The love-in between rap star Kanye West and Donald Trump may seem a truly bizarre pairing, but it may just be another way for a pair of outsiders to stay relevant
Is Yeezy feeling queasy? Or has the rap iconoclast lost his mojo? Like a perverse mutation of a Thought for the Day, these are the big questions breaking on Twitter, in their millions.
To translate into Radio 4 language, Kanye West (aka Yeezy) has been lovebombing President Trump, leading to questions about the star’s mental health. West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, sprung to his defence.
In between tweets on ‘the skincare products in my bathroom’ and ‘how to grow out your hair,’ she declared: ‘Mental health is no joke and the media needs to stop spitting that out so casually.’
She then added, perhaps self-referentially (but you can never tell with no winky-face emojis to guide you,) that this was the ‘Bottom Line’. Kardashian – again, for the Radio 4 crowd – is renowned for her own derriere, which is around three times the size of that of normal adult’s, something alleged to have been achieved with the aid of cosmetic interventions. If so, in terms of fame and wealth, it has paid off. You bet your ass, it has.
The role the Kardashian tribe play as influencers is perhaps as much of a problem for our cerebral wellbeing as the media’s crass portrayal of neurosis. It certainly makes one question the mental condition or at least the judgement of swathes of humankind who have elevated her to one of the world’s most powerful operators.
The media, the Kardashians and their rap star husbands walk the broken path together. With nearly 28 million followers, what Kayne thinks (or feels) matters.
So much so, that when the president was interviewed on Fox and Friends (of course), he was asked about the rapper – during a rare Fox segment when rap was not associated with crime, drugs and the downfall of American civilisation. West ‘has good taste’, Trump commented. The bromance between the black rapper and the MAGA WASP POTUS – who has favourably compared white supremacists to anti-racism campaigners (‘good people on both sides’) – led to a Twitter diagnosis that West was psychotic.
But other stars offered a second opinion. The artist Chance the Rapper tweeted: ‘Black People don’t have to be Democrats.’ The question remained, why would Yeezy support a Republican as deranged as Trump? Both wear their MAGA hearts on their sleeves, as well as MAGA caps on their heads.
Kayne once sang he ‘Bought more jewellery, more Louis V, my momma couldn’t get through to me.’ The moral being, listen to your mother or you might end up overspending on gold chains. Mind you, West has got his own line of Florentine-styled, quasi-religious pieces, which retail at £5k-a-pop. So maybe, he took some maternal business advice, after all.
Trump covets gold, too. Even his elevator is gold. He hasn’t got his own jewellery line yet, but Melania and Ivanka have. Not convinced? OK, try these lyrics…
‘I am a God, even though I’m a man of God, my whole life in the Hand of God.’
Message, if there is one: If you keep saying you’re a god, eventually people will start believing you. Rather Trumpian. Same sentiments, different hairstyle. Getting West on side is a coup for the president, of course. Huge. And for West, it isn’t as crazy a move, as you might think. In fact, in celeb terms, it could be a winner. Just a way of refreshing his cult status.
He may have lost Drake and Harry Styles as followers on Twitter but his all-important ‘numbers’ didn’t plunge as predicted. The politics of personal branding is complex. Especially, when the brand needs to stay cool or retain status as a free thinker. Or indeed a total ‘Jackass’, (as Obama called West.)
To remain subversive in the mainstream you have to take risks. There is no better example than Morrissey. Why was everyone shocked when he came out as a Brexiteer? West is Morrissey with a smartphone – although the rapper’s comments, also this week, suggesting the enslavement of African Americans over the centuries was a ‘choice’, may be a risk too far.
Yeezy made a calculated move to the right over Trump because it’s the new dissent. He stands out because almost everyone else is anti-Trump. Hip hop stars are our modern godheads. Devotion runs deep.
Kendrick Lamar recently became the first rapper to win the Pulitzer Prize, a sign of the establishment recognising the importance of his words. His status was hailed as proof that the long-held lie of high and low cultures is not to be believed.
Public Enemy’s Chuck D said rap was ‘the invisible TV station that black America never had’. So, it was only a matter of time before politicians tuned into it, and took control of the shout-outs.
Obama played a big role in the genre’s mainstream acceptance. As president, he held closed meetings with artists such as Ludacris, to talk about youth empowerment. Before, during and after his two terms, rap artists always had his ear. Views across the aisle started to shift, as well. In 2009, the Republican National Committee hairman Michael Steele tried to recruit rappers.
It allowed the likes of Oprah Winfrey to embrace hip hop. After previously speaking out against rap music, she got Jay-Z on the couch in September 2009 for her first ever interview with a rapper.
Hip hop artists were the pioneers in understanding that the link between societal institutions and most of urban society was broken, and then articulating it in rhyme. But that doesn’t mean they have struck upon the solution.