Kanye West wants to be the unifier to Donald Trump’s division but following the two’s meeting, it seems as if the rapper is more intent on wanting to be the current president.
In April, Hot 97’s Ebro Darden revealed that Kanye West said “I love Donald Trump” during a phone conversation the two had. Six months since, and West’s admiration of Trump has become more vocal. He’s devoted multiple tweets to him, defended him in a song featuring T.I. and, most recently, went on a favorable rant about the current president on Saturday Night Live while wearing a Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat. Now, West has met with Trump at the White House. During the two’s meeting, the rapper gave a 10-minute monologue where he defended his friendship with Trump, why Gangster Disciples founder Larry Hoover should be pardoned, and how he was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder.
That West — the same man who once famously declared “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” on national television — has become an outspoken supporter of Trump is disappointing. But it’s the ignorance — and foolishness — with which he’s allowed himself to be used by Trump that’s not only disappointing but dangerous.
The West-Trump timeline began toward the end of 2016. During a San Jose concert in November, the rapper said to the crowd “I told y’all I didn’t vote, right? But if I would’ve voted, I would’ve voted for Trump.” In December, West met with Trump at Trump Tower in New York; the aftermath of their meeting was well-documented, with countless images of the two standing side by side spread throughout the internet. They also offered different responses to the purpose of their meeting. Trump cryptically told reporters that he and West had talked about “Life,” while the rapper claimed they discussed stopping the violence in his hometown Chicago.
“I wanted to meet with Trump today to discuss multicultural issues,” West tweeted. “These issues included bullying, supporting teachers, modernizing curriculums, and violence in Chicago. I feel it is important to have a direct line of communication with our future President if we truly want change.”
The disconnect between the statements was the first instance of Kanye being trumped by Trump, and a representation of what their relationship looks like on the outside. A rapper who seems genuine in wanting to work with the president and unify opposing parties, and a man who sees the rapper as nothing more than cultural currency as he divides the nation further.
In West, Trump has found the ideal black puppet: the conduit through which his ignorance and narcissism becomes “free thinking” or “independent thought.” The alignment does more damage to West than it does Trump. Back in May, Trump claimed his approval rating among black people increased from 11 to 22 percent (this isn’t technically true since Trump was referring to Reuters’ weekly tracking poll which did show an increase in his numbers but only for black men) following a week where West not only voiced his love of the president but wore a MAGA hat, debated his pro-Trump stance with T.I., and aligned himself with conservative-leaning personalities like Candace Owens. Trump’s campaign also attempted to cash in on West wearing the MAGA hat, sending out the following text:
Oh man – the Trump campaign is now fundraising off Kanye's comments. This mass text just went out ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/a3ihZju5K2
— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) April 26, 2018
In return, West has experienced something of an ostracizing from rap and black people. The more vocal he’s become about his support of Trump the more conflicted some fans seem to be, taken aback by an artist who always seemed ready to say what black people were thinking — even if it came with controversy.
This, as well as his status as a black celebrity and entertainer, separate West from Trump’s other black supporters who are popular figures but only in conservative and Republican spaces. There’s the pitifully and troubling ignorant Diamond and Silk, the social media stars who Trump has referred to as “warriors,” and were caught receiving money from Trump’s team. Then there’s Owens. Once a liberal she now identifies as a conservative and has referred to Trump as a “savior” for western civilization. Initially touted as the next Tomi Lahren for her outspoken views as a YouTube vlogger, she’s argued that black people have a “victim mentality” and that police violence against black people is not about racism. Now, she serves as the Director of Communications at the conservative advocacy group Turning Point USA.
Together, West, Owens, and Diamond and Silk offer three different representations of blackness that Trump benefits from. Diamond and Silk are caricatures of comfort for his predominantly white fanbase, reinforcing stereotypes of black women that reaffirm their already limited and skewed idea of what blackness is. Owens is a provocateur masquerading as an intellectual, her views on black issues indicative of a disconnect from the harsh realities black people face in this country and more in line with how white people often dismiss black people’s concerns. And West is the cultural influencer spreading Owens and Trump’s rhetoric to a group of people who likely wouldn’t engage with either if it wasn’t for the rapper.
Throughout West’s meeting with Trump, he frequently used phrases associated with the two. He used one of Owens’ staple phrases — “victim mentality” — to explain why he said what he did about Bush 13 years ago. He also accused liberals of trying to control a black person through “the concept of racism.” The statement evokes Owens’ “Democratic Plantation” manifesto, a video she released late last year reminding viewers of the Democratic party’s anti-black beginnings up until the 1960s when both the Democratic and Republican parties experienced an ideological reversal into what they’re known as now.
West wants people to believe he’s thinking for himself but it’s apparent that he’s adopted the rhetoric of Owens and Trump. His latest opinions on black people invoke the same pseudo intellectualism employed by Owens, the two simplifying black people’s concerns to a state of mind and past grievances when it’s much more complex than that.
All of this, as well as West’s meeting with Trump, seems to reflect a desire West hasn’t vocalized but wouldn’t be all too surprising if he did — he wants to be Trump. A meeting purportedly about criminal justice reform and violence in Chicago, West did address Trump’s recent comments suggesting Chicago cops use stop and frisk, telling him that the tactic “does not help.” But he also attributed some of the problems to black on black crime and offered a solution expected of a child but not a grown man: “We have to release the love throughout the entire country.”
That West seemed to imply that Trump resembled some sort of father figure for him only makes the two’s meeting more unsettling.
“I didn’t have a lot of male energy in my home,” he said. “I love Hillary and I love everyone. The campaign, I’m with her, just didn’t make me feel as a guy that didn’t get to see my dad all the time, like a guy that can play catch with his son.” He then went on to explain that Trump’s MAGA hat “made me feel like Superman.”
“That’s my favorite superhero. You make a superhero cape as a guy who looks up to you,” West said.
With West and Trump’s meeting comes the question that has been on people’s mind for some time: What does West hope to achieve?
West has blinded himself to believe he’s a unifier and although he believes his intentions to be good, it’s difficult to see it as such right now. The sobering reality is that West wants to be Trump but he’s no different from Owens or Diamond and Silk — he’s another black puppet under Trump’s control.