Posted on April 27, 2018

In Kanye West, the Right Sees Truth-Telling and a Rare A-List Ally

Joe Coscarelli, New York Times, April 27, 2018

In the few days since the rapper Kanye West has doubled down on his public affinity for President Trump and other conservative figures on Twitter, his opinions — and the backlash they have wrought in some circles — have been hailed by those who have long seen the entertainment world as oppressively liberal.


Bill O’Reilly chimed in about “ideological zealots in the entertainment industry” who were criticizing Mr. West. Jesse Watters, the Fox News commentator, argued that Mr. West, 40, had “loosened the grip the Democratic Party holds on the black vote.”

The biggest pat on the back came from the president himself, who posted several tweets about Mr. West. On Friday, he wrote, “Kanye West has performed a great service to the Black Community.”

That such praise was being bestowed upon an iconoclastic musician known for slamming George W. Bush on live television and rapping about the prison industrial complex may seem incongruous. But the sudden embrace of Mr. West, a longtime provocateur with contrarian impulses, by figures on the right stems from a potent cocktail of motivations.

{snip} For others, there is genuine intellectual agreement with Mr. West’s apparent disdain for “self victimization” and the “thought police.” {snip}


However, risk in aligning with Mr. West, the son of a Black Panther father and a mother who taught at a historically black university, is that his ideological allegiances have typically been mercurial, and even apolitical. When he first declared his interest in Mr. Trump, during concerts right after the 2016 election, he praised the president-elect’s communication style and disdain for the mainstream media, but noted that he had not voted.


Mr. West, whose representatives declined to comment, began his latest foray into politics last weekend. He praised the thinking of the black conservative commentator Candace Owens, who has spoken out against the Black Lives Matter movement. He went on to compliment Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire and Trump supporter, as well as the “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams, who has rebranded himself as a conservative thinker.

About the president, he wrote admiringly that they both shared “dragon energy” and that “he is my brother.” He also posted a photo of his Trump-autographed “Make America Great Again” cap.

The backlash came quickly as fans on social media and the culture publications that follow Mr. West closely made their dismay clear: “Kanye West Doesn’t Care About Black People,” read a headline on The Root, while The Ringer explored “The Kanye West Delusion.”

The singer Janelle Monáe criticized Mr. West’s comments in a radio interview on Wednesday. “I believe in freethinking,” she said. “But I don’t believe in freethinking if it’s rooted in, or at the expense of the oppressed.” And in text messages posted on Twitter by Mr. West, John Legend told the rapper, “So many people who love you feel so betrayed right now because they know the harm that Trump’s policies cause, especially to people of color.”


“It’s important to recognize that black Americans, and in particular black celebrities, should be allowed to have different opinions without being called mentally unhealthy or crazy,” Mr. Kirk said, referring to reports that some in Mr. West’s circle were again worried about his mental health following his late 2016 hospitalization, which also coincided with expressing his support for Mr. Trump. {snip}

Mr. West’s refusal to back down in the face of criticism was markedly different than the reaction of the Canadian country singer Shania Twain, who apologized on Sunday after she was quoted in an interview saying that she would have voted for Mr. Trump if she could. Following a fan backlash online, Ms. Twain issued a statement: “As a Canadian, I regret answering this unexpected question without giving my response more context,” she said. “I do not hold any common moral beliefs with the current president.”

Mr. West, on the other hand, was defiant. “You don’t have to agree with trump but the mob can’t make me not love him,” he wrote on Twitter.

Chance the Rapper, a frequent collaborator, backed him up: “Black people don’t have to be democrats,” he wrote, though he backtracked on Friday, after Mr. Trump thanked him by name, writing that his initial tweet “was a deflection from the real conversation.” Though Chance said he had hoped to stand by his mentor Mr. West, “it’s not my job to defend or protect him,” he wrote, but rather to “pick up the phone and talk to him about it.”