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The Ethos of Kanye West: You Can't Tell Me Nothing

Kai Acevedo

 // May 3, 2018

“The thing that I respect about him is he is the same person. Like, he interrupted our studio session and stood on the table and started rapping. We were like, ‘Could you please get down?’ And he was like, ‘No, I am the savior of Chicago.'” - JAY-Z

Long heralded as one of the saviors of hip-hop, Kanye West is acting as if he’s carrying out God’s Plan. Assuming the role of a sacrificial lamb, he’s argued that his recent actions, no matter how controversial or nonsensical, are needed for the greater good of man, or the free-thinker, or his bro Donald Trump.

Nowadays, his co-signs are blessed upon "thought-leaders" like Trump and Candace Owens (who supports No. 45 for his political incorrectness but sees the Black Lives Matter movement as “a bunch of spoiled toddlers, who seek nothing but attention”). He posts pictures wearing a 'Make America Great Again' hat while standing next to Lyor Cohen (the guy who Dame Dash—'Ye's big homie and recent collaborator—has flat-out called a "culture vulture" and "slave master"). And The Louie Vuitton Don comfortably tweets that under the watch of former President and Senator Barack Obama "nothing in Chicago changed," and shares the belief that 400 years of well-documented slavery sounds like a "choice." This, during a period of time when mass incarceration is highlighted as a major issue plaguing communities similar to those found on the Southside of the Chi. Yet, 'Ye speaks of prison as if it’s a club for bringing people together. All in the name of love, he insists.

Has Kanye finally gone mad? Is this what a sunken place looks like? Is the Kardashian curse real? Did he not accept his Illuminati contract extension? Although he may absolutely be trolling, Kanye ain’t cursed and he ain’t crazy. At least not in the way many of us want to believe that he is. He’s no crazier than he’s ever been. But where today’s Kanye differs from the 'Ye of yesteryear is that his God complex has peaked at new levels… God levels.

Delusions of grandeur aside, Kanye has earned the right to be feeling himself. His God-level faith in all-things-Kanye is only justified due to the fact that he’s done the impossible, and then did it a few more times. His superpowers resurrected the careers of Common and Talib Kweli, birthed the current generation of heroes (Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Big Sean, A$AP Rocky, Chance the Rapper, Travi$ Scott, and the list legit goes on), and redefined the image of a rap star and what could be considered hip-hop. At the forefront of ushering the ghetto fabolous-flavored genre into the luxury rap era, Yeezy set the trends and the tone. He conquered music, infiltrated the hard-to-crack fashion world (even though he’ll still argue they won’t let him in), and shifted pop culture.

Iconic and super-rich, Mr. New God Flow has achieved mad success by believing in himself as a driving force. In the face of non-believers, his willingness to risk it all has often yielded game-changing results. Now, with his mind right, money right and ego fully in tact, the outside world can’t tell him much of anything anymore. As the scenario plays out, it makes one wonder: Did we ever actually listen to the lyrics of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing?” In retrospect, Graduation’s inescapable hood anthem feels like a warning shot.

The self-proclaimed voice of a generation, 'Ye became the spokesperson for the underdogs, the dreamers, the outsiders, the free-thinkers and so many others. Known to wear his emotions on his Yeezy-branded sleeves, the 808s & Heartbreak artist has had his fair share of outbursts of historic proportions. Up until a certain point, no matter how notorious or erratic his rants and overactive Twitter fingers may have seemed, the outspoken rapper (who's also no longer a fan of that term) almost always supported his free and controversial thoughts with valid reasoning or context. Like, how could one of the greatest videos of all time win MTV’s coveted Video of the Year award, but not win in the Best Female category? And when Americans affected by a natural disaster were referred to as refugees and looters after being left out in cold, deadly conditions by the federal government, how could the country’s leadership not be questioned?

In an interesting (or maybe alarming) turn of events, the "I Am A God" creative seems to no longer feel the need to explain himself, which has made it tough for even some Day One fans to rally behind many of his recent antics. Even though the passion of 'Ye still feels believable, his stream-of-consciousness theories have started to become much less convincing. His newfound PDA for brother Trump, for example, is rationalized by tweets like “Blacks don’t have to be democrats,” and bars like “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?” Those still-entertaining rants, which once had a healthy share of gems, are now bombarded with "alternative" and poorly-explained "facts" that often feel like they are being used to highlight the pedestal he occupies, stir up the viewing public, and portray him as forever being crucified. It’s as if his feelings are the only facts that matter.

“Superman, that’s me,” said Kanye during his recent sit-down with Charlamagne tha God. (He also likens himself to Batman and Black Panther in the unnecessarily long interview.) But the trajectory of his time in the flashing lights is sort of, kind of reminiscent to the story of X-Men character Jean Grey. Not unlike Grae—who goes on to become Phoenix, one of the most powerful and dangerous mutants—'Ye’s style is more like a finger roll and less like a slam dunk.

And as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. Once an undisputed man of the people, the "I Am God" creator, with his hard-to-understand breakthroughs and confusing messaging, has forced many to question not only where his head is at, but where he stands on issues that matter to the followers he (supposedly) so vehemently fights for. Conservative outlets like Fox News, which may have once viewed the "Black Skinhead" as a threat to their establishment, now use him and his disciple Chance the Rapper as shining examples of how we’re heading towards litty relations between Lincoln’s Republican Party and the historically underserved Black community.

“Coulda let the dreamkillers kill my self esteem / Or use the arrogance as a steam that power my dreams,” rapped a confident Kanye on the remix to Beyonce’s hit from a decade ago, “Ego.” As a result of that faithful crutch of his (hello, ego), as well as his undeniable talents, Mr. West is truly believing the hype, and how could he not? Prophetic in his proclamations, 'Ye has essentially done just about everything he’s set out to do, all while sticking to his guns. He successfully lifted off, and brought his clique along for the ride, and changed the landscape of pop culture in the process. So why should Yeezus stop following the voice in his head now? As a wise man once said, “No one man should have all that power.”

Wake up Mr. West.

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