Over the weekend, Kanye “‘MAGA’ Hat” West dropped a song called “Ye vs. the People” (starring T.I. as “the People”). I’ve listened to it several times at this point. I believe the old black griots in the community would refer to what’s happening here as “This n-word has lost his damn mind.” Here are some thoughts.
1. I’m impressed by how quickly Kanye the Contrarian for the Sake of It and T.I. put this song together. It’s clearly a response from Ye to all the backlash he received last week from the Twitter trolling he’s done in support of Donald Trump. He’s doubling and tripling down. T.I. basically sounds like every response to each of Kanye’s incendiary tweets. Thought went into it. They’re artists and they acted some shit. Still, a quick turnaround on quality work is impressive, even if quality work is Ye’s brand.
2. Kanye sounds stupid. And ill-informed. And ridiculous. He claims this in the song (emphasis mine):
I feel a obligation to show people new ideas
And if you wanna hear ‘em, there go two right here
Make America Great Again had a negative perception
I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new direction
Added empathy, care and love and affection
And y’all simply questionin’ my methods
This nigga is a living, breathing “SMH.” He literally did none of the things he thinks he did by wearing that hat. He just pissed folks off by supporting a person and system that benefits from and practices white supremacy. There’s no new direction. He just looks like he’s supporting white supremacy. Nobody says “Kanye” and “empathy” in the same breath anyway, and we definitely don’t look at that hat or slogan as having SHIT to do with empathy. Kanye literally sounds like an idiot. We’re not questioning your methods, Kanye—for illustration purposes, we were questioning Chance’s methods; we’re questioning YOU.
3. More from the song—I’ve always hated this argument (again, emphasis mine):
I mean, that hat stayed in my closet like ’bout a year and a half
Then one day I was like, “Fuck it, Imma do me”
I was in the sunken place and then I found the new me
Not worried about some image that I gotta keep up
Lot of people agree with me, but they’re too scared to speak up
If you think this, you are also bullshitting. Nobody is stopping anybody from speaking their minds. And Kanye isn’t some prophet or martyr for the voices of a disenfranchised people who believe in Trump and now feel empowered. Those people already have a voice: fuckin’ Donald Trump. What a friend we have in Jesus? That’s how white nationalists (euphemistically speaking, as Michelle Wolf pointed out) view Trump. Hate-mongers look to a sitting president as an ally. They’re already speaking up, Ye. And black folks who do feel empowered by your message already voted for Trump, so that “too scared to speak up” is moot.
4. Then there’s this part of the song:
See that’s the problem with this damn nation
All blacks gotta be Democrats, man, we ain’t made it off the plantation
I also hate this stupid-ass line of distraction. The problem with Trump isn’t that he’s not a Democrat. The problem with Trump is that he’s Trump. Yes, not all blacks have to be Democrats. We can be whatever we want politically; do you, boo. But aligning yourself with THIS particular noninclusive-ass Republican Party is just as problematic as blind loyalty to Democrats. Politicians suck. True. Here’s the issue, Kanye (and Ye acolytes): We already fucking know this. In the context of his rants and even this song, it’s out of place and has jack shit to do with the real issue: alignment with anti-blackness and white supremacy.
5. More lyrics:
Bruh, I never ever stopped fightin’ for the people
Actually, wearin’ the hat’ll show people that we equal
Hmmm ... interestingly, I’m not sure if I feel in any way that Ye is fighting for the people. And that hat is absolutely as divisive as T.I. suggests in the song. Kanye knows that; otherwise, this song wouldn’t exist in the first place. And at this point, I don’t want Kanye fighting for me. His version of what constitutes fighting for the people probably doesn’t look like mine.
6. “You had a bad idea and you making it worse.”
T.I.’s line about halfway through the song is probably the most poignant because that’s exactly what is happening in Kanye’s tweets and advocacy for his position. I don’t even want to call it political because I honestly don’t think Kanye is smart enough—yeah, I said it—to have come up with an actual political stance. If he had, I can’t see how he, as a black man, would land where he has. Fight your mom, bro.
Kanye thought he’d throw on that hat and show folks how he’s like Trump, and he thinks he’s powerful enough to make “MAGA” an inclusive message. He basically thinks he’s flipping “MAGA” like black folks flipped “nigga.” What Kanye HASN’T thought about is how many people STILL hate the n-word and that it’s divisive as fuck in our community. “MAGA” was going to be a cakewalk?
7. Damon Young already pointed out that “MAGA” Kanye is what happens when you don’t read books, and I think that’s accurate. But what “MAGA” Kanye further demonstrates is why we need to be very descriptive with how we use the word “genius.” He is a musical genius; I would never take that from him. Or, at the very least, he’s got genius-level talent. But that man is not an overarching genius or thought leader.
8. He has every right to his opinion. He has every right to share his opinion. The recipients of that opinion have every right to criticize it when he shares it openly and publicly. We get mad when anybody on Trump’s team says some fuck shit, but now we’re supposed to just be understanding when it comes to alternative opinions? I think the kids say, “Fuck outta here.”
9. Kanye isn’t deep. He’s important to the culture because he moves the needle in fashion and music. But he’s not deep. He also now moves the needle in doubling and tripling down on ignorance. It’s interesting, too. We gave Kanye so much credit for his bravery for saying what we all actually felt when he said that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Now he’s literally endorsing and actively supporting the VERY shit he risked it all for back in 2004. That, my friends, is a 180 like a motherfucker. I also don’t think Kanye is smart enough to realize that.
10. June 2018 is going to be a very interesting Black Music Month, y’all.