Another day, another canceled celebrity.
Every day that goes by, social media is upset about something. Sometimes, it’s for good reason. Other times, not so much. The context surrounding the information provided (or lack thereof) is often the culprit for knee-jerk reactions surrounding whatever celebrity has drawn the ire of Black Twitter.
Over the past three weeks, though, Kanye West has given Hip-Hop Twitter—not to be confused with Black Twitter, because it’s kind of careless to lump all black people into being hip-hop lovers and exclude white folks, but that’s another conversation for another day—a good enough reason to be up in arms after his rambunctious and ill-informed tweeting spree surrounding Donald Trump and the suntanned Ann Coulter, Candace Owens, his terribly flawed concept of “free thinking,” and that little episode about slavery that caused Van Nathan of TMZ to suppress his inner Hulk in order to go all Bruce Banner and educate Ye on why slavery wasn’t a choice.
While some of us would love to go Thanos and make Kanye vanish with the snap of a finger, we don’t have all of the infinity gems. Instead, we use social media as our Infinity Gauntlet in an effort to make celebrities disappear.
But what if Kanye West’s next album happens to be pretty damn good? Are we still in cahoots to cancel the Louis Vuitton Don? Does he even call himself that anymore?
It’s quite the dilemma.
By blindly aligning himself with Donald Trump, Kanye West has appeared to betray the hip-hop community that raised him. But there are these albums coming out that could cure this whole mess, right? As much as we’re upset with Kanye, we are all looking forward to consuming the next product he puts out, right?
Or, he’s canceled.
Before we dive into the notion of cancellation, though, we must address the problem with Kanye West.
The reason why Kanye aligns himself with Donald Trump ("The ability to do what no one said you can do, to do the impossible.") is nonsensical, at best. But nobody should be surprised by this if you've followed the Balenciaga-designed breadcrumbs that West has been leaving for us since he arrived nearly two decades ago. You see, without sounding too mean, the truth is that Kanye West isn’t very smart. Ambitious? Yes. Creative? Yes? Smart? Nope.
From day one, all Kanye has talked about is being among the rich white elite. You’ve never once heard him compare himself to a successful black man. It’s always about Ralph, Disney, Louis, etc. He will occasionally mention Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr. but unless they are creating fashion brands, he doesn’t actually want to be like them. His entire existence has been about being accepted in this creative boys club of the one percenters who are, by default, white. He has always talked about Steve Jobs and Walt Disney but you’ve never heard Kanye West discuss anything about who these people were—their morals and values matter little to Kanye.
The concept of going against the grain and doing something that nobody expected is prime real estate for Kanye West to plant his Yeezus flag. He’s black by default, which comes with its own limitations when achieving wealth in America. But if he had a choice? He’d be a colorless creative who defies the odds. There’s no reality in that concept but Kanye will be damned if you tell him otherwise.
Truthfully, West has never been one of “us.” He’s not satisfied with being black. He wants to be a part of that elite club where nobody that looks like him exists. And he doesn’t want to go all "Spook Who Sat By the Door" and bring along black people to have some parity in this club. He just wants to be part of it and whoever is left behind is left behind. Just look at the people that he’s surrounded himself with over the years: The Kardashian Klan, fashion designers, the so-called “friends” he name drops, etc. His “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” comment was the most incidentally conscious moment he has ever had, and even that was more about shuffling the deck than saying something that he knew was rooted in fact. As for his rhymes, it's become common hip-hop knowledge that most of his "conscious" songs were penned by somebody else. This isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact. Do your googles.
With Donald Trump, Kanye sees a man who defied the odds. That’s it. He doesn’t care about Trump wanting to build a Southern border wall or the various ways that he’s demeaned minorities and black people in America. The dangerous rhetoric that Trump has spewed over the years that has riled up this group of people who think its okay to be an outright racist is completely lost on the Chicago native. All his naive eyes capture is another person who managed to make it when everyone said he wouldn’t. That’s what he calls “free thinking.”
That is also stupid. But it’s Kanye.
If Kanye had an actual reason why he liked Donald Trump, it would be important for us to hear him out. Well, probably not. But it wouldn’t feel so contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. Kanye likes to ruffle feathers and we’ve empowered him into believing he can really be the next Disney or Apple. He hasn’t even become the next Diddy, but that’s not the objective of his bizarre mission that doesn’t take into account anything but success.
But alas, here we are. Kanye has drawn the “you’re canceled” Uno card. In theory (and on social media), this sounds good, but in practice, it fails after a few weeks of vitriolic armchair activism. We’ve been in this hashtag boycott everything era for a good minute and all it's doing is undermining the real boycotts and sit-ins that happened during the civil rights era that actually made a difference. Today, everything is fair-weathered.
Remember that time we canceled Chris Brown after he assaulted Rihanna? In the nine years since, he's released five RIAA-certified albums, 12 top-20 hits, and continued to tour across the globe as one of the most successful artists in the world. As long as he keeps churning out jams, all is forgiven and forgotten, right?
Remember that time we canceled R. Kelly? As great as it is to see this “Mute R. Kelly" movement, it feels really late considering that this cloud has been over Robert Sylvester Kelly’s head for nearly two decades. Why now and not then? Is it because his music is no longer on the Billboard Hot 100? Make no mistake, this is not the fault of those who are spearheading this current movement. It’s about those of us who said we were canceling Kelly after reports of numerous incidents with underage girls but still showed up to sing “It Seems Like You’re Ready” at his next concert.
Currently, there are two prominent hip-hop artists who are under fire for domestic abuse allegations: Fabolous and Nas. Hip-Hop Twitter was quick to draw their cancellation firearms and blast them both to smithereens. And for those who follow through, good for you. But if you talked about canceling Nas and this alleged album with Kanye materializes, it’ll be interesting to see how many of you quietly hit play, buy a concert ticket, and continue supporting Nas endeavors.
Fabolous hasn’t seen his momentum slow down much after news surfaced that he allegedly punched Emily B, the mother of his two kids, causing several broken teeth. A video of him threatening Emily and her father came shortly after and Twitter was up in arms. Five weeks have passed. Everyone moved on. Meanwhile, Fabolous has performed to cheers in his native New York and appeared on Royce 5’9”’s new album without much complaint.
Maybe you did stop supporting Chris Brown or R. Kelly or Fabolous or Nas, but the list of entertainers who have been “canceled” only to be brought back for another season is longer than one of West's tweet storms. Issa Rae was canceled after people took a quote out of context from a book she wrote three gotdamn years ago about black women and Asian men dating. It was silly as hell, but it's an example of how extreme we've become as a society, where every misdeed and everyone is subject to cancellation.
Kanye himself has flirted with cancellation plenty of times. Remember "Bill Cosby Innocent"? The Life of Pablo dropped and a few months later sold-out crowds were singing along to "Father Stretch My Hands" draped in Saint Pablo Tour merch. Remember when he met with Trump at Trump Tower shortly after telling fans that he would have voted for Trump? A year and a few promised G.O.O.D. Music albums later and all that was long forgotten. And it would have stayed that way had Ye not jumped right back into doubling down on his Trump support days later.
Quality tunes, for whatever reason, act as the great equalizer for previous transgressions. It’s not right, but it is what it is. The people give their favorite artists more rope to hang themselves from when they are the creators of their favorite musical moments. But when the music stops, so does that support.
Assuming he decides to eventually shut the hell up, and once his next album drops, this Kanye West epic we're experiencing will pass. If the album is good, Kanye apologists will have a field day, while it’ll be up to the rest of us to decide whether or not we’re going to support a man who pledges his allegiance to Trump.
It’s easy to dislike something you already don’t care too much about. But when it’s somebody whose art you admire, it's a different story. Chrisette Michele was tossed into the bushes for performing at Trump’s inauguration. But since she hasn’t made a critically acclaimed album, it was pretty easy to forget about her. Kanye is another level of celebrity, though. His pill is more difficult to digest. Some of us—including this writer—have already washed our hands of Mr. West. Others are waging an internal battle. Right now, the wave is big enough for everybody to surf on. However, when the hubbub dies down (and when that Nas/Kanye album drops), we’ll see who really sticks to their guns.
The act of "canceling" an artist is no different than calling an album a "classic" less than three hours after it dropped. It’s reactionary and exactly what social media was built for. Unfortunately, this has also lessened the impact of stories in our community. Look no further than the latest example of police brutality, which, with the news cycle moving so fast on social media, it’s on the next one before we even figure out how to mourn those who we lost.
The same goes for celebrity transgressions. An allegation comes out and everyone wants to be the first to riot. This, of course, turns into a trending topic, tagged with the words “boycott” or “cancel.” But nothing ever sticks and few have the energy to continue to fight the good fight.
Kanye West was thought to be a man of the people—he’s not—so this one stings a little more. At least until that new album drops. What's the release date again?