Image: Pxfuel, Flickr, Noun Project

Kanye West and the American nightmare

In his 2020 Presidential ad, Kanye West asks “What is America’s Destiny?” One day, he woke up and decided he was the cousin of Superman and it was time to save the country. US political elections are usually a mixture of showmanship and superficial calculation but, in 2020, Yeezy became living proof that even grandiose ideas such as ‘government’ and ‘president’ had just about as much worth as reality TV.

For Kanye, his US election campaign, built on a mixture of God, the Bible and gun laws, felt a lot like slow jogging through the valley of the shadow of death screaming at us mortals to join him on the highway to hell. Sadly, not many of us chose to follow him on his journey to the White House: he emerged with only 60,000 votes out of an estimated 160 million. I’m intentionally ignorant about US politics but, with an anti-abortion, anti-vaccine, anti-common-sense campaign; a campaign which fastened its paranoid claws around concepts such as ‘family’, ‘God’ and ‘religion’, it’s not hard to see his inevitable failure.

The only wall more absurd and depressing than Donald Trump’s Mexico-US border, is the dividing wall between real life and fantasy that Kanye seems to have built around his own heart which, with every Twitter rant, seems to have grown so high it will soon become insurmountable. Seeing him appear on Joe Rogan was pretty melancholic: “I think very three-dimensionally. I don’t think in the black and white lines I’ve been programmed to think in […] I think in full colour”. Kanye seems to be blind to the madness of his own creation that permanently surrounds him.

There is a kind of offbeat, mentally unhinged, sexual charisma to Kanye West

Though he is ridiculously talented, the My Twisted Dark Beautiful Fantasy singer provides a black mirror that shows what happens when you give one man unlimited power and clothing lines. It’s hard not to feel a mix of grim admiration and jealous dislike for Mr. West. In 2016, he appeared in a now infamous Ellen interview, comparing himself to Shakespeare, Picasso and Steve Jobs. He then, with the shameless humble brag of all self-professed visionaries, announced his plans to use his overpriced t-shirts to stop bullying. Perhaps because of his immaturity he has a boyish quality that works. His wisdom nuggets vary from the moment God spoke to him in the shower, to the time he called slavery a choice.

There is a kind of offbeat, mentally unhinged, sexual charisma to Kanye West. His bipolar disorder has even mutated into its own superficial and glossy personal branding. This is perhaps because West’s career has seen conveniently timed and annual reputation massacres for two decades, from his Ellen appearance to the incident with Taylor Swift at the VMAS; he is always guilty but never boring. Innocent until proven entertaining is the mantra of any 21st century schizoid man.

He’s created a totalitarian position of unlimited ironic potential, and he’s not backing down any time soon

Liking him is some kind of badge of honour amongst 16 to 35-year-old males; almost too lazy not to become the cliché of the angry disenfranchised machine-tooled Y chromosomes that they are, Kanye seems to provide some kind of vicarious wish fulfilment of unlimited power, and the ability to speak without fear of judgment.

But is this so desirable? If anything, ‘Mr. Wisdom’ has become more of a performance than a person or a prophet; a double-talking, wise-cracking tap dancing liar: “I am unquestionably, undoubtedly, the greatest human artist of all time. It’s not even a question at this point. It’s just a fact”. In a way, Kanye is sort of right, because he’s already laughed the opposition to death.

The house Kanye has built for himself, in which we are only ever guests, is a kind of rent-controlled cornucopia of guilt, antagonism and soul deadening criticism (presumably sourced from some direct line to the heavens). While America is living and breathing in fear, and Britain suffers from second-hand embarrassment, Kanye West walks on with Jesus and Twitter at his side, and the 2024 election on the promised-filled road. He’s created a totalitarian position of unlimited ironic potential, and he’s not backing down any time soon.

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