My new column is up at PopMatters today: “Kanye West: The Iconoclast Gives In.” Please give it a read over there.
So, yeah, the essay is about exactly what you think it’s about: how newness has led Kanye astray. (That’s what you were expecting, right?) Unfortunately it’s not exactly an artistic newness, which is why it’s taken him into #MAGA Land. And yes, it’s absolutely connected to what Ta-Nehisi Coates meant by “white freedom.” If you’ve read Nothing Has Been Done Before, you already know there’s a chapter in the book titled “Kanye’s Night at the Museum: The Iconoclast Goes to Work” which is mainly about his album Yeezus. This new essay is the sequel. While working on the book, I wrote a piece about The Life of Pablo (link in new column). So I’ve got a chapbook’s worth of writing about Kanye West.
Here’s a sample from the new piece:
The tragic flaw in West’s recent heel turn is that the allure of newness presented by Trump is, of course, nothing new at all. On the outside it’s just a glamorous shell of wealth and pomposity and cruelty and nostalgia. Substantively, in terms of policy and impact, the Trump administration means a few people will have more and many more people will have less. But the Right has succeeded enough in selling this as newness, as an uprising…precisely the white co-optation of the rhetoric of the new at the expense of actual change for black Americans that Gil Scott-Heron warns about in the passage from his spoken-word piece “Comment #1” that West inserted into “Who Will Survive in America?”, the closing track of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:
Us living as we do, upside-down
And the new word to have is “revolution”
West isn’t providing an alternative; he’s reproducing the status quo, traditionalism disguised as futurism, “white” disguised as “America.” None of this is new in substance. It’s only new because West is repping it. Or at least, that’s what makes new in his mind.