Kanye West is now known more for his rants than his hits.
There was the debut rant, the electrifying and damning “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” There was the “I’ma let you finish” rant, which, in hindsight, reads as commentary on issues that would soon arise for the Oscars and Grammys (personally, I thought Kanye’s post-Grammy rant wasn’t one of his best; it’s the Ye of his diatribes). And who could forget “How Sway!?“, which, in sheer entertainment value, is probably his masterpiece.
Today, fans of West’s polemics got a special treat: A rant directly from the Oval Office of the White House. Truly, this was a Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Immediate commentary on CNN labeled his rant “sad.” No doubt that was the sentiment shared by fans who felt betrayed at Kanye’s support for Trump; the literally loving embrace with the Facist in Chief was likely their last straw (or even more likely, past the last straw). But for all the fair criticism directed at the meeting — at one point, Trump actually brags that this was the most important thing on his agenda the day after a hurricane wiped out whole swaths of the Florida panhandle– there seems to be little attention focused on one very important fact: Kanye might actually be manipulating Trump into doing some really good things.
Take Ye’s answer when asked by a reporter what they would be discussing: “We feel that stop-and-frisk does not help the relationships in the city….That’s the number one thing we’re having this conversation about.” Earlier this week, Trump advocated for the controversial police policy, which was ruled unconstitutional and may not even work to curb crime. As an autocrat with despotic tendencies, of course Trump loves it. So if Kanye can change his mind on this topic (and Trump repeatedly suggested he’s “open-minded” on the issue), isn’t that a win for those of us who believe in better police practices?
Furthermore, Kanye said that they would be discussing using tax breaks to bring manufacturing businesses back to the Chicago area. To be fair, this wasn’t one of his better moments of lucidity (West quickly digressed into gobbledygook about “Yeezy Ideation Centers”) but again, as a specific policy goal, it’s a potential solution to a crime problem begotten in large part due to the lack of stable, well-paying jobs.
I can’t sit here and pretend that there wasn’t something deeply embarrassing about much of the spectacle (in the full video from Huffington Post, Kanye starts off by talking about the multiverse and alternate realities and it speaks volumes this wasn’t even one of the three most cringey moments). However, embarrassment is just a given with Trump; it’s the baseline pulse, the frame of the house. For Kanye, this is also the new normal; whether he’s rocking a custom MAGA hat or dressing up as a giant beverage, Kanye has cashed in his fucks for a post-shame mentality.
Anyone who has watched Trump or Kanye speak extemporaneously for more than 5 minutes knew this was going to be an embarrassing conference. But that’s not to say it can’t be constructive, too. Quieted amidst the outrage at Kanye’s ass-kissing is the fact the rapper’s wife, Kim Kardashian, got Trump to grant clemency to a woman spending life in prison over a first time drug charge. This act is one of the few things to celebrate about the Trump presidency thus far. If Kanye can play Rasputin to Trump on issues like prison and police reform, the end would undoubtedly justify the means.
Yet based on comments made by Don Lemon and others, it appears there are far too many people who would put their spiteful feelings about Trump over any tangible policy victory, even (or perhaps especially) if it’s in service of typically leftist causes like criminal justice reform. No matter that Kanye and his family have already proven they can steer Trump toward using his power for something objectively good; hate for Trump has so poisoned their thinking, Kanye’s mental illness is seen as the only viable justification for his political opinions.
As demonstrated by Lemon and his panel, there has been a lot of laughter and snark around this meeting. Reporters cracked up when Kanye told the room, “I don’t answer questions in simple sound bites. You are tasting fine wine, it has multiple notes to it. You better play 4D chess with me like it’s Minority Report.” And it was a hilarious line; in terms of Kanye-isms, it was an instant classic. But here’s the thing: If Kanye West’s pontificating can help fix the broken criminal justice system or get Trump to set another wrongfully imprisoned person free, the joke will be on Kanye’s detractors.