Ye or Nay?: How Should Black Folks Feel About Kanye’s New Album?
Those of you that know me best, know that growing up, Kanye West was my favorite rapper. His music, his art, and, even some of his rants, spoke to me in a way that not too many others could. Ye’s “Graduation” was the first real hip-hop album that I owned, and it made me truly fall in love with the genre. Forgive me for being late to the party, but I was an R&B head growing up. After listening to and loving “Graduation,” I went back and listened to his first two projects and have been a die-hard fan ever since. I’ve defended him through countless outbursts and a few subpar albums over the years. I made excuses for him and turned a blind eye to the fact that the Kanye that I grew up listening to was not the man that I was seeing now.
Then December 5th, 2016 came, when (my new favorite rapper since 2010) J. Cole dropped the song “False Prophets” showcasing his displeasure for one of his idols growing up. Now, I don’t think this was ever confirmed, but it was clear to me that verse one of the song was about Mr. West, and how he’s changed over the years, and not for the better. The song, like most Cole songs, spoke to me again, reciting exactly what some of my doubts and fears were about Kanye, his antics, and his music. I decided then that I would sit back and watch more carefully on how I feel about Kanye and his music.
Flash forward to 2018, and Ye was at it again. This time he took it a step past sporting and selling confederate flag merchandise and was endorsing Trump. He even went as far as to bash the Obama administration, stating that they didn’t do anything in his eight-year term to help their native city of Chicago. At first, I was shocked, but I did what I always did, I listened to his reason why. And, as usual, I actually understood why he felt the way he felt, even though I didn’t agree. But then he said something that I couldn’t condone, I couldn’t get behind, and I refused to ignore. This negro went on TMZ and said that he believed that slavery was a choice, and that if we didn’t want to be slaves, African Americans could have just easily decided not to be! It was at that point that I lost my total respect for Kanye and decided that he had officially entered “the sunken place.”
What made matters worse was, I honestly don’t know if he truly believes it, or was just stirring up controversy to sell his newest album, “Ye.” Either way, I couldn’t condone it, and I wasn’t going to support the album. Until I did….
Yes, I listened to “Ye” when it first dropped on June 1st. As much as I didn’t want to, I felt I HAD to. This was a Kanye album, an album I couldn’t just not listen to, even though I knew I was falling right into his trap. This is what he wanted. He wanted to reach out to the Trump supporters who would listen to this album, even if they’ve never listen to a Kanye album before. He also knew that his die-hard fans, like myself, couldn’t resist the temptation to listen, just to see if the album was good or not. I for one, was hoping that it was seven songs of “poopity scoop, scoopity poop” and that I would bellow in laughter while saying “this n***a done lost his mind,” and be at peace with never listening to another Kanye track ever again.
Unfortunately, Kanye made a seven-track album that did exactly what I hoped it wouldn’t: it spoke to me in a way that only Kanye could.
Tracks like “I Thought about Killing You,” “Yikes,” and “Wouldn’t Leave” spoke to things that I’ve felt personally, and it was crazy how at the moment that I thought we lost him forever, his album brought back some nostalgia of the Kanye that made me fall in love with hip-hop in the first place.
But should it have? Should I, or anyone else who was offended by Kanye’s words and antics, even give his music a chance anymore? It’s been a topic in our community for decades now, with the biggest example being R. Kelly; his unapologetic ephebophilia is still a topic now. Some say that you should be able to separate the artist from their music. Others say it’s one in the same. Some people believe that you shouldn’t boycott the music because too many others won’t, so why deprive yourself of something you might enjoy if the artist is still going to profit from it anyway?
I’m torn. I’ve stopped listening to R. Kelly and Lyfe Jennings, not just because of their predatory behavior, but because their antics make me feel different listening to their music. Lyrics like “it seems like you’re ready,” “my mind’s telling me no, but my body is telling me yes,” “I don’t see nothing wrong with a little bump and grind,” and “n****s old enough to be your daddy know your name. Everyone is talking about how much that girl done changed,” just creep me out now, knowing what the artist’s sexual preference is and thinking about who their actual inspiration could have been.
Kanye is a little different, but some of his lyrics hold true as well. In the song “Wouldn’t Leave,” Ye says “They said build your own, I said ‘How Sway?’ I said slavery a choice, they said ‘How Ye?’” That line made me cringe for a couple of reasons. One is, we don’t know when he recorded the song, so we don’t know if his slavery rant was premeditated, or he was responding to the reaction of the rant. Either way, it doesn’t help the theory that his latest antics were just promotion for this album, which if it was, makes me even more disappointed in myself that I listened to it. Two, it seems as if he doesn’t understand the impact of what he said, and in his usual braggadocious tone, is mocking the people who don’t agree with him. Which leads to reason number three, he just doesn’t care that he hurt a lot of people, including some of his die-hard African American fans that love him and supported him throughout his career.
If I could go back and do it over again, I probably wouldn’t have listened to the album. Whether I liked it or not is irrelevant, I just don’t like the fact that I feel like a sheep who follows the trend without making my own decisions. I didn’t need the line about slavery in the song to know what was going on, and it only confirmed what I already believed going into listening to the album.
I encourage everyone to make their own decisions when it comes to supporting their favorite celebrities, whether you agree with their lifestyle choices or not. For me, I won’t be listening to Kanye’s album anymore, and might not listen to his songs again, until I see something from him that tells me that he’s changed for the better. Yes, it is true that my attitude can cause a slippery slope. To not listen to one album over something Kanye said or did, could mean that I then set a standard of boycotting everything that any celebrity does that’s controversial or doesn’t line up with my beliefs and morals. To that I say, good! Maybe if more people set a standard over what they’ll accept or not accept from our idols, maybe our idols wouldn’t be so quick to do and say whatever they want, not caring about how it makes the masses feel. Who knows? For now, all I can do is watch Kanye be Kanye, sit back, shake my head, and say, “somebody shoulda told me it would be like this. Be like this. Be like this...”