Music

A Primer On Kanye West, Donald Trump, And What The Hell Happened On Twitter Today

Oh, Kanye.

“To be great is to be misunderstood,” tweeted Kanye West yesterday in a poetic act of foreshadowing. In the 24 hours since, the rapper, entrepreneur and famous husband has fired off a lot more tweets — about 80 all up — covering topics including his management team, his future presidential bid, his apparel line, Yeezy, and his thoughts on Donald Trump.

Kanye going on a Twitter spree is nothing new, but it’s those Trump tweets that have ruffled some feathers. Kanye, unlike just about every other celebrity, hasn’t condemned the US President — instead he’s repeatedly spoken of his admiration for the POTUS. In his tweets today, West once more threw his support behind Trump — calling him “his brother” and posting photos of his Make America Great Again hat.

Trump was stoked.

Since then, Kanye’s wife Kim Kardashian and the likes of Chance the Rapper, Lily Allen, and Kumail Nanjiani have all weighed in on this very weird Twitter day.

So what the hell is going on? Let’s wade into it.

The Background

Kanye reactivated his Twitter account last week after an 11-month absence from the platform. It marked his first real return to the public eye (outside of Kim’s Instagram) since he cancelled a string of dates on his 2016 Saint Pablo tour and was hospitalised in Los Angeles for psychiatric evaluation.

Kanye used his return to Twitter to announce that his new album is dropping on June 1, and to post a lot of nice motivational advice.

Then, a couple of days ago, it was reported that Kanye had split with his manager Scooter Braun after Braun, who also manages the likes of Justin Bieber, Martin Garrix and Ariana Grande, turned down an ultimatum to work with West full time or not at all. TMZ and People Magazine both published stories claiming that Kanye was acting “erratically” and questioned his mental health.

So last night Kanye logged onto Twitter to confirm that he was no longer working with Braun because Braun had opted not to come work in-house at Yeezy. He tweeted a lot about how successful Yeezy is, how fast the company is growing, and said that “Yeezy will become the biggest apparel company in human history”. He then called out both TMZ and People Magazine for their coverage of the split.

Later, his wife Kim also hit out the tabloids:

What About The Trump Stuff?

And then Kanye veered into Trump territory.

He also posted some photos of his MAGA hat, including one together with music industry bigwigs Lyor Cohen and Lucian Grainge:

Then Kim picked up the phone:

Of course, it’s not the first time West has tangoed with Trump and his rhetoric. Earlier this week, Kanye tweeted about “fake news” and told followers that he loves the way Fox News personality Candace Owens thinks.

In 2016, Kanye met with Trump “to discuss multicultural issues”; afterwards the pair posed for photos and Trump told reporters that they’d been friends “for a long time”. Kanye was booed by his crowd when, at a 2016 San Jose concert, he declared that if he’d voted in the election (he didn’t), it would have been for Trump. That same year he featured a naked wax figure of the president in his ‘Famous’ video clip.

Going back even further, Kanye has referenced Donald Trump three times in his lyrics — the first time was back in 2005. As Vox once put it, “In Kanye’s songs, Trump is a symbol of the kind of wealth and power that American culture generally withholds from black men”.

He’s Not Really A Republican, Though

If you’re a little miffed by Kanye’s comments, you’re not alone. It’s jarring to see a man who’s been so unapologetic about his blackness and so vocal in his support of the African American community take the side of a man who doesn’t care a whole lot about minorities. It especially sucks that it’s come from someone we’ve all been rooting for so much.

But here’s the thing: Kanye isn’t actually a Republican. He reaffirmed in one of today’s tweets that he’s “not political” and roots for neither party, and he’s been open about the fact that he didn’t vote in the 2016 election. Until recently, at least, he’s leant towards the left.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Kanye famously declared on live TV that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”. He donated $15,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 2014 and a smaller amount to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2015. He posed for photos with his wife and Clinton during her bid for the presidency (Kardashian publicly endorsed #HillaryForPresident).

In his tweets today, Kanye cited his concern for his hometown of Chicago — “violence in Chicago” was one of the topics discussed with Trump in 2016 — something that didn’t change when a Democrat was in charge.

Shortly before, Chance the Rapper had tweeted this:

And when Kanye did speak out in support of Trump, it was after the election. During that San Jose show where he was booed for his pro-Trump comments, Kanye also said this to the crowd: “That don’t mean that I don’t think that black lives matter. That don’t mean I don’t think that I’m a believer in women’s rights, that… I don’t believe in gay marriage.”

What he admired, he told the crowd, was Trump’s “style” and “method of communication”. Kanye’s respect for Trump seems to more about his personality —  his “dragon energy” — than his actual politics.

That doesn’t excuse him for backing the worst president in history, but it does help explain it.

It’s Not What We Expect From Celebrities

The other reason Kanye’s Twitter spree has turned heads is that siding with Trump isn’t what we’ve come to expect from A-list celebrities. Kanye aside, Trump’s highest-profile supporters are basically Roseanne Barr and Tila Tequila.

His nemesis Taylor Swift has been dragged for staying silent on Trump — including, loudly, by us at Junkee — so would it really be fair to let Kanye off the hook for actually coming out and supporting him? No. His tweets today have been disappointing as hell.

But even Kanye’s fuck-ups come from a place of passion. He puts himself on the line because he cares. He doesn’t shy away from controversy for the sake of popularity.

Take it from Kim Kardashian:

And in all the commotion about Trump, we’d be foolish to overlook this one very, very important tweet:

Katie Cunningham is the Features Editor of Junkee. She is on Twitter.