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“Kanye West Is Not Picasso”: A Diss Track From the Grave by Leonard Cohen

A posthumous rebuke from a musical legend is just the latest embarrassment for the beleaguered rapper

Leonard Cohen and Kanye West Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Kanye West is in shambles, have you not heard? This year he reemerged, first as a fake philosopher and then to avow that “slavery was a choice.” His wife, Kim Kardashian West, the most on-the-internet person in the world, had to tell him to get off the internet. SNL’s Pete Davidson—a 24-year-old with approximately 14,000 tattoos—went on national television to chastise Kanye West’s impulse control. He produced a bunch of albums, though I’m not sure anyone remembers any of the songs; it’s been too many months. His biggest commercial moment of the year included him dressing up as a bottle of sparkling water. He’s having lunch with Donald Trump Thursday. Also Thursday, he was reduced to ashes in a 21-bar stanza by a man who’s been dead since 2016.

I AM THE KANYE WEST OF KANYE WEST.

This is worse than when Drake sent the invoice; this is worse than when Pusha T took a deep breath and told Drake you are hiding a child. This is Leonard Cohen—an all-time cool person to whom Bob Dylan bows down, who’s written at least one top-10 song, who hung out with Allen Ginsberg in the ’50s and dated Rebecca de Mornay in the ’90s—calling out the greatest bullshit artist of this generation from the grave. (The poem is from The Flame, a newly released book of Cohen’s poems, lyrics, and artwork.) I don’t know if this is related, but on March 12, 2015, three days before Cohen wrote this poem, Kanye gave an interview in which he compared himself to Michael Jordan, among other near deities. (He also said, “racism is a dated concept,” in case you thought MAGA Hat Kanye was a new thing.) I like to think Cohen watched this and said, enough. You are not Michael Jordan. I am Michael Jordan.

We’ll never know what actually inspired Cohen to write this, but I’d guess that he believed that being an asshole and proclaiming your greatness doesn’t equate to actual greatness—a fact the rest of us took far too long to realize.

We’ll also never know why Jay-Z had to catch a stray.