Rap is, since its inception, a musical genre that has strong components of social protest. Derived from hip hop, it served the African-American communities in the United States to denounce racial problems, discrimination, political issues or other claims. Protest is inherent in rap, and although over the years the lyrics have expanded into countless themes, it is difficult to separate that component of social awareness from the genre.
Perhaps that same reason is what makes the present of Kanye West, the famous American rapper, so controversial. For several weeks now, the musician, also known as “Ye”, has made controversial statements over and over again on various platforms and media. Statements that are also dangerous: from anti-Semitism to white supremacy, West has been infuriating various sectors of the community and does not seem to have the intention of stopping anytime soon.
It’s confusing to see who Kanye has become compared to the young man who released “The College Dropout” in 2004, an album that quickly launched him into popularity. From then on, he contrasted successes with controversies: Just as he was one of the most successful artists of all time (more than 100 million records sold, 24 Grammy Awards and considered one of the 100 most influential people in the world twice), he had numerous public appearances that undermined his image. and led to this “deflated” version of today.
His first scandals came in 2004/2005, and they were in crescendo until reaching one of the highest points in 2012, after beginning a relationship with the renowned Kim Kardashian, whom he divorced in March of this year after being married since 2014. That couple became one of the most popular in the world, and the constant accompaniment of the media led to the generation of several episodes of tension. But it is well worth going back to understand what those first “big boys” were like.
In 2005, during a benefit concert for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, West appeared to give a speech with actor Mike Myers, but surprised by stating that “George Bush does not care about blacks.” However, her most controversial episode – at least to date – took place in 2009, during the MTV Video Music Awards. During the “Best Female Video” award ceremony for Taylor Swift, Kanye went on stage, took the microphone from the singer and assured that the award “should go to Beyoncé for Single Ladies”, and that it was “one of the best videos of all time”. The reaction of the public and the other artists was immediate, and just as West was booed, some events were also cancelled, such as the “Fame Kills” tour that he was going to do with Lady Gaga.
From there everything went from bad to worse, at least in relation to his scandals, but not in his musical career. West came to ensure that Bill Cosby, accused of sexual assault, was innocent; in the same way that he has been constantly supporting Donald Trump, the former president of the United States. Eventually he had a few months of silence on social networks, but he came back with more controversies.
But these last few months were, without a doubt, the most histrionic for “Ye”. It all started at Fashion Week in Paris, where West appeared in a T-shirt with the phrase “White Lives Matter” (“White lives matter”), a kind of mockery in relation to the slogan “Black Lives Matter”, symbol of the 2020 anti-racist protests in the United States. In the same way, he went on to ensure on Twitter that George Floyd, a victim of police brutality in 2020 (he died asphyxiated by a policeman’s knee, who held him to the ground for almost 9 minutes), had actually “died of an overdose.” and that the Police “was not suffocating him”, even though the case already ruled that the agent Derek Chauvin was guilty of his death.
To these comments are added the repeated anti-Semitic phrases. In the last hours, the rapper Diddy revealed in networks a chat that he had with Kanye, where the latter told him “I am going to use you as an example to show the Jewish people who told you to call me that there is no one who can threaten or influence me.”
A social network to be able to say “whatever you want”
All these statements also generated the cancellation of his Twitter and Instagram accounts, a situation that led to his last great episode: the attempted acquisition of Parler, the conservative social network that is all the rage among American right-wingers and that Donald Trump knew how to use after his output from other platforms. The artist said in a statement that he wants to buy Parler to ensure that those with conservative political views “have the right to express themselves freely.”
Temporarily removed from the Apple and Google app stores last year for failing to moderate calls for violence following the attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters, Parler is available again, although it is still far from competing with giants like Facebook or Twitter. Little known until 2021, the platform garnered attention following Trump’s ouster from Twitter.
Parler has been downloaded 8.5 million times since its launch, including 6.2 million times in the United States, according to data.ai. In September, Parler added 58,000 downloads worldwide on Apple and Google’s online stores, a far cry from Facebook’s 72 million in the same month. Parler did not respond to AFP inquiries about its number of users and financial situation. Trump doesn’t have an official Parler account, and West, who just opened it, already has 1,800 followers; against the 31 million it has on Twitter and the 18.2 million on Instagram. It is clear that, although he will “win” the possibility of saying what he wants, it will have much less diffusion.
Thus, Kanye continues to generate controversy wherever he goes. And judging by the repetition of these behaviors sustained since 2005, it does not seem to have the intention of ending in the short term. It only remains to see how affected his -already beaten- image is, and if artistic achievements continue to support something that, otherwise, would fall under its own weight.
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What’s wrong with Kanye West? From controversy to controversy