Radical acceptance. The Serenity Prayer. “It is what it is.” That’s just a few of the myriad methods many of us employ when trying to come to grips with shit we don’t like. You didn’t get that Chrimmuh bonus you just knew you deserved? It sucks, but being unwilling to accept it isn’t going to change that reality. You have two options at that point: Keep it moving and keep doing your job, hoping that maybe you’ll get it next year, or leave that job because they don’t appreciate or respect you. You can get with this or you can get with that; the choice is yours.
I think Kanye West has forced a great number of us (well those who continue to engage in the Kanyelympics) to wrestle with acceptance and choice, because the version of Kanye we don’t want him to be is exactly who he is. Pusha T just told us that the red hat is gone. Maybe he was optimistically hoping the owner of his label had abandoned his Sunken Place journey, but Kanye isn’t one to let others speak for him, so in a slew of tweets to get your new year started off right, he reminded us all he’s still with the shits. Happy 2019!
There are a bunch of tweets, but those are the two that get to the heart of where Kanye is (and honestly where he’s probably been for a very long time). Even after his summer and fall of feeling used and abused by the media over coverage of his “slavery is a choice” comment and Candace Owens and even Trump himself, he’s back to let you know that all day, everyday, he’s Team Trump. Perhaps they’ve had a chance to kiss and make up. Bully for them.
But that second tweet is where the whole shit falls off the rails for me. And this is the part that I think most Kanye fans who want to believe in Kanye (more on this later; for the record, I’ve been off that line of thought for years at this point) struggle with. Kanye seems to truly, like, truly truly, believe that Trump and this symbolic-ass hat represents some actual freedom of thought, especially for black Americans. To him, he hasn’t been brainwashed, he’s actually providing a pathway towards liberation for black people who are controlled by Democrats and Democratic politics. Which is odd, because nothing of what he’s doing seems that overtly political. It just seems like ignorance on top of ignorance. Kanye is leveling up his whole “I don’t read” ideology and backing it up with actionable ignorance. Imagine life with infinite access to resources and information and eschewing it all for a feeling of dragon energy. I hope to never drink Kool-Aid that good.
And at this point, I’m pretty sure this is exactly who he is and who he is going to be, and if we want to engage with Kanye, it’s going to have to be like this. And it calls into question this idea: Is the Kanye we know gone, or was he ever really there in the first place?
As a community, hip-hop or otherwise, Kanye came into the game as a non-traditional rapper and then basically ushered in the suburban takeover of hip-hop, where the hood you come from wasn’t as important anymore. He made it OK to look different and be into fashion and be into, well, whatever you want to be into and have it be a pathway to success and acceptance. Without Kanye, there are no Tyler, The Creators or Drake,s or any number of rappers without struggle as their primary muse. Kanye was a cause. Because of that, I think we placed expectations and the culture on Kanye’s shoulders, and that was unfair. Even Atlas shrugged, ya know? We turned Kayne’s artistry, brilliant as it is, into his politics, his ideology, and for some reason determined that Kanye was a leader.
His albums were (and still are) events because of what they might speak to and how. Kanye is important to the culture so what he says, deep or not, is important. Kanye represents the hustle and the come-up, and those of us who grew up “talking white” or (oddly) making school our hustle. And he spoke up for us by telling us that George Bush didn’t care about black people. Kanye was a conscience of a middle-class, young black America, but now he’s willing to sell it all for some strongly held belief that honestly doesn’t even make sense.
Kanye is doing what I can only imagine he believes is right and true to himself, but in that process he’s supporting a deplorable, vile human being who constantly finds new ways to ensure that marginalized communities remain that way. And I can’t square that with the Kanye I feel I spent the past almost 20 years paying attention to. I’m not sure how he can either, but again, I don’t want that Kool-Aid.
If Kanye was some misinformed fellow in the middle of nowhere spewing this shit into the ether, then OK. That’s how Trump got elected. But for Kanye to continue to use his considerable platform to attempt this faux version of black liberation is why I think many of us are ready for him to fade into the ether. I don’t know if we’ll ever see a version of the Kanye West we thought we knew. Maybe that’s on us.
But we need to accept that which we cannot change unless we’re going to offer Kanye up in the next racial draft. I spent a week last year listening to nothing but Kanye albums trying to figure out if there were some clues as to where he fell off the wagon, so to speak. And all I could find was that as he got more successful and made more money, the centering of blackness that helped him move the culture early in his career seemed to fade more and more into just Kanye as a black man making art, effectively moving from man of and for the people to “we are not a monolith” and assumed elevated thought.
But this is him now. Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, because it is what it is.
Kanye’s not gone y’all. He’s right here. Being himself. Clap. Pray. Or ignore.
The choice is yours.