Written by Geoff Aikens (@OhArd215)
People are quick to become angry at Kanye West for his poor word choice and questionable endorsing of Donald Trump. As a guest on SNL, he gave a small audience an up close and personal experience of how he really feels. Sporting the now-infamous MAGA hat, along with a gray “Free Hoover” sweatshirt, Kanye elicited a myriad of responses. Tweeting his desire to see the 13th Amendment amended and announcing his desire to have Colin Kaepernick meet with Donald Trump, there are plenty of messages to glean from Ye.
“I think I’m Big Meech, Larry Hoover, Whippin’ work, hallelujah…” — Rick Ross on “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)”
While Kanye seems to have placed all his chips in the Trump bandwagon, a closer look at his words and actions seems to convey a different meaning. Kanye is attempting to communicate a complex idea the best way he knows how: through performance. The MAGA hat needs little explanation. A red pariah among liberal circles, endorsing it has cost people friends and loved ones. His “Free Hoover” sweatshirt might require some more research, however. Larry Hoover, born in Mississippi but making his name in Chicago, was a founder of the notorious gang the Gangster Disciples. Convicted in 1995 after an almost two-decade investigation, Hoover is currently serving six life sentences for murder, conspiracy, and other charges. Hoover is hardly the type of person that most MAGA hat wearers would endorse for freedom.
When you look at Kanye’s chosen battlefield it might not make sense, trying to change the opinion on a hat as a means to reach people. But it becomes clearer as you look deeper. Kanye has always wanted to take on ideas that people think are impossible. On the song “Last Call”, he remarks: “ Now I could let these dream killers kill my self-esteem/Or use the arrogance as the steam to power my dreams.” Kanye puts his mind to something and does it. He has also had a large amount of success in the shoe world, with his Yeezy brand flipping the shoe world on its ears, pushing Adidas’s popularity past the sneaker juggernaut Air Jordan (from Nike). So one could see how Kanye would be confident in his ability to change the stigma around MAGA hats, by adding his own unique flair to it.
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” -13th Amendment, Section One
Kanye’s support of amending the 13th Amendment definitely falls outside of the ideals of many Trump supporters. Usually, when hearing of the plight of incarcerated young black men, they ignore the institutionalized prejudice that so many face. They ignore how creating private prisons creates this demand for prisoners. Kanye notes that it is just a new form of slavery, and he is correct.https://www.youtube.com/embed/-SoKFycTmVU?feature=oembed
There are plenty of parallels to draw between current prison culture and slavery, the 13th even admits to this in the phrasing. More black men are tied up in our legal system today than were slaves in the 1850’s United States. This is one of the largest hurdles facing young black men today, and Kanye is right to shed light on it. Despite all of this, Kanye has received a large amount of negative backlash. To be fair, he has made questionable comments about slavery in recent months, so he is not immune to miscommunication. He is human, even if he does not want us to believe so.
In contrast, he seems to have the support of Trump and many of his followers. They ignore his support of both a known gang member and the overhaul of the American prison system. His calling of Colin Kaepernick to meet with Donald Trump would send anyone upset over the national anthem protests into cardiac arrest.
An odd form of social and political blindness seems to surround Kanye. He shows support of issues that many people would say fall on one side of the spectrum or the other. Stuck in an odd place, he might just be on to something. In his appearance on SNL, Kanye remarked “Try love,” and talked about how people backstage were “bullying” him. He seemed to want to start a conversation that he feels people are not having, but has not been able to connect the public as he anticipated. While we cannot rule out ignorance of particular subjects, many people seem to only pay attention to part of what he is saying, ignoring anything that does not fit into their narrative.
Kanye’s pursuit of working together has actually bore fruit as well, with his wife Kim Kardashian meeting with Trump to get the sentence of nonviolent offender Alice Marie Johnson commuted after serving over 20 years. While not a change on a large scale, the impact of the action itself is significant. He is trying to start a dialogue he knows he cannot finish. Kanye has always been a spectacle, but maybe we should pay closer attention to his message and, as he says: “Try love.”