Kanye’s ‘Drink Champs’ interview only proves he’s become a caricature of himself
OPINION: In his sit-down with N.O.R.E., Kanye West wildly lashes out at hip-hop stars and insults Black history
Kanye West’s Drink Champs interview ranged from disappointing at best to maddening at worst. Nowadays he seems like a parody of himself. The man who once seemed inspirational because of how much he believed in himself — it’s his self-belief that propelled him from just another producer to an elite rapper — has become a caricature of himself as he careens between one offensive anti-Black comment and another.
The man who stood up to George Bush on behalf on Black people remains a Trumper. The man who stood up for Beyoncè — even though it meant him stepping on Taylor Swift’s moment — that man spends a lot of the interview wildly lashing out at lots hip-hop stars. Let’s go through a few of the things I gleaned from spending several hours listening to Ye talk with N.O.R.E.
- Kanye still wants to be married to Kim Kardashian and says he still thinks of himself as married to her. This, to me, seems both sweet and dangerously delusional. Sweet because he clearly wants to keep his family intact and it’s nice seeing someone fighting for that. But he seems like the only one in the marriage who wants to keep it going and his insistence that they’re still married does feel reminiscent of ex-husbands who get violent. I’m not saying he will, but some men who do show these same sorts of precursors. The whole thing feels really messy and way too public.
- Ye says he can’t read that well and seems to disdain reading which seems a bit strange coming from someone who holds intellectual artists like Virgil Abloh and Takashi Murakami in such high regard. He sees himself as akin to Steve Jobs and Elon Musk who are also intellectual artists (in their own way) and surely all of these people he admires and puts himself in a class with spend a lot of time reading. His beloved mother was a professor. It doesn’t make sense to me to hear him look down on reading.
- Kanye says he’s homeless even though he owns like 12,000 acres in Wyoming. I understand that he has enough money to stay wherever he wants, cool, and doesn’t want to be tied down, and it was sweet when he said he’s home whenever his daughter FaceTimes him but then he said owning a home is how “they” control you which is really dangerous because homeownership is a crucial part of building wealth for most people and encouraging his young fans to look at home ownership as some form of government control that they should avoid is terrible advice.
- Ye isn’t fully vaccinated, but you already knew that was coming. But he’s neither truly pro-vaccination nor anti-vaccination — he’s had one shot which he gleefully calls halfcinnated. As if that’s cool. Of course, he’s also using loopholes to get around the strictures meant to protect populations from un- or under-vaccinated people — in order to get into France, which requires tourists to be fully vaccinated (a very reasonable request), Ye flew into Spain, which doesn’t make that same demand, then traveled into France which is just immoral. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, OK, but then stay home. You can’t refuse to get fully vaccinated and also not avoid other people. You can’t just refuse to do anything that would help stop the spread.
- People got all crazy over Ye dissing Big Sean (he said signing him is his worst mistake ever) which was beyond the pale rude but what’s more interesting to me in that moment is why he’s so mad at Sean and John Legend, too: because they didn’t support him politically when he was running for president and being loud about being pro-Trump. In the interview, Ye reiterated his support for Trump (“I still got the red hat on”) and even though he’s willing to loudly cut off his friends he still has not shared the real reasons why he’s pro-Trump. I’m still confused about what he likes. Is it his policies? Is it his personality? Is it that he takes Ye’s calls? Is it that it pisses people off and gets him attention? How does he justify Trump’s overt racism? You would think that a person as outspoken as Ye would have clearly explained by now why he’s with Trump but he still hasn’t.
- Ye did waste our time with garden variety right-wing, anti-choice rhetoric, calling abortion Black death and repeating the misinformation that abortion accounts for 50% of Black deaths each year. He basically read from the right-wing talking points playbook on Black abortion, including talking about Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s racism. Ye said he’s creating an orphanage to help make it easier to not abort children which entirely misses the point that most women who have abortions are mothers. They already have children and they understand what it takes to properly raise them and they utilize the right to an abortion to make sure they have the number of children that they can truly care for. Having an abortion is a tough choice but it can also be a noble choice, giving a woman control over her family and her future. Ye misses all of that by dismissing abortion as Black death and he further stigmatizes a woman’s right to choose.
- What’s a Kanye West interview without him insulting Black history? Late in his Drink Champs conversation he says we should eliminate Black History Month in favor of Black Future Month. While this may seem nice on the surface it’s critical to know your history in order to understand your present and your future. At a moment when the right is attacking Critical Race Theory this is really dangerous. He’s absorbed the right-wing notion that Black History is destructive to Black children because there’s many hard-to-hear stories that acknowledge the reality of racism. That math, of course, doesn’t make sense. I know that learning about Black history gave me a deep sense of the necessity of doing something important with my life because so many Black people had fought and died for me to have the opportunities I’ve had. Black history helped give me a sense of mission. And understanding that racism is pervasive and real helps me understand the world — otherwise I must conclude that white men are in power in almost every realm not because of white privilege but because white men are smarter and work harder. We all know that’s not true.
- One last thing — Kanye says he could beat anyone in a Verzuz battle. I love MCs showing off their mega-self-confidence. That’s part of the job. But, uh, no. Ye has lots of hits, more than most MCs, but as far as elite rappers go, he’s not some great rapper. His flow is usually fine but never fire, his wordplay is clever but never complex. He’s a good rapper, not a great MC. He’s not touching Lil Wayne in a Verzuz. That’s not a fair fight. He’s not beating Jay-Z, though he concedes that. He would struggle against Busta Rhymes whose tongue is far sharper. Eminem? Detroit all day. Andre 3000? Atlanta wins. Method Man? Staten Island. Kendrick? C’mon, Compton easy. And what about Ye’s answer to who’s the greatest MC of all time? Nas. Ye certainly can’t touch Nas in a Verzuz. Ye is a different sort of MC than these guys, it’s not a fair fight. But I’m sure he could beat Drake in a Verzuz. That’s a good battle for him. He’s a better rapper than Dr. Dre and Pete Rock. Those are good battles for him. Or he could probably take on Pharrell.
Touré is the host of the podcasts Toure Show and Democracyish and the podcast docuseries Who Was Prince? He is also the author of six books.
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