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Culture

Love him or hate him, Kanye West is the ultimate troll

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After tweeting about his admiration and support for Donald Trump, the internet was on fire and his critics were quick to tear him down. But how much of the 'real' Kanye are we actually seeing?

Anna Freeman

26 Abril 2018 17:17

You don't have to agree with Trump but the mob can't make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don't agree with everything anyone does. That's what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought

Kanye West

Kanye West is a Donald Trump supporter - apparently.

Yeezy’s absurdist return to Twitter this month after a leave of absence has created a stir only Kanye could. Pseudo-philosophical quotes like ‘never a master, always a student’ and ‘self victimization is a disease’ intertwined with fractured musings about life, love, music - and largely himself - have dominated the timeline. Until yesterday, when a series of pro-Trump tweets set the internet on fire and unleashed a bonafide Twitter shitstorm on the rapper. As media outlets scramble to make sense of his ramblings, his liberal fanbase try and legitimise their hero, and the alt-right fly the Yeezy flag, most likely Kanye himself is sitting back and letting it all wash over him. After all, this is just Kimye’s world, and we’re all living in it.

Firstly, being surprised by Kanye’s inflammatory comments about Trump is, at this point, foolish. He has sought to attach himself to the president since he was elected in November 2016. Kanye told a concert crowd that he would have voted for Trump if only he had bothered to vote at all. He also met with the president-elect at Trump Tower. Perhaps fans who hate Trump have selectively forgotten this fact, but it makes it no less true.

The crux of #KanyeGate is less about the truth of his words, and more about the response they elicit from us as consumers of culture. It seems no single political opinion or affiliation matters to the rapper as much as our preserved perception of him as the ultimate contrarian. A sayer of things we presume to be unacceptable, and a doer of those acts we assume he doesn’t really want to do. A walking, talking, tweeting personification of an exercise in smoke and mirrors. Who does that remind you of?

Maybe he does really love Trump, and what he’s saying is real, but what is real at this point? The erratic and unpredictable nature of Kanye is incredibly similar to the US president himself. With both figures, we try and rationalise their behaviours: it’s a mental health issue; it’s a lie; it’s stupidity. Endless speculation about where the ‘truth’ actually lies feeds the entertainment cycle, and that's the whole point.

It is perhaps more useful to examine the outrage, not Kanye. Kim Kardashian, his uber-famous wife, stepped in to do some damage control and manage the situation. She said the media was trying to ‘demonize’ her husband and that labelling his tweets as a mental health issue was ‘disturbing and scary’. ‘Kanye will never run in the race of public opinion… He’s a free thinker, is that not allowed in America?’ she tweeted.

Kim Kardashian Twitter

The fact that Kim is now offering us a lesson in freedom of speech and right to independent thought speaks volumes. Kanye is, intentionally or not, satirising our call-out culture of collective rage, particularly among us liberals, where we all apparently have to share the same thoughts and opinions or be labelled the enemy. Regardless of the authenticity of his Trump admiration (which, to be honest, appears to be genuine), his liberal fanbase have demonstrated their willingness to enforce ideological conformity, in turn proving his point all along. The reaction his tweets evoked is completely predictable at this point. He is the troll, and we are the bait.

One example: Kanye sharing pictures of himself wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ is probably a massive wind-up. This isn’t to say he doesn’t support Trump’s ideology, but let’s be real. Kanye is a fashion powerhouse and built an empire in his Yeezy clothing line. He also inspired Kim to go from LA glamour to streetwear cool. If Kanye is wearing an obnoxious, and in all honesty, incredibly unfashionable red cap with ‘MAGA’ emblazoned across it, he is doing it to get a reaction. He isn’t wearing it because he loves it. And boasting about having an autographed version just proves this point more. It’s theatre; a circus.

‘Don’t trade your authenticity for approval,’ Kanye tweeted. But the funny thing is that Kanye is such a conflicting figure that the very idea of authenticity is almost dumbfounding. Do we know enough about the ‘real Kanye’ to use ‘real Kanye-ness’ to explain anything? He has managed to present himself as a genius in mainstream culture without revealing anything that suggests we know who he really is. Which his fans both hate and find completely transfixing.

Aside from his remarkable musical lexicon and ‘cool’ yet overpriced fashion line, I struggle to think of any other reasons why Kanye’s views should be taken so seriously. Maybe - just maybe - he is actually a bit of an idiot as well?

We demand our icons be transparent. To use their platform for the good. To be idols that we can cling our political fixations on without challenge. Kanye hasn’t heeded to popular demand, and perhaps we are only just now realising the limits to his ‘genius’. The extreme narcissism he exhibits may not be a wider commentary on fame, art and his identity - it may just be the most Trumpian thing about him. Either way, Yeezy isn’t here to be understood. He is a provocateur, a worshipper of noise above substance, and in all likelihood, quite silly. One thing is for sure, though: no one trolls like Kanye does.

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