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I’m a prisoner of Kanye West’s homeless camp

Life inside the rapper’s low-income housing units

August 4, 2019

7:33 PM

4 August 2019

7:33 PM

I hear the sound of chanting in the distance, grim and ominous.

‘Boom, boom, boom, boom ba boom, boom, boom…’

Suddenly, voices cry out:

‘Je-sus walks!’

A white-robed Kanye West is surveying the geodesic dome structures that he has built across his lands. A MAGA hat is pulled over his brow and the sun glints off his oversized sneakers. Kim Kardashian stands beside him in a bodysuit that strains against her preternaturally tumid curves.

Kanye announced that he was building the housing complex for the homeless in 2019. ‘Inspired by Luke Skywalker’s childhood home,’ Forbes reported, ‘West has been working with a team to design prefabricated structures that sport the same austere aesthetic, with the goal of deploying them as low-income housing units.’

It was a noble goal. Kanye wanted to spread his wealth, and help the less fortunate. But he also wanted to do something sensational — to leave another mark on the world.

Help came from an unlikely source. President Donald Trump, who remembered the rapper fondly from his MAGA advocacy, was basking in the success of his campaign to the free the rapper A$AP Rocky from a Swedish jail.

‘This is an incredible idea,’ President Trump said, as he released FEMA funding. ‘Kanye is a tremendous man. He likes me. He likes me a lot. He likes what I’m doing. And I like what he’s doing.’

Homeless Americans were bussed in from San Francisco, with grateful tech giants paying for the one-way tickets in return for Kanye cleaning up their streets. The Kanye compound, located in Calabasas, Los Angeles County, was filled with dome-like metal concept houses, each 50 feet tall and equipped with bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and extensive shoe racks.

At first everything went well. We, for I was one of the first intake, were delighted to have homes, and were thrilled to find ourselves the guests of somebody as talented and famous as Kanye, even if we weren’t allowed out. The rapper sometimes walked through the estate that he had built, surrounded by a phalanx of big, baffled security guards, smiling benevolently at us as we gawked at him through the reinforced glass window panels. When Kim walked past in a see-through bodysuit, some of the younger homeless men looked at her like starvation victims at a vast buffet.

Then things got strange. Kanye was already running ‘Sunday services’ where people would rather to dance and sing his songs. Now, these services took place in Calabasas. Every Sunday we would sing ‘Jesus Walks’ and ‘Lift Yourself’, swaying before the giant stacks of speakers until the tears ran down our faces and people began speaking in tongues and tonguing the speakers. Soon it was twice a week. Then it was every day. Then it was compulsory.

Kanye had taken on a messianic air. He would walk around the complex distributing sneakers. ‘I’m not just giving you shoes,’ he told us, ‘I’m giving you a new way of being, a new way of living. I’m giving you a new way of life. The Yeezy life.’

Outside the complex, people were speaking of a ‘cult of Kanye’, and the ‘Jim Jones of Calabasas’. None of us knew anything about that, of course, because the WiFi went down one night during the MTV Awards and never came back. Anyway, we were celebrating too much in our identical MAGA hats and yeezys to think anything was wrong. Every day we lined up for our ceremonial selfies, and chanted the sacred words, ‘Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time.’

Somehow I never felt as involved as the others. Perhaps it is my natural skepticism. Or perhaps it is because I stan Taylor Swift. Either way, when E! began to broadcast their new reality series Kanyunity I was reluctant to take part. Hiding in the dark recesses of my dome and whispering the lyrics of ‘You Belong To Me’, I watched as more committed ‘Kanyevangelists’ worked on their beautiful dark twisted fantasy. Sometimes I tried to speak to them about my misgivings, but whenever I did they would look at my with glassy stares and say, ‘One of the best videos of all time.’

I am not sure that Kanye understood what was going on. His presence had become more distant, as if he had begun to fear the beast he had raised in our strange little community in Calabasas. Every day I heard people marching, lifting, welding, hammering and chanting. ‘One of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time.’

Eventually, everything went quiet. I snuck out into the complex, in the darkness of an August evening. Here I crouch, now, looking at the ranks of my fellow inhabitants, naked but for their MAGA hats and yeezys, all chanting in the same maniacal rhythm.

Before them is a statue. As the moon rises dimly, I can make out its outlines. In the center of the complex the Kanyevangelists have erected an enormous iron statue of Kim Kardashian with a champagne glass shelved on her ample buttocks. A giant metal MAGA hat is welded atop her giant metal head.

The crowd falls silent. Kim and Kanye look bemused. I see her gesture to her cameramen to stop filming, and I see him slope off in the direction of the studio. The crowd pays no attention. Their eyes are fixed on the statue. The champagne. The MAGA hat. The enormous steel butt cheeks.

I hear them chanting.

‘Harder, better, faster, stronger. Harder, better, faster, stronger.’

Get me out. Please.


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