At this point, I don’t even miss the old Kanye
OPINION: Sometimes you don’t know what bridge is too far until you get there—that’s where I am with Kanye Omari West.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
One of the most memorable cuts on Kanye West’s 2016 album, “The Life of Pablo”—on an album full of memorable cuts—was the spoken-word record where Kanye both mocked himself (and us), “I Love Kanye.” It was hilarious and accurate, a true comedic piece, where Kanye both jokes about himself but also took dead aim at his own perception in the media and the court of public opinion as a rude, bad-mood, ornery artist. Without saying it directly, he points out a truth that social media brought to bear: we all missed the Old Kanye—the Kanye from “The College Dropout” and “Late Registration” and “Graduation” before he became the exceedingly insufferable, Kardashian-level version of himself—basically, the current Kanye West. The record was so spot-on and memorable that it ended up on T-shirts and in the year of our lord, two thousand and twenty-two, one of the stars from the hit show “Friends,” Courteney Cox, used it as a comeback to Kanye after he commented that “Friends” wasn’t funny.
When Kanye released the album that featured “I Love Kanye,” he was both right and wrong. I definitely was in the chorus of folks who missed the version of Kanye who was egotistical and brash but seemed hellbent on the culture and representing some version of it missing from the hip-hop conversations. Or at least that’s who I thought he was. Or who I—and others—made him out to be. He was right, though; while I enjoyed the music, I was losing interest in the man behind it. It felt like his antics were starting to overshadow the art. And that continued into April 2018 when he infamously showed up at the White House wearing the red Make America Great Again hat, which seemed to send all of the media into a tizzy. There was his famous “slavery is a choice” comment…you know what, if you know who Kanye is, you know all of this. TheGrio’s own Maiysha Kai covered all of it in tremendous fashion already.
The latest antics with his “White Lives Matter” shirts, the nonsensical interview with Tucker Carlson and his continued whatever you want to call it on Instagram (until he was locked out of the platform along with Twitter) where he took aim at whoever has genuinely pushed me to the point where I think I’m entirely over Kanye. I’m now as uninterested in his art as I am in the man. Sure, I will keep up with what’s going on as it relates to pop culture and will comment, but I’ve reached a point where Kanye has moved so far in whatever direction he’s going, and his provocateur shtick is so nonsensical to me that I can’t be bothered anymore to even wish for the days of the guy who changed the landscape of hip-hop. I went back recently to listen to “The College Dropout” because it feels like that’s not even Old Kanye; that dude doesn’t even seem to exist anymore. But I also didn’t feel like giving it a ton of attention or remembering how much I cared when it dropped and how I was part of the legion of Kanye fans who thought he could do no wrong and that he somehow represented me despite me NOT being a college dropout and hoping my degrees would keep me warm at night by allowing me to pay my heat bill. Damon Young and I even named our book, “Your Degrees Won’t Keep You Warm at Night: The Very Smart Brothas Guide to Dating, Mating and Fighting Crime” because of a sketch on that album.
The Kanye of old is somebody who, to me, pushed the envelope and led movements in music and fashion. That guy is gone. And I don’t even miss that any longer. What he did to and for music cannot be overstated, but it also just feels like the more he veers into the abyss of white validation and white supremacy the less bite I feel from that era of Kanye. For the first time in my experience with Kanye West as part of my cultural life, I’m ready to throw the baby out with the bath water. It’s a weird feeling.
I have numerous pairs of Yeezys that I will probably not even wear again because I’m not sure how I feel about wearing shoes created by the guy who actually thinks it’s OK to create a line of clothing that proclaims “White Lives Matter” because he thinks he’s being subversive. That guy is an idiot and while it might seem stupid—I did already buy them after all, any monetary support has already happened—I’m not sure I’d feel OK wearing them. Again, it’s an odd feeling.
I have yet to mention Kanye’s issues with mental health. You cannot discuss his antics without discussing that nowadays, but I also don’t think I have to excuse any of it or give him a pass. I do hope he continues to get the help he needs for his family and especially for his children. I am neither, so I owe him nothing. And he specifically decided he owes Black people nothing. He decided to mock the Black community, and as part of it, I have the right to move on from him. It sucks, though, that I don’t hold my same affinity for the transformative works anymore because the person who created them is a dude who I now can’t stand.
Fandom is funny like that, but as ridiculous as it sounds, at this point, I’ll just choose me and make sure that I love me like Kanye loves Kanye. And that means, simply, that I’m entirely over him now, including the old Kanye.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).
Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download here.