He made a key cameo during Kanye’s “dragon energy” tweetstorm about Trump the other day, in case you’ve forgotten. Remember?
Black people don’t have to be democrats.
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 25, 2018
That earned him a salute this morning from the president of the United States, which is … not a cherished credential for hip-hop stars when a Republican’s in the White House:
Kanye West has performed a great service to the Black Community – Big things are happening and eyes are being opened for the first time in Decades – Legacy Stuff! Thank you also to Chance and Dr. Darrell Scott, they really get it (lowest Black & Hispanic unemployment in history).
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2018
Nah that aint it yo https://t.co/hqA1NYGxE2
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 27, 2018
And so now Chance is repenting. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa:
“I didn’t speak up because I agree with what Kanye had to say or ’cause I f*** with Trump. I did it because I wanted to help my friend and ’cause I felt like I was being used to attack him,” he wrote. “I’d never support anyone who has made a career out of hatred, racism, and discrimination.” He continued, “So let my apology be seen in my future works, and let me make up for my poorly timed comments with immediate action and advocacy for those who need it most.”
“My statement about black folk not having to be democrats (though true) was a deflection from the real conversation and stemmed from a personal issue with the fact that Chicago has had generations of democratic officials with no investment or regard for black schools, neighborhood or black lives. But again, said that s— at the wrong time,” he wrote.
Watching lefties and righties overreact in opposite directions to Kanye’s MAGA turn this week has been endless fun. On the one hand, you’ve got Stephen Colbert pronouncing Kanye insane and rank-and-file Democratic dweebs like this vowing a personal boycott:
I will never buy another @kanyewest album ever again. I think this publicity stunt of his support for Trump is downright despicable. Kanye can go to hell.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) April 26, 2018
On the other end, you’ve got CPAC organizer Matt Schlapp mulling whether to invite Kanye to CPAC (which wouldn’t be the first time a Democrat posing as a Republican got to speak there) and Hannity announcing, erm, the start of a new age in American politics. Actual quote from Jesse Watters: “Kanye West has loosened the grip the Democratic Party holds on the black vote.” If that were true, buddy, Chance the Rapper wouldn’t be flagellating himself in public this afternoon.
The lesson of Kanye’s Trumpburst, I think, is no more or less than that his stardom is so enormous that he’s insulated from political pressures that would cause anyone else (like Chance) to buckle. He can get away with saying something nice about Trump; so could Beyonce probably, also Taylor Swift, Oprah, LeBron James, maybe a handful of others. That’s the sort of stratum of cultural influence you need to occupy, where you have so many devout fans that you can shed a few million in a political backlash and not even feel it. Part of me wonders if that wasn’t what drove Kanye to do it in the first place: The ultimate test of how untouchable he is culturally would be to praise the high MAGA priest, watch people go berserk, and just brush the whole thing off. Chance has to care what his fans think. Kanye’s so big that he really doesn’t.
But Mark Hemingway’s read on Kanyegate is plausible too. Never underestimate the self-promotional savvy of a mega-star, particularly one who’s related to the Kardashians:
Kanye claims that he’s a “free-thinker,” even if at times he’s an obviously disordered one. Even if I remain lukewarm about his talent as a rapper or fashion designer or whatever artistic mask he’s trying to wear when he rolled out of bed today, no observer who’s been sentient the last 15 years would think that Kanye isn’t at least an expert at reading the zeitgeist so as to draw maximal attention to himself and his work. He and Trump have that much in common. They both owe a meteoric ascent in large part to realizing that when the cultural conversation is this rigidly liberal, there’s a lot of power to be had in confounding expectations and defying conventions. And until this country’s art and politics become less commingled and stifling, there are going to be a lot of people becoming rich, famous, powerful, or all of the above, not because they’re making great art or want to Make America Great Again, but because their sole gift is making doctrinaire liberals upset.
If you’re a pop artist with a following who’s looking to do something transgressive, putting on the red hat may be the fastest route available — although that doesn’t account for the fact that West’s support of Trump has been tempered, not wholehearted. He specifically said the other day that he doesn’t agree with POTUS on everything; their kinship lies in their “dragon energy.” If Kanye was looking to shock the world and nothing more, he’d be tweeting about building the wall, not about dragons.
Via Newsbusters, here’s Don Lemon wondering on Wednesday whether Kanye still cares about black people. Sigh. Exit question: Is Kanye going to end up getting a pass on this from his fans partly because he sometimes seems a little … “off”? Unlike Oprah and Beyonce and LeBron and T-Swift, he’s known as an eccentric genius. When eccentricity is your brand, it’s easy (or easier) for admirers to brush off the things they dislike about you as another example of it.