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I honestly don’t know.
The hardest thing to admit is that I care about Kanye West. I hate this feeling. Why do I still care about this person that hurt me so much? He insulted my intelligence by pushing the idea that they want to silence “free thinkers,” a phrase used to give people an excuse to be contrarian without actually being responsible or even knowledgeable. He insulted our ancestors by saying slavery was a choice. And he feels like a charlatan for aligning with, in his words, his brother Donald Trump. The same man that rapped about being subjugated to racism before and after his career into the stratosphere is now standing beside the Bigot-in-chief. Where do we go from here?
I’ve written my fair share of satisfaction and strife with Yeezus’ career (read more here) but I wanted to gauge how other people were feeling about the Windy City MC. I reached out to some intelligent guys and gals that I know and trust to see if their thoughts align somewhat with mine. While I may hash out my thoughts over Ye in a later post, I wanted to give a platform to some of my friends. I asked them a few tough questions that I’ve/we’ve been wrestling with for some time with. Special thanks to Baltimore’s finest Frank, Errick (co-host of It’s Like a Podcast or Whatever), Danielle (who’s written about her love of Kanye before; read here), Kelen (host of Hyphen Nation and leader of the Hyphen Nation Podcast Group) and DC’s finest Ashley B. I threw the rock off the backboard, they slammed it home.
MARC ROB: Before his recent string of events (the tweets, the interviews and the TMZ showdown), what did Kanye mean to you? Was he just another rapper that you liked, loved or disliked?
FRANK: Before all the nonsense, Kanye was, hands down, my favorite musician. He was probably the only artist who I felt like made music that was meant for me. Every album he put out was like the gospel; I could relate to all of it. Damn near every track. I remember the first time I heard “Everything I Am” and was just like “Oh, shit; this guy is inside my head but I’m here for all of it.”
ERRICK: Up until a few years ago, I saw Kanye as a good rapper, who was somewhat grounded but also felt like he needed to talk himself up so he could, at least, feel like he was on par with his contemporaries. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. So, from College Dropout to Graduation, he had this air of mock arrogance. But I think mid-way through Graduation, he just lost himself and lost me as a supporter.
DANIELLE: Prior to the shit show that is now Kanye Omari West, he was my favorite rapper and producer of all time.
I fell in love with him as a producer. Ye has such a way with music; he’s one of the few artists that makes me see the sounds he creates. It grabs you and envelops you. Listening becomes a true experience and it’s not something I have felt from many other artists. If you can’t tell by now, I’m a Ye stan. More specifically, I’m a “2012 and earlier” Ye stan. He served as a motivator for me in a lot of different ways. Sadly, that is not the case anymore.
KELEN: The writing was on the wall for me. After his Saint Pablo tour ended in flames with his hospitalization and how disappointed I was with Life Of Pablo, I was convinced that Kanye West wasn’t for me anymore. I tried, one several occasions, to convince myself I was out on Ye because of the things he said but I was out, more so, from a musical perspective. While he used to be at the forefront of hip-hop and rap, he now seems content to use younger artists to stay relevant. Even before his most recent comments, I was planning on listening to his new music only for completionist reasons.
Ten years ago, I was riding the waves of Graduation and appreciating everything Kanye was giving us. When “Love Lockdown” dropped, I said it was the end of his career. But, by the time I pressed play on 808s & Heartbreak, I was convinced he was a genius. Kanye West was Teflon and he could do no wrong in my eyes.
ASHLEY: I liked Kanye from what little I knew of him working with John Legend. I rocked with him in the beginning after The College Dropout. I grew to like him up until 808’s & Heartbreak. He seemed to be saying what needed to be said in those times. The climate of politics and society was not as bad as it is now but he brought some bangers and a level of woke that Common was preaching. Beyond the beats, I wanted to know more about his story. He made high school tolerable and drill practice lit! We even used some of his music from Graduation for a parade (instrumentals, of course).
MARC ROB: Over the last few years, we’ve seen a slew of celebrities get exposed for evil deeds done in their past. If one of your favorite artist were among the exposed, how much do you care? Are you able to separate the art from the artist or is it too difficult?
DANIELLE: The rise of social media has given us the chance to really connect with the celebrities who provide us our favorite music, movies and TV shows. This being for better or worse and as of late, it has been the latter. So, when my favorite actor or musician shows they are actually a shitty person, that’s something I cannot ignore. I shouldn’t have to separate the art from the artist; no one should. Being a decent human being is literally the bare minimum.
ERRICK: I can’t in, good conscience, support a scumbag. Just because I find out about your evil deeds after I’ve enjoyed your music, doesn’t absolve you from your evil deeds. With all the people who’ve been called out, I think Cee-lo Green hurt me the most. I took a lot of what he said as gospel. And that is totally my fault. He inspired me. His music fueled me through some really hard times. But when I found out he was Cosby Monster Jr., all of that goodwill disintegrated with a snap of a finger. I researched to make sure it was true. And it was.
ASHLEY: Lately, I’ve tried to reflect on the influence that the nature of the industry has on artists. They are the few who get to express their creativity through a number of mediums, so I’ve tried to separate the two. Because artists are just people too (who wipe their asses the same, who put on their socks one foot at a time, etc.), I cannot honestly say that I would separate the artist for the art much nowadays.
FRANK: So, I’ll attack this question from two angles: 1. Everyone has their flaws and everyone makes mistakes. 2. There are mistakes and then there is willful ignorance; the latter is where Ye is. The things he is saying are ALL simply refuted if he read a book. Like, that’s all you have to do. Pick up any book, in any place and actually read it and you’d see that the things you’re saying are asinine.
What frustrates me the most is that the things he is saying is actually harmful to other people. Because of his celebrity, he doesn’t have to actually deal with the consequences of the things he says. All he did was give white supremacists more ammunition to invalidate the plight of minority groups, specifically African Americans.
ERRICK: There are so many good reasons to do bad things. You stole food because you couldn’t afford it. You killed someone who was trying to kill you. You jaywalked because it was a faster way to get across the street to catch the bus before it got away. There is no good reason to violate another human being. And since the same person who makes the song and violates women is the same person who receives my money, they must become dead to me.
DANIELLE: I don’t care how cool you are, how well you can dance or how good your music is: I don’t fuck with rapists, racists or people so narcissistic that they don’t care to understand how their words and actions are extremely hurtful.
KELEN: I pay attention when one of my favorite artist is exposed on one level or another. Anything that involves inappropriate behavior towards the opposite sex automatically makes me lose any interest. If they got caught doing drugs or committing some petty crime, I tend to be more lenient.
I used to turn a blind eye for R. Kelly all the time. I knew what was accused of and saw what he had done but that wasn’t stopping me from jamming to “I’m A Flirt.” I’d say it wasn’t until about 2 years ago that I realized I was supporting a terrible human being. I always felt guilty about listening to Chris Brown after his antics. Now, it’s a lot easier to let him go. I understand why people can separate the art and the artist but I can’t be one of them anymore; it’s not fair to their victims. I have a lot of post-retirement issues with Kobe Bryant because of that reason alone.
FRANK: I have no difficulty separating the art from the artist if the artist is causing harm to just themselves. Have a drug problem? Cool. Depressed and you cut yourself? Not the best way to deal with that, but do you. Once you start harming other people (i.e., Cosby and Chris Brown) then that crosses into an area where I no longer feel the need to support anything that you’re attached to.
ASHLEY: All in all, however, there is always room from growth and progress. The things they indulge, invest in, or are impacted by mixed with whatever morals they have usually brings out something truly timeless and raw or, on the other hand, shitty when ego gets in the driver seat. Enter the Kanye that we know today.
MARC ROB: In 2018, is Kanye a good enough artist to ignore his antics? Is any artist above reproach?
ERRICK: Kanye is just creating hoopla. I don’t care enough to pay him any attention. Honestly, do what you want to so long as you don’t hurt anyone. Get publicity, however you see fit. You’re more than likely going to offend someone in society. Make sure you don’t piss off the people who supported you from the beginning. No artist is above reproach. Anybody could get it!
KELEN: That’s a simple “hell no.” And if there’s anyone who is above reproach, it’d be Beyoncé. She might be able to kill Hov at 3pm and still be on stage by 8.
ASHLEY: Nah. I think he needs to listen to his own discography prior to Yeezus, take some notes, get some black women around him and give us the truth like he did back then. I don’t think anybody is above reproach because we are all human. Just because you can do no wrong in the eyes of millions, doesn’t mean you’re not subject to some criticism (i.e., Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s martial scandal).
DANIELLE: No one is above being reprimanded.
FRANK: No one is a a good enough artist to ignore their antics. So, the short answer is no. Now if these antics were based in anything besides his “free thinking,” which is just code for “I don’t want to be held responsible for my uneducated opinions,” then maybe I’d feel differently.
MARC ROB: For full discloser, I have not listened to the latest Kanye “poopity scoop” song (“Lift Yourself”) and I have no desire to listen to his new album in June. When the album drops, are you listening? If so, what do you expect from Ye?
KELEN: I’m done with Kanye. I won’t be checking out the album or any other music he puts out. I have everything from 2003 to 2013; I’m good. No pun intended.
ASHLEY: It’s probably a “no” for me, dawg. The last song I heard was the conversational piece with him and T.I. (“Ye vs. the People”) which was interesting. If the album is not on some help me Get Out from under the dark twisted fantasy that I warned my self about when I became a college dropout but was late to registration type-ish, then I don’t want anything to do with it. At this point, he has already bought his one way ticket and rode to Loony Coon Town. I don’t anticipate him coming back for the potato salad or pound cake.
FRANK: I, also, haven’t listened to any of his newer songs and I tell myself that I won’t listen to the album, but we’ll see. I’d be lying if I said there was no way I’d listen to it. We’ll see though. As of now I’ve got no burning desire to hear anything he puts out.
DANIELLE: I haven’t listened to any of the new Kanye songs and I will not be listening to the new album. I will, however, continue listening to his old music. It is different listening to his music now; there’s an underlying sadness when listening to the “old” Kanye. But I hold a lot of fond memories tied to those songs and they allow me to revisit the person that was my favorite rapper.
ERRICK: I haven’t heard anything from “Poopity Scoop” besides the snippet I heard on Saturday Night Live. I believe this is how I’ll hear any and every other Kanye project going forward. I just lack interest. If I hear it, I hear it.
MARC ROB: I can’t even bring myself to listen to any of his old music. If it comes on via shuffle, I immediately skip forward. I miss the old Kanye. But you can never really go back.