Kanye West is an egomaniac. Who isn’t these days? He’s also very brave.
It takes courage to wear a Trump hat to sing on Saturday Night Live. Kanye — or ‘Ye’, as he wants to be called — said he was ‘bullied’ backstage by people telling him he should take it off, and you can imagine that is true enough. The Saturday Night Live audience booed Kanye on stage, but he remained undaunted.
‘We need a dialogue not a diatribe,’ he said, not unreasonably. The SNL brigades clearly did not agree. Their idea of dialogue is just anti-Trump diatribe.
Good for West; he makes the world more interesting. And for him to stand by what he thinks as the rich, elite world he belong to harangues him takes guts.
Kanye also wore a sweatshirt with Colin Kaepernick written across it, in homage to the NFL star who has become famous for protesting about racial injustice during the national anthem. This was a bit of political cross-dressing, which is also quite daring in these days of tribal partisanship.
On social media, West’s performance elicited predictable howls of indignation and sneery WTFing. (It didn’t help that he also appeared dressed as a Perrier bottle first.) But his little speech about Trump and bias in the liberal media, which typically enough got cut off while airing, was entertaining. It was more fun and interesting than almost all the celebrity-endorsed jokes against Judge Kavanaugh that took up the rest of the show.
Yes, Kanye’s Trumpery is an attention-grabbing stunt. So was the black-power salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics. That doesn’t stop it being radical and even, at some level, sincere. Maybe Kanye is just an media opportunist. At least he dares to be different.
Last night Kanye even suggested he was going to run for President in 2020, four years earlier than had hitherto been mooted. Is he really thinking of taking on his political hero Trump in two years time? Or is he muddled? Who knows?
Mad is at it sounds, a Kanye run at the White House makes sense. Trump has already turned high politics into reality TV. West feels like the next best step. As Daniel McCarthy wrote on this site earlier this year,
‘There are a good many forward-thinking chieftains of the Trump movement — though the left and the Never-Trumpers would have you believe such people don’t exist — who see tremendous gains in bringing Trump’s themes of economic nationalism and America First to black voters. For decades, Bush-style Republicans dreamed of winning over blacks with social-conservative values, and such efforts mostly came to nothing. Hip-hop nationalism may fail, too. But it hasn’t been tried, and Kanye West could give it a serious test.’
Ye he Kan! West may be incoherent. But his politics are considerably smarter, original and more open-minded than most of the tribal monotonous blather that comes out of the entertainment world. Hip-hop nationalism, your time has come.