For better or worse, everyone’s talking about Kanye West, but very few outlets are steering the conversation in an appropriate manner.
DMV artist GoldLink’s latest Instagram story encapsulates the tireless balancing act fans, writers, and fellow artists are going through to both defend and vilify their idol. But as we all know, with too many spinning plates, there’s bound to be a crash.
GoldLink’s comments on the conversations surrounding Kanye are as spot-on as they aren’t. He rightfully cites Kanye as a musical visionary, an artist who so thoughtfully and meticulously propelled hip-hop forward and spawned a grip of beloved subgenres that thrive to this day. In one post, he claims to not be calling Kanye a “genius,” but also celebrates and validates his “vision.” Within that praise, however, lies a two-pronged problem.
First, no one knows the true nature of the behavior they are defending. Outside of celebrating Kanye’s talent as an artist, GoldLink’s defense of Kanye The Free Thinker lacks ground. GoldLink admits that people are calling Kanye “crazy,” and perhaps that’s dangerously conflating people who are citing his actions as a mental health crisis. Others are calling this a morally bankrupt marketing scheme. Another group attests Kanye has always been like this. The list goes on, of course, but the existence of this list makes defending Kanye nearly impossible.
Even in the case of Kanye’s tweets being his genuine foray into the world of policy and motivational speaking, his undeniable contributions to hip-hop do not suddenly absolve him of mistakes past and presently unfolding. If anything, GoldLink’s citing Kanye’s influence speaks to the immense platform Ye has to stand on and preach from. No one should police his speech, but as a culture, we do have the right to express reservations and want for Ye to be conscious of his influence before firing off his next Tweet.
GoldLink concludes by insinuating that Kanye sees something that the average person cannot. While that may be true, and has been evidenced in the music, no one presently knows what Kanye sees—perhaps not even Kanye. That harrowing realization should deter us from turning his tweets into a media circus.
Where does this leave us, then? Simply put, we must retool.
Too few sources are discussing Kanye West in the proper way because they do not know what they are discussing. Instead of being reactionary, this is a good time for the culture to consider its options. If this is trolling, marketing, or a mental health concern, the question becomes, “How can we cover this responsibly?”
One of the answers is by avoiding GoldLink's approach of using legacy to presuppose the present. No one is immune from being taken to task, not even the man in the pink Polo.