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Killing Kanye West's ego is really stroking it

Trey Alston

 // Aug 14, 2018

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Kanye West, for the first time in his 16-year career, was rendered speechless. Jimmy Kimmel posed an interesting question to the 41-year-old rap iconoclast when the latter appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last week. West had spent months prior vocalizing his support for President Trump who, quite frankly, doesn't care about black people (or many other groups for that matter). Kimmel channeled the thoughts and questions of an online community both confused and frustrated with West's political idiocy and checked West's integrity and intelligence with poise.

"I mean, you've so famously and so powerfully said George [W.] Bush doesn't care about black people," Kimmel said. "It makes me wonder, what makes you think that Donald Trump does…or any people at all?" The air was sharp, crisp, and charged with suspense from Kimmel, the crowd, and anxious viewers at home. West's lips pursed while his eyes searched the stars beyond the stage's ceiling, searching for the answers that would make sense to both Kimmel and himself. As the air grew denser and the anticipation reached a boiling point, Kimmel decided to relieve West of the burden placed on him and announced that the show would be going to commercial break. The crowd nervously chuckled while West gave a sheepish, knowing grin.

Kanye West Goes Silent On Jimmy Kimmel’s President Donald Trump Question | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC
MSNBC

Since then, the moment has become the latest proof for the populace that Kanye's off his rocker. The 21-minute interview has been condensed to a one-minute clip with West's public defeat at the hands of Kimmel as the headline. Opponents of Kimmel, and supporters of both West and Trump, say that prior to the clip West was making a case for his reasoning before being asked to shift his thoughts in a different direction. There's some truth to that, but not the kind that mitigates the weight of his silence. West was framing his endorsement of Trump as growing from needing the acceptance of the black community, not because of personal attachment. "Just as a musician, African-American guy out in Hollywood, all these different things, everyone around me tried to pick my candidate for me and then told me every time I said I liked Trump that I couldn't say it out loud or my career would be over, I'd get kicked out of the black community, because blacks, we're supposed to have a monolithic thought – we can only be Democrats," he said prior to the conversation-ending exchange.

Kanye responded the following day after collecting his thoughts, through Twitter, saying that he "wasn't stumped" and hadn't been given the chance to respond to the question. He blamed the commercial break for his silence but also applauded Jimmy Kimmel for his strong personality and different opinion. G-Eazy, for one, wasn't buying Kanye's meaningless anecdote. "We're still waiting on your answer, the floor is yours," he tweeted; 27,000 users retweeted it which, in Twitter speak, means another viral moment within itself. But if anything, we should turn our backs away from Kanye, not embrace the controversy.

Back in April, David Cho, the ex-publisher of The Awl and Grantland revealed to ItsTheReal's A Waste of Time podcast, that when he was working with Kanye and JAY-Z for their 2011 joint album Watch the Throne, Kanye was adamant that each song's title include the N-word in it. "We're going to put the N-word in every single title on this album, so everyone has to say it and they have to confront it," West said, according to Cho. This never came to fruition—I doubt that JAY-Z would have seriously entertained a farcical proposition such as this—but the album's biggest song, "Niggas In Paris," contains remnants of 'Ye's wish. Halfway through the song, it cuts to an audio clip from the 2007 comedy film Blades Of Glory:

"I don't even know what that means / (No one knows that it means, but it's provocative) / No, it's not, it's gross / (It gets the people going)"

These four lines capture Kanye's philosophical core down to its essence. He's been a volatile man-child for years, mostly for personal purposes; he's been storming out of music events ever since losing the Best New Artist award in 2004 to country singer Gretchen Wilson. He's also been involved with political loudmouthing on occasion; in 2005, he infamously interrupted A Concert for Hurricane Relief, much to co-host Mike Myers dismay, with his deadpan delivery of "George Bush doesn't care about black people." When Bush's successor Barack Obama became the President of the United States, 'Ye's relationship with him altered between cold and gelid. In 2009, Obama called him a "jackass" during a break for an interview with CNBC. West, in response, called himself "the abomination of Obama's nation" in his 2010 hit "Power" from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. In a 2015 speech at Oxford University, 'Ye claimed that he was more than cordial with Obama, that the president "calls the home phone, by the way." Soon after, Obama cleared up any rumors of communicating with him in an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel.

In 2016, Kanye began to spill of his love for Trump during an infamous concert rant, in Sacramento, for his Saint Pablo tour. He'd had enough of Obama's cold shoulder and, wishing to replicate the espoul of paragon, rap culture, and the presidency, similar to JAY-Z and Obama before him, he became ensnared with Trump's essence. Not for policies or ethical beliefs, but out of jealousy.

A few days after being released from the hospital for stress and exhaustion soon after his Trump rant, he went to visit Trump at the Trump Towers "to discuss multicultural issues," 'Ye said in a deleted Twitter rant, that also proved to be a great opportunity for a photo op.

'Ye reactivated his Twitter account in April of this year after having an on-and-off relationship with the platform for some time, and announced a slew of new albums from G.O.O.D. Music that he executive produced. Being that 'Ye can't exist without needlessly stirring up some kind of backlash to go with the anticipation of new work, he also doubled down on his support of Trump. He posed with a grimace on his face, wearing the 'Make America Great Again' hat to symbolize his confidence in finding a new audience, also to align himself with what T.I. says that 'Ye loves: "the idea of Trump." Since his April declaration of infatuation with Trump, his fascination with the President has bordered on obsession. But the fact that he foolishly chose the heel of an album announcement to start this conversation proves that the fascination may be more fabricated than genuine. 'Ye knows that provocativeness gets the people going, so he's doing just that.

This is what makes the constant backlash and copious amounts of attention he gets for his political beliefs only fuel the flames of his ego. He released "Ye Vs. The People" ahead of his album to respond to his opponents, as well as build the fervor for an album that people believed, based upon his fiery political hot takes, would explore the gaps in logic that the public weren't getting that made him so attached to Trump. He so famously hinted at his belief that "slavery sounds like a choice"—though in his interview with the New York Times, he explained that he never outright said it was—with a light-hearted giggle, to the TMZ staff, knowing it would become a viral moment, as well as draw the ire from the newsroom's strongest personalities—particularly Van Lathan, who engaged 'Ye in a passionate rant about the latter's perceived idiocracy.

The responding backlash from both events spurned a couple of lines on ye's "Wouldn't Leave" so that Kanye could stroke his machismo to the spill of his wife's tears. On the track, as well as the album, Kanye positions himself as an all-knowing lifestyle prophet, confident in the frenzy surrounding his actions because they serve greater means. He may not have been able to get the N-word included in every one of Watch The Throne's track titles, but he's been able to successfully instill the same ideas of controversy, anger, and disquietude in the release window surrounding ye over seven years later.

Kanye's ego has never been more vulnerable. In his recent interview with Charlamagne Tha God, Kanye opened up about his battles with anxiety, depression, and the resulting addiction, popping pills. How he posits this relatability ultimately impacts the conversation surrounding him. He's chosen to forgo being relatable to capitalize on the conversation regarding political uniqueness for black celebrities. Attacking his ego in this guise—whether it be through interview or through social media where he can respond and continue to drive the conversation—only strokes it, enabling him to keep up the charade, as well as continue pushing a narrative that promotes his best interest. Creating controversy has long been a "when in doubt" option for 'Ye that's brought about commercial success and furthered his narrative of the misunderstood hero. Do we really need to keep stroking his ego?


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