Over the years, Kanye “Ye” West’s unpredictability and unwillingness to conform has both benefited and harmed countless individuals, companies, and movements. Media outlets have profited off of his diagnosed bipolar disorder, his 2020 presidential campaign’s breakdown and, more recently, we all jumped on the rapper’s latest Yeezy collection, SZN9, and its highly debated ‘White Lives Matter’ hoodie.
Ye’s very own brand is to provoke—to start conversations and spark debate. The problem is that he often does so regardless of the consequences his statements might have on the black community. The same goes for the part he plays in the far-right movement for that matter—having West himself print a slogan widely used as a racist response to the civil rights movement Black Lives Matter (BLM) on a piece of clothing validates right-wing ideologies and propagates anti-black sentiment.
Complex once described the musician as “beyond human,” going as far as to add that he is “the most influential brand in the universe.” Bit dramatic, but you get the idea. Ye’s reach transcends mere physical boundaries.
It would be easy—albeit wrong—to dismiss this latest scandal as yet another Ye stunt aimed at criticising our sometimes performative wokeness. However, just like he’s done a couple of times before, West’s almost unworldly way of thinking and overall energy (which are both thrilling and anxiety-inducing) have gone too far. He’s overstepped the mark.
As journalist Naima Cochrane wrote for Billboard, “After years of extending West grace—because of the tragic loss of his mom in 2007, because of his mental and emotional health, because of his talent, or just because the black community’s instinct is to protect our men publicly—the collective black ‘we’ are largely done trying to decipher his motives and intentions.”
BLM was never anti-white in the first place. Black lives matter because they’re more at risk—more at risk during a police encounter, in custody, and in many more instances. So why is Ye feeling the right to dismiss these very same lives by publically tainting the movement so many have fought for?
Well, as American radio host and television personality Charlamagne tha God put it, “He knows exactly what he’s doing and people fall for it every time. […] The reality is, there aren’t too many people in the world who openly seek white validation like Kanye West.”
But Charlamagne went further than simply stating the obvious—he theorised on why we’ve seen Ye go through these polar opposites so many damn times. “Whenever he’s going through something, whenever he’s beefing with a corporation, with his ex-wife, he becomes so pro-black. But when he’s up and things are fine, it’s ‘slavery was a choice’, ‘black people focus on race too much’ and when he’s in these circles like the one he was in at that Paris fashion show, it’s ‘White Lives Matter’,” the radio host was heard explaining in a clip shared on TikTok.
“Kanye West loves white validation—he longs for it,” Charlamagne concluded.