At first glance, Kanye West and Donald Trump appear very different.
They are from different generations, they come from vastly different backgrounds, and (this being the key factor for many Democrats and Liberals) they are different ethnicities. And yet despite these differences, they share many similarities; they are both exceptionally wealthy, both hold significant power in terms of influencing public perception, and both have a penchant for using Twitter as their venting ground.
They also seem to get along fairly well; West’s meeting with President Trump in October of 2018 was exceptionally well publicised over all forms of media, and led to a legitimising of the crossing over of music and politics that is often seen but glossed over in modern songwriting. West’s support for Trump had been a long time brewing, but this meeting set off a series of conversations about political identity and mindsets within minority groups in America.West’s support for the President was demonstrated all too clearly through his social media; he originally deleted his Twitter account in early October of 2018, following a series of tweets in April where he spoke out in praise of Trump, and just before their aforementioned meeting. Notable examples of the commending tweets include referring to the President as his ‘brother’, and highlighting his positive interactions with him. This odd style of Tweeting is something that West has become synonymous with, and the cryptic and strange nature of many of his correspondences have led extensively to critics denouncing him and his ideas.
Being a musician, it is unsurprising that these ideas have crossed over into West’s songs. He often uses his music in order to challenge stereotypes, or what he perceives to be expectations that are place on him because he is black. For example, after he was criticised for his support of Trump, he featured on the 6ix9ine song KANGA, where he included the lyric ‘they tried to say I wasn’t black no more.’ This line succinctly sums up his attack of the idea that, as a black person, he has to hold certain ideas and values purely as a result of his race.
This idea that there are universal black ideas and values is something that West repeatedly speaks out against. On Twitter, he recently wrote that ‘blacks are 90% Democrat. That sounds like control to me.’ In his song Ye vs. the People, he argues that ‘all blacks gotta be Democrats… we ain’t made it off the plantation.’ He also tweeted on the subject of the Make America Great Again hat, the wearing of which he sees as a symbol of how far the black population in America has come, and how it shows that people cannot tell him what to do and how to act.
This focus on what he sees as popular culture’s perceived preconceptions about what a black person should think and how they can act is one of the reasons why West has found himself at odds with many of his media counterparts.
This reception by said counterparts is certainly interesting. I highly doubt that, had he not had 30 million followers on Twitter, and if he did not rank in the Top 50 most popular artists in the world (he is currently 39th on Spotify), that he would have been even listed to, much less engaged with, in the same way that he has been. Articles quickly appeared, such as Rolling Stone’s Why Kanye West’s Pro-Trump Tweets Are a Real Threat. Appearances such as his interview on the Jimmy Kimmel Show in August of last year would not have gone ahead if West did not command the following and respect that he does; he would have been cast aside and ignored had it been at all possible. He says as much himself in the interview, where he relays he was told that coming out in support of Trump would see him ostracised and would end his career.
Ultimately, West still stands alone in his position as a mainstream contemporary musician and defender of Trump. There is no doubt that he has been able to do this as a result of the following and prestige that he had garnered before his controversial political outbursts, but it is still commendable how he has stayed resilient in the face of almost universal criticism from his peers.
In truth, whether or not he is a genuine supporter of Trump is irrelevant; what is far more significant is how he has stood up for his right to choose who he wants to support, and how he has laid down the gauntlet to others to step aside from dogmatic party politics and engage in a conversation about the current state of US politics, and especially how this relates to the lives of minority groups within America. As he put it recently, ‘let’s have a dialogue not a diatribe.’