Should we listen to new Kanye?
OPINION: Kanye’s crimes are somewhere in between R. Kelly’s and DaBaby’s. But where? If I listened to Kanye’s new album I would be thinking about Kanye saying slavery was a choice and Hitler had some good ideas.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
So it looks like there’s a new Kanye album coming out soon, a collab with singer Ty Dolla $ign. I absolutely, definitely will not listen to it because Kanye’s horrifying. The anti-semitism plus the Trumpism and the anti-Black comments plus the horrific behavior toward his children’s mother Kim Kardashian – it’s all too much. But, I mean, I dunno, maybe I’ll listen to it once because despite all of that, he’s still a really interesting artist. He’s musically brilliant, and the work he did on “Graduation”, “808s & Heartbreak” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” remains one of the greatest stretches of recording in hip-hop history.
I love the way Kanye can push the sonic boundaries of hip-hop and challenge us to think about what hip-hop can be. But, yeah, he’s been doing that less and less in recent years. His last three solo albums – “Ye,” “Jesus Is King” and “DONDA” were terrible. Kanye hasn’t made a great album in over a decade. When you’ve dropped three bricks in a row, it’s easy to skip your next album.
The likelihood of it being good seems low. The well is probably dry. But it’s Kanye. Something about him makes me think there’s a chance that he could somehow make something amazing. His greatest album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” came out of one of the most difficult moments in his life so…I don’t know what I’m gonna do.
It’s hard to know what to do when an artist transgresses. Do we need to erase their catalog or can people make mistakes and get another chance? Or can we consume their art critically and consciously, aware that we are offended or disgusted by their behavior yet also curious about what they have to say in their new project? Certainly, all of this depends on the offense and the response.
R. Kelly’s many crimes are so heinous that I think few people would admit to continuing to listen to his music. If he were still free, a new album from him would flop hard. I doubt any label would be willing to give him a shot. On the other end of the spectrum is DaBaby. His crimes are far lesser – a terrible homophobic rant in a public setting. When it’s just someone spouting harmful opinions, can we allow them the space to reflect and learn and come back? Or do we feel like we’ve learned who they really are so we must shun them forever? As a society we’re still working this out case by case.
Of course, any celebrity rehabilitation process would have to include some sort of apology and an explanation of how the person has learned and grown since transgressing. Kanye’s crimes are somewhere in between R. Kelly’s and DaBaby’s. But where? Kanye’s words were impactful – white supremacists began using “Kanye is right” as a slogan. He became a hero of sorts to the anti-semitic far right and emboldened them, so his words had an impact. And, as of this writing, there has been no real apology, no explanation, no sense that Kanye has grown and moved past being anti-semitic. And pro-Trump. And anti-Black.
If I listened to Kanye’s new album I would be thinking about Kanye saying slavery was a choice and Hitler had some good ideas. I would be distracted from his art by him. I could not get lost in a Kanye album and just focus on what he’s done creatively without seeing, in my mind’s eye, Kanye sitting there on Alex Jones. Kanye is in the way of me enjoying the Kanye album.
But – there’s always another but – I am so deeply curious about hip-hop in general and where it’s going next that I’m sure I will find myself unable to not listen. I am deeply invested in the overall story of hip-hop in a way that I am not invested in any other culture. It’s easier for me to reject R. Kelly than it is to shun Kanye’s music. I am so invested that I want to at least hear what this horrible person has done musically.
I can listen to it without celebrating it. I am curious, and I want to see what he’s done after going through another insanely difficult period in his life. I think I have to hear what this new album is before I reject it. But I can hold two ideas in my mind simultaneously. I can be angry with Kanye for his ideas and his actions while also exploring what he’s done.
I can’t imagine falling in love with new Kanye songs and blithely dancing to them, but I’m still curious about where this terrible person is musically because he’s one of the most interesting thinkers in a genre I care deeply about. So, I guess I will give his new album a chance. I’ll give it like one spin just to see what it is. I may respect it. I will strive to understand it, but given how Kanye has made me feel about Kanye, I probably won’t enjoy it. Too much has gone wrong for him to be forgiven. But…
Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at TheGrio.com/starstories. He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.
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The post Should we listen to new Kanye? appeared first on TheGrio.
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Should we listen to new Kanye?
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