New York (AFP) – Since re-emerging last month from a yearlong absence, Kanye West has sparked outrage by throwing his lot with Donald Trump and calling slavery a choice. Yet the rapper has succeeded spectacularly in one key goal — staying at the center of attention.
If West’s newfound politics have baffled some longtime fans, the 40-year-old has clear stylistic affinities with Trump — a bombastic round-the-clock presence on Twitter, with musings that appear to be stream-of-consciousness but manage to commandeer each news cycle.
A self-described Renaissance man with interests in music, fashion and politics who has unironically compared himself to Michelangelo, West had long been given a pass by the entertainment world for his rowdier tendencies such as disrupting award ceremonies as few dispute his talents.
Since breaking through in 2004 with “The College Dropout,” West has produced lavish hip-hop albums that blend in soul and electroclash. He is tied with Jay-Z as the rapper who has earned the most Grammy Awards with 11.
But whereas West’s early work explored his insecurities, the Chicago native has come to epitomize the Los Angeles celebrity lifestyle and in 2014 married reality television star Kim Kardashian, with whom he has three children.
After the chaotic release of his last album “The Life of Pablo,” West suffered a mental breakdown and cut short his tour. He reappeared in public in December 2016 when he suddenly walked into Trump Tower in New York to meet the president-elect.
– Admiring Trump’s style –
Returning last month to Twitter — where he also announced two upcoming albums and promoted a shoe line — West revealed that he feels “love” for Trump.
He appeared wearing one of the president’s “Make America Great Again” caps, making him one of the few celebrities — and, even rarer, African American celebrities — to praise the president.
Trump — who rose to prominence promoting unfounded conspiracy theories on his predecessor Barack Obama’s birthplace — quickly cited West as evidence of rising support among minorities.
West — whose first visible foray into politics came in 2005 when he said president George W. Bush “doesn’t care about black people” after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans — acknowledged he has not followed Trump’s policies closely.
But the rapper said he admired the real estate mogul’s audacity to run — and West himself has indicated, with an unclear level of seriousness, that he plans to seek the White House in 2024.
“When I see an outsider infiltrate, I connect with that,” West told radio host Charlamagne tha God in an interview broadcast Tuesday.
But West made bigger headlines for an offhand comment during a free-wheeling appearance at TMZ Live, the broadcast arm of the Hollywood gossip site.
“You hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” West said.
His flippant remarks on America’s original sin drew a quick and harsh reaction on Twitter and West was taken to task live in the newsroom of TMZ.
In another Trumpian touch, West later explained himself on Twitter where he criticized the media coverage of his remarks.
“The reason why I brought up the 400 years point is because we can’t be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years. We need free thought now. Even the statement was an example of free thought.”
– No stigma to mental illness –
West in his interviews also showed flashes of his more self-aware side. He acknowledged that his political trajectory partially came out of jealousy as Obama invited other rappers to the White House and did not apologize for calling West a “jackass” in an off-record comment that leaked.
And West for the first time explained his hospitalization. He said he had been suffering stress for factors that included low radio airplay for “The Life of Pablo” and the armed robbery of his wife in her Paris hotel room.
Calling his hospitalization a “breakdown — or breakthrough,” West said his experience was “incredible” and that he wanted to draw awareness to mental health issues.
“Best believe, I’m going to take the stigma off the word ‘crazy.’”