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Written byKerryn Hopkinson

In the words of Ye himself, “I miss the old Kanye.”

In the past, if someone brought up the name Kanye West, the discussion that would ensue would probably be centered around his music. Now if someone mentions his name, the conversation is most likely going to turn into a political debate. Anyone who is on the socials (or at least, not living under a rock) would have heard of at least some of his controversies. The latest being his comments in defense of Hitler and Nazism. 

The unfortunate part of this is that Kanye West has been a legend within the music industry for many years. He has achieved so much as a producer, songwriter, and musician and has achieved critical acclaim for his work. He’s also rap’s second billionaire, a successful businessman and cited by many as a genius in several aspects. However, in the past couple of years he has been making headlines for different reasons as the things he’s said and done have been trending more than his latest albums. 

His decline from a legendary figure to a problematic one has been screened publicly over the past few years – as Kanye has never been one to shy away from expressing his views publicly. It started slowly, as he has previously just been viewed as eccentric and outspoken. Whenever he has said or done something quirky, the responses have been “That’s just been Kanye being Kanye.”

However, he has become increasingly “unhinged” as time has passed. What started out as eccentric behaviour turned political and oftentimes hateful. His support of Trump, to his promotion of White Lives Matter, his alignment with Candace Owens and his harassment of his ex-wife Kim Kardashian after their divorce. From Kanye charging into TMZ’s office and saying that “slavery was a choice”, to his defense of Hitler, and his several anti-semitic comments as well as disturbing rhetoric, Ye’s behaviour has gotten increasingly worse. 

How much more can his fans defend him with, “That’s just Kanye being Kanye“?

Two recent interviews with Ye have highlighted his increasingly aggressive, controversial, and oftentimes, malicious –behaviour. One of these being Kanye’s most recent interview with Alex Jones on Infowars – which has been making headlines – in which he managed to make one of the most right-wing figures in modern media, Alex Jones, uncomfortable. An impressive feat. There he sits, masked and saying things like, “There’s a lot of things I love about Hitler.” and, “I don’t like the word evil next to Nazi’s.” In another interview, this time with Lex Fridman, he spews more malevolent content. Much of what he says in this interview is complete gibberish. So much doesn’t make sense and when he does get a clear point through, it is often hateful. Lex tries to see the truth within Ye’s words, trying to address and converse about them, holding Kanye accountable while trying to change Ye’s language and tone into something less malicious. However, it is to no avail as Kanye manages to evade by just spinning on tangents and making no sense.

Kanye’s ego has grown to epic proportions and it seems to have created a figure that believes he is indestructible. Which as we know from history, is a dangerous thing. And no matter how much people try, what he believes cannot be refuted in his mind. On Lex Fridman’s podcast, Ye stood steadfast in several of his beliefs. Including that all, “African-Americans are Jew” – completely brushing over other African religions and cultures. Or that, “50% of black deaths a year are actually abortion.” – spreading false pro-life statistics. And let’s not brush over his repeated use of the “Jewish controlled media” and his thoughts regarding their “negative” influence. So many false ideas spread, so quickly and confidently, as if the gospel. And so many of his words are believed. Too many! In the age of information, fact-checking is just so important. Kanye has become this monstrous figure in the media who has turned a fan following into a pseudo cult-esque of dogma and intensity.

He may have fallen out of favour in the eyes of many but much of his fan base still stands strong. So many of his problematic actions are excused due to Ye’s “artistic genius.” He fell from grace and took his fanbase with him. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no respect for anyone who still defends the things he has been saying. That said, I think many of his fans started off by defending his idiosyncrasies and eccentricities and then continued to defend deeper and deeper as Kanye spiralled, not seeing how far they’d be taken with or how deep the spiral would go. And it has gotten out of hand. Many people defended him in the beginning, citing the pressures of the industry and of mental health which for a long time has been the manner of justification for Kanye’s behaviour. Which is understandable. Sympathy must be had for someone who struggles with mental illness and who is constantly in the public light. However, that still does not excuse much of his recent behaviour though especially when it influences millions of people. There is no point loudly saying there is a fire and blaming other people for it, while you stand around and effectively do absolutely nothing about said fire and actively keep feeding it. Ye has become a King of hypocrites.

Despite some of them being able to separate the art from the artist, many fans remain fiercely loyal to Kanye West himself. Some of his fans make light of what he says and find his controversy humorous. Others seem to latch onto what he is saying and promote his views. Some choose what they like and ignore what they don’t. Many Kanye stans are scary people, believing that Kanye’s misguided rants can be interpreted as someone bravely speaking the truth. Whether it is someone making a meme of what he says or defending his opinions online, both promote him and his misinformation. And both of these things not only keep Kanye trending but also influence and impact those that worship him.

Why have we idealized Kanye to the point where he can be treated like a God and think he is a martyr for the cause when all he is is an ego-maniac with a platform? 

The most frustrating thing about the entirety of the Kanye West Controversy is knowing the extremely likely possibility that Kanye has been saying and doing what he has just to trend. Or that Kanye has lost himself so much that he now blindly craves the attention of millions to validate his own pain and rage at systems that are failing, despite his wealth. What was once a great artist is now better known for his comments than his music. He continues to trend and have people speaking about him – just not for the right reasons. Many people suspect that everything he does and says is just to keep him relevant. And even if that is true, it is still so dangerous. For a man with such influence to be spreading this kind of misinformation to his many, many followers is extremely harmful. Especially if they believe what he says to be true.

Kanye had an extraordinary story and was a hero for many. But he was idolized and put on such a pedestal that he has been able to go to the extremes and still maintain a semi-loyal fanbase. He’s also gained a whole set of new fans – mainly far-right-leaning Trump fans and neo-nazis.

The entirety of the situation has brought up several questions for me…How can one person have so much influence? And why are we letting a celebrity’s political opinions be so valued? Why are we still giving him a platform after he was blatantly hateful? Why have we idealized Kanye to the point where he can be treated like a God and think he is a martyr for the cause when all he is is an ego-maniac with a platform? 

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