Kanye West: From Activist to Antagonist

Theodore X. Cartales '20, Contributor

In 2006, rising artist Kanye West released a statement in which he criticized the Bush administration, saying, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” This year, Kanye appeared on SNL and delivered a pro-Trump speech, in addition to meeting with president himself. In Kanye’s early albums he rapped about racial injustice and police brutality, but only months ago he tweeted a statement that bashed Barack Obama, claiming he had done nothing to help Chicago, the natal city of both. So why and how did Kanye West go from a social activist for the oppressed and persecuted, to the number one enemy in the eyes of those he fought for in the past?

In 2004, Kanye West released his breakout album, “The College Dropout” followed by a sequel album “Late Registration” in 2005. In both of the albums, Kanye denounced police brutality, racial injustice, and a systematic mistreatment of African Americans in the United States. His songs contained lyrics such as “We shine because they hate us, floss ’cause they degrade us/ We tryna buy back our 40 acres”, “Getting choked by detectives, yeah, yeah, now check the method/ They be askin’ us questions, harass and arrest us”, “And I basically know now, we get racially profiled/ Cuffed up and hosed down, pimped up and ho’d down”.

Even in 2013 Kanye West acknowledged the problem of racial injustice. In his song “new slaves”, Kanye proclaimed “Meanwhile the DEA/ Teamed up with the CCA/ They tryna lock n—as up/ They tryna make new slaves/ See that’s that privately owned prison/ Get your piece today”.

In 1970, a Trump employee testified of Trump’s assertion that “laziness is a trait in all blacks”. In 2017 alone, Donald Trump has accused Haitian immigrants by saying they “all have AIDS”, and after seeing America, Nigerians would never “go back to their huts” in their homeland. As shown above, Kanye West’s lyrics contain statements that required him speak out against the vast majority of those in power at the time. But this year alone Kanye has said that he “loves Donald Trump”, a man who only 5 years ago, Kanye would have despised. So what is the cause of Kanye’s sea change regarding racial injustice to the point that he would support President Trump.

At the beginning of the summer, Kanye West released his first album after making controversial statements about slavery, Obama, Trump, and other polarizing issues.  The cover of this album read, “I hate being bipolar, it’s awesome”. To the public, it seemed like Kanye’s announcement to the world that he is bipolar. But less than a year after the album was released, during his meeting with Donald Trump, Kanye stated that he was not actually bipolar, but suffering from sleep deprivation. Kanye went further to proclaim that he was “caught up in a victim mentality” when he used to make statements about racial injustice. Then, weeks later, Kanye tweeted that people have been misrepresenting his messages, and he would be taking a break from politics. So while the general public may have turned its back on Kanye, it is still unclear what changed his mind on the topic of racial injustice.