“Hip-hop music is the first art form created by free black men. And no black man has taken advantage of his freedom more than Kanye West.”
Chris Rock’s already-infamous proclamation regarding Kanye West, Black art and history seems like a de facto slogan for both the Wyoming-based excursion that West hosted for various “tastemakers” as part of the rollout for his new album Ye, and for the month or so of bizarre controversies that Kanye instigated preceding the album’s release. The line could be interpreted as deifying of West. It’s truer, however, that Kanye has exploited the idea of not being ensnared to his own advantage.
Kanye invited a collective of media, celebrities, artists and others to the remote Wyomingness of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for the debut of his latest project. Notables like the aforementioned Rock, Nas, Jonah Hill, 2 Chainz, Kim Kardashian, the far-right troll Candace Owens and others settled into the rustic locale and absorbed the spectacle of pop culture and rap-industry trendiness amalgamated to pastorally picturesque Americana. It’s the kind of pronouncement that has become standard for a new Kanye album: 2013’s Yeezus featured a projection of Kanye on buildings in major cities around the world as he lip-synched lead single “New Slaves”; 2016’s The Life of Pablo was accompanied by the gaudy Yeezy Season 3 fashion show at Madison Square Garden. West knows how to make a noise—even if he hasn’t really made “a moment” in a long time.
“I’ve got no strings / To hold me down / To make me fret / Or make me frown / I had strings / But now I’m free / There are no strings on me…”
Freedom is something West has touted throughout the past several weeks of Trump-loving Twitter outbursts, TMZ confrontations and confounding interviews. “We are both dragon energy. He is my brother,” Ye tweeted of Trump back in late April. “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.” These ideas of “independence” and “freedom” seem to be at the core of what Kanye champions, but its clear his idea of autonomy is rooted in recklessness in service to ego. Ta-Nehisi Coates stated as much in his May op-ed for The Atlantic:
“West calls his struggle the right to be a ‘free thinker,’ and he is, indeed, championing a kind of freedom—a white freedom, freedom without consequence, freedom without criticism, freedom to be proud and ignorant; freedom to profit off a people in one moment and abandon them in the next; a Stand Your Ground freedom, freedom without responsibility, without hard memory; a Monticello without slavery, a Confederate freedom, the freedom of John C. Calhoun, not the freedom of Harriet Tubman, which calls you to risk your own; not the freedom of Nat Turner, which calls you to give even more, but a conqueror’s freedom, freedom of the strong built on antipathy or indifference to the weak, the freedom of rape buttons, pussy grabbers, and fuck you anyway, bitch; freedom of oil and invisible wars, the freedom of suburbs drawn with red lines, the white freedom of Calabasas.”
Is this freedom the kind that purchases a photo of Whitney Houston’s drug-strewn bathroom to use as cover artwork for an album? Is it the kind that unabashedly declares chattel slavery a “choice” as the daily indignities of contemporary racism illustrate how deeply it continues to affect our culture? Kanye has made it clear that he doesn’t have the answers, and on Ye, his inability to truly address even his own imperiousness is glaring.
Read full article at the Daily Beast.