At a campaign rally in January 2016, Donald Trump infamously told a crowd, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” On Friday night, after an exhausting and embattled week, Kanye West released the sonic equivalent of that statement, in the form of a song called “Lift Yourself.”
“Song.” Are we calling it a song? “Lift Yourself” is a “song” in the same way that a card with no money in it is a “birthday present,” or in the same way that these are “shoes.” Its lyrics, as you surely know by now, are just some nonsense words that sound like “poop,” and then also the word “poop.” It is essentially an eff you to the radio host Ebro Darden, who has questioned West’s support of Trump and conservative pundit Candace Owens. The most offensive thing about it, apart from the fact of its existence, is that the beat is actually kind of fire. What a profoundly cynical waste.
Not long after, Kanye released the “real” new song, “Ye vs. the People,” a collaborative conversation song with T.I. that makes me wonder what T.I. did in a past life to owe Kanye this sort of favor. This song is basically “Accidental Racist,” if the racist person in “Accidental Racist” was, depressingly, one of America’s most famous and influential black men, and if the fact of his racism wasn’t an accident at all, but rather dangerously intentional. It is a dark, artistically barren piece of music. Nevertheless, it was an event. The Los Angeles radio station Power 106 played it on repeat for two hours after it was released on Friday night.
“Ye vs. the People” finds Kanye running a premature victory lap for the fictional achievement of sparking civil conversation between people with diverging political views, and essentially bridging America’s red state–blue state divide. This from the guy whose last proclamation to the country was, “Poop-di-scoopty.” In his purported support of Trump, Ye compares himself in this song to “the first Blood to shake the Crip’s hand.” Sure. “Make America Great Again had a negative perception,” he raps (“raps”?), “I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new direction / Added empathy, care, and love and affection.” But nowhere in the song (nor on his timeline) does West express the Trump policies with which he agrees, beyond empty provocation, or the fact it made him believe he, too, could be elected president, or that he likes the hat. T.I. takes on the bulk of the logic here. “You wore a dusty ass hat to represent the same views as white supremacy,” he raps. “Man, we expected better from you.”
Given the current, almost by-default dominance of “Nice for What” and “God’s Plan” (the no. 1 and 2 songs in the country right now, respectively) there is a reason to believe that Drake could take a crap and it would soar to the top of the Billboard charts. Kanye now, quite literally, has done just that. And while it is highly unlikely that either of these songs will become a hit single, the sheer amount of attention that they have garnered this weekend is both undeniable and troubling. They’re profoundly pessimistic flexes, too bullheaded to practice what they preach.
MAGA Kanye is supposedly all about “free thought” and starting productive conversations in which both parties are actively listening to one another, but the music doesn’t signal that—it shows the opposite, that he’s too close-minded to take in what people like T.I., John Legend, and Ebro Darden are trying to communicate to him. Similarly, despite what he’s telling us, this music does not sound like the kind made in the spirit of “empathy, care, and love and affection.” It is caustic, bitter, and willing to treat some of his most devoted fans like pawns in a sad game to see how far down they will follow him. There’s no need to look any deeper, because all you need to know is right there on the surface. Kanye West’s new songs are full of shit.