Kanye West is a musical genius. His discography speaks for itself. His music has been acclaimed by critics, the foremost artists in all fields and even his many detractors. Kanye’s music is internationally beloved and it has given him leeway not many artists get. Kanye West operates in eras. His albums are always surrounded by moments in time, from globally discussed interviews to outrageous comments. Every era is memorable and just like the albums no two eras are the same. Be it the fashion industry/large corporation bashing of the Yeezus Era or the Trump support/TMZ rants of the ‘Ye’/’KSG’ era. Kanye is able to speak his mind as often as he wants and consistently sell music without the media being able to bury him.
When he walked on stage during Taylor Swift's award ceremony and was hated by everyone in the media and was even called a jackass by the first black president of the United States Barack Obama, he just came back with his critically and commercially successful album ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. Kanye West is exercising his first amendment right to the fullest and has been since the beginning of his career when he said “George Bush doesn’t care about Black People” during a hurricane relief special. Kanye is 2pac if Pac hadn’t died so early. He was a loud mouth rapper with a strong opinion and a huge following.
The ‘Jesus is King’ era bring the Ye story to the next arc. He’s gone through years in the music industry and has reached plateaus that few black entertainers before him have reached. Ye has 11 studio albums under his belt, each taking us through his life at that moment. From the ambitious dream chasing in the ‘College Dropout’, the mental examination in ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ to the hubris and rage filled ‘Yeezus’. Each album had stories surrounding the project, through interviews and global commentary that shine a light on what is going on with Kanye the artist. Jesus Is King was no different.
Yeezy has gone through a shift in consciousness and has gone from ‘No Church In The Wild’ to becoming reconnected with his Christian faith. His music talks about his love for Jesus and what Christ means to him. He also talks about the judgement he faces from other Christians and how people are being distracted and controlled. Kanye went from ‘Devil in a New Dress’ to exclusively making what he considers gospel music. Sonically the production of the album was great and featured Christian lyrics but this is going to be a breakdown of the era more than the album specifically. Kanye delves into the topics he discussed in the music and breaks them down even more during his insightful and entertaining interview spree with various media outlets.
What I’m getting from the interviews is that Kanye right now is what true black freedom in America should look like. Ye is a billionaire building his own factories inside America, he’s telling black people about ownership and buying land instead of cars and jewelry, he’s outspoken with his opinion and is still bashing the system. Kanye is saying the exact same things he was saying his whole career but now he’s been able to accomplish a lot more of his goals and see more of the world. America is not built for black flourishing. America was built with and for black employment. Kanye's mother was involved in the civil rights sit ins at 6 years old, that's only one generation before Ye. A black man in America is not supposed to be able to maintain his opinion, own land, own his masters, own his publishing, own his property, and he’s definitely not supposed to own factories. America is built on black enslavement. And even now when black people are supposed to be free, our definition of freedom is distorted.
Kanye talks about black people being controlled by the word ‘culture’, how we are being manipulated by large business interests that use psychoanalysis to control us and make us use their products (instagram and tinder flooding dopamine into your brain when you get likes), owning land, masters and intellectual property because black people create culture but don’t own it. He said he’s bought land to build Yeezy factories to bring manufacturing into the United States and having his own farm to grow his own agriculture.
Freedom is presented to us through rappers and other entertainers as looking like you have a lot of money by wearing big chains and driving nice cars, but in reality a lot of your favourite rappers are in debt trying to pay back the advance loan they got and working for the label while not being able to make any profit from their music because they don’t own the rights to it. Freedom to us is being an employee your whole life and eating off someone else’s land for someone else’s kids and letting your kids struggle just like you did.
What Kanye is talking about is what Louis Farrakhan’s has been talking about for years. It’s the financial empowerment Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were talking about. It’s what Dave Chappelle actually went out and did. As soon as Chappelle made money from his Chappelle’s show, he went out and bought a farm for himself and his family in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Now his kids have a place to stay and for their kids to stay, they get to farm their own agriculture, make money from the land and be set for generations to come which is not and hasn’t been the reality for many black people in America or around the world. In the land of opportunity Kanye West has taken every opportunity he’s been handed and has multiplied it and now he’s distributing his knowledge. But his message is being distorted and silenced. It’s being funnelled to the public through misleading snippets and headlines.
A lot of hip hop and liberal media outlets make us question his music, morality, mental stability and religious convictions exclusively based off the fact that he supports Donald Trump. And then we sit in our homes talking about this mans political beliefs and bashing him as opposed to looking at the bigger picture. News flash, he’s allowed to support whichever politician he wants to support. The French philosopher Voltaire said “ I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Are we really free if we have to apologize for our political beliefs?
The media’s reaction to him does give Kanye’s argument basis. Kanye is saying we are controlled by our perception of “culture”. The culture being hip hop, black twitter etc. He’s saying that what we consider culture is a facade controlled by massive corporations to manipulate our decision making and profit them. Large white owned corporations and business interests own twitter, Instagram and a lot of aspects that make up the “culture”. We create hip hop, slogans, slang, dances and various art but they own the music, fashion, art, studios, major labels and decide which agendas to push.
As opposed to promoting a black man who owns land and factories and is making multiple investments we’ll see a thousand videos of rappers buying jewelry, the newest cars and clothing from the most expensive white owned luxury brands as a form of free advertising. All of that gives Kanye’s argument a lot of basis. White people own the cars, clothes, music and jewelry that’s considered culture. Kanye’s argument is that the business interests manipulate our decision making by using ‘culture’ to manipulate us into profiting them, and he has a point. Black people are perceived as being a monolith. “The black vote” makes it sound like there’s one big nigga thats voting when white people are spread throughout the political spectrum. There are liberal whites, conservative whites, moderate whites and it never seems like one white celebrity’s political opinion is broadcasted to the whole world as the most detrimental thing to the world. Nobody gives a single fuck that Kid Rock and Kevin Jonas are Trump supporters.
But here we are yet again, crucifying yet another successful black man. Michael Jackson bought half of Sony’s publishing and mysteriously died. Nipsey Hussle was building his own stores independently and preaching financial literacy and ownership then he was gunned down in broad daylight in his own hometown. Martin Luther King was murdered as soon as he began preaching the next phase in civil rights which was economic redistribution and financial empowerment. One day what Kanye West is doing here will be seen as the monumental revolutionary act it is. Financial Freedom is the conversation Jay Z briefly touched on in ‘4:44’ with ‘The Story of OJ’. What Kanye is doing is what Nipsey was trying to do but on a higher scale. Due to his influence, what Ye is doing now is going to cause a ripple effect and completely change how black people will go about business, ownership and financial literacy going forward. It will change the conversation around ownership and self sufficiency which is a conversation we desperately need.
“I used to say “how sway” well now it’s "Now Sway"” -Kanye West