kanye West, throughout his entire career but maybe even more so in recent years, is given to frequent “I just read a coffee-table book, I get how Keynesian economics work now” revelations. His tendency to be late, under- or misinformed, and loud as hell is well documented. But it’s taken on a more noxious tone of late. There was the “BILL COSBY INNOCENT” thing. There was his clumsy and inflammatory use of the word “multiracial” in his casting call for Yeezy Season 4, which, by the way, looked a lot like Yeezy Season 3 (minus the $380 “God Sun” hoodie, HAH), which looked a lot like Yeezy Season 2. This shift, this sad era of oddly wrung-dry Kanye, was most neatly described in a tweet that came and went on Election Day, in sad lowercase letters:

And Thursday night, at his Saint Pablo Tour stop in San Jose, Kanye scratched off “Jesus Walks” to talk about how Donald Trump is a gifted orator, and a genius, and that West would’ve voted for Trump, had he voted at all:

This is [heavy, burdened sigh] fine. Whatever. Coming from someone big on untruths, an appreciation for lying isn’t uniquely surprising. I imagine the German brass found an appreciation for that whole Coventry thing after the fact, and having been polluted by an unhealthy amount of crime dramas, I imagine it’s possible some Heinous Crime Unit people could develop a strange appreciation for the men and women they chase. I also imagine this is how you might talk when you’re rich, and most of the people you encounter are rich, and it’s been a long time since you’ve gone anywhere without car service. Or stood on line for anything. Or applied for a job. Or gone outside and looked around. Kanye uses a lot of words to doggy-paddle around huge issues, and most of the stupid stuff he says comes from a position of blinkered wealth. But the rest of it — praising a racist demagogue — is some other other shit.

To this point on the Saint Pablo Tour — aside from excoriating and then exalting Kid Cudi — Kanye has largely abstained from stopping the show to, you know, talk, as he’s done so many times before. I went to the show in Inglewood not too long ago, and it was completely diatribe-free. (At least I think it was; I was in the middle of everything, throwing and receiving elbows, so I could’ve missed something.) But now, post-election, and apparently free of the statute of limitations set by manager Scooter Braun, Kanye went on for more than 10 minutes:

There’s a whole bunch of cellphone footage floating around out there. Kanye makes some valid and ironic points about arming the youth against misinformation in the “post-internet” age. He touches on the idea that President-elect Donald Trump could be what gets all of the racists out in the open, and ultimately spurs real and lasting change. Which is a pretty idea, but a dumb one. It also comes at immense human cost, which Kanye probably won’t feel in his mansion. After confirming himself as a Trump supporter, Kanye also distanced himself from the prejudices that Trump himself is possessed of, which is basically every single one. He also said this:

Now, one way to read this is: Kanye, like a lot of us, gets that this country doesn’t understand us, and refuses to even Google it. Kanye, like a lot us, gets that this country doesn’t like us all that much. Kanye, like a lot of us, is tired. The racist traumas in America are rampant, and the effects are wide-ranging. After all the anger and outrage are used up, what usually follows is exhaustion. And a way to combat that exhaustion is to escape — to talk about something else for a while. What? “Whatever the fuck you wanna talk about.” But talking about other things — like Star Wars — should by no means make us forget what made us want to talk about other things in the first place. Star Wars won’t save us. And Kanye rants won’t either.

Which brings us to the other way to read it: Kanye, like a lot of them, doesn’t mind us being aggrieved, but would like for us to be a little quieter about it. And honestly? Fuck that. People at the head are always telling people at the rear how and when to be upset about things. In a way — a sad, distressing way — this is a mirror image of his Katrina moment, refracted through time and wealth and not having any neighbors.

Somewhere in there he noted, “I guess we’re not gonna sell out the rest of the tour now.” Last month, I honestly had to pause on my way out of the Forum, wondering if I’d ever be so happy again. But now his forecast of what’s to come sounds pretty on the mark. Kanye’s hemorrhaged fans before (cough TAYLOR cough), but he’s always had the diehards who clutched College Dropout for warmth. Will anyone defend this?

It wasn’t always like this. Kanye wasn’t always loud and late. He used to be loud and just on time. He used to interrupt Katrina telethons to tell the listening public exactly what the Bush administration thought of people of color. He used to hit the mark more often. But then again, Kanye used to be dope. Now he’s just fancy.