I’ve been a Kanye West apologist for years, much to my wife’s chagrin. “But he’s such a misogynist asshole,” she would protest anytime I would mention him. “Well yeah,” I would respond, “but he makes such great music.”
It’s often difficult to know where to draw the line when separating an artist from his or her music. It’s only the rare occasion that the line is clearly drawn, like with Bill Cosby. How many people are going to be firing up their Cosby Show DVDs now, after it has become entirely apparent that he is a serial rapist? Well, apparently Kanye has no problem with it.
That’s certainly not the first problematic tweet from Kanye. The week before, he had drawn the ridicule of Twitter for protesting about the mere thought that he would have let anyone near his… well, this:
One of the reasons I stuck by Kanye for so long was that he was one of the first mainstream rappers to take a stand against homophobia. This was no small deal. Hip-hop culture has always had an undercurrent of hyper-masculinity, and Kanye broke one of its major taboos by addressing the subject of homophobia in a very thoughtful and unambiguous way. This is the Kanye I miss:
That went a long way toward making me think of Kanye of a progressive, intelligent guy. But that Kanye doesn’t seem to exist anymore. The Kanye of 2016 is once again afraid of people thinking he might be gay. He’s a man who uses his platform to take the side of Bill Cosby instead of the over 50 women who have come forward to accuse him of rape. Let that sink in: over 50 women. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but in this case it’s like looking directly at an open flame.
I guess it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, though. Kanye’s last album, Yeezus, was a magnum opus of misogyny. What happened to Kanye? It seems like the unraveling started after his mother died in 2007. After that, Kanye released 808′ and Heartbreak, which was a sad, mournful, and thoroughly non-pop album that was also thoroughly underrated. But then after the sadness subsided, it was replaced by anger in 808‘s follow-up, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. That album was Kanye backed into a corner by fame, lashing out at critics and the media. It was also maybe his best work, not despite but because of that anger.
But the anger that propelled My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and made it an exciting work of art didn’t subside afterward. It got progressively uglier, not only in the rawness and bitterness of Yeezus but in Kanye’s public persona. And as he has promoted his newest album, The Life of Pablo, Kanye has sprung back to life on Twitter, not as the thoughtful, intelligent guy who gave that interview to MTV about the corrosiveness of homophobia, but as the guy who starts a beef with Wiz Khalifa, says some pretty hateful stuff about his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose, and then defends Bill Cosby of all people.
Then, to top it all off, he took another swipe at Taylor Swift in some of the grossest, most mean-spirited lyrics he has ever written by declaring that he “made that bitch famous” and she would probably have sex with him. And when called out on those lyrics, he doubled down on the misogyny.
Well, I don’t find it endearing, and I’m done. There’s a lot of great hip-hop out there made by artists whom I don’t feel like a hypocrite for supporting, and I’m going to enjoy their music instead.