Yesterday, Kanye West gave a rather winding speech, but the manner in which he delivered it makes me believe that he’s still serious about running for President in 2020.
For the man who couldn’t be told nothing, Kanye West has told us something. Last year, Yeezy famously purported that he would be running for the US Presidency in 2020. We all scoffed at the time, and there has been little mention of it in the twelve months since. But during his winding, misdirected speech at yesterday’s VMA awards, a reiterated fact was – implicitly – shoehorned into truth: Kanye West is serious, and he’s been sampling the beat of one Barack Obama. While we may focus on the many things he said in the speech, the takeaway point should be such.
As it stands, the two are inextricably linked, a sort of mirrored image of each other. As Obama is becoming more of an entertainer, Kanye is becoming more a politician. The evidence to the latter lies in Kanye’s VMA speech. Straddling the stage dressed in papal white, his speech meandered from crowd-pleasing ribaldry (having his ex, and his current wife in the same bed for Famous), to a blank-faced matter of fact assessment of the gun violence that claimed 22 lives in Chicago. When that comment fell flat, he turned back to the populist route, claiming that he loved Taylor Swift, and that’s why he called her, thereby giving the audience yet another informational tidbit they ostensibly paid the admission hoping to see.
This pursuit of keeping the woo’s interspersed with the ooh’s struck me in the downstairs department as being very familiar. I felt a sense of having been there before, and, in fact, I had. Back in January, I foolishly witnessed the awkward vocalised orgasm that made up Obama’s final State of the Union address. For those that missed it, the format was this: Obama dropped crowd-pleasing rhetoric, briefly interspersed with muted moments of serious reflection, finishing on a high with yet more high-spirited crowd-centred ribaldry.
Sound familiar? Yesterday, Kanye followed that format, to a white tee:
The defeat of ISIS became the gun violence in Chicago, the strong economy became the success of Kanye’s name, and the ambitious defeat of cancer was within our grasp, only held back by the establishment was Kanye’s assertion that the Taylor Swift fiasco was a microcosm of the entertainment landscape of 2016; it didn’t have to be that way, change is ours if we wanted it. Christ – I mean, Yeezus – it even starred Kim Kardashian as Joe Biden:
The strange thing about both speeches, was that I was moved, and reviled at the same time. I believed one sentence, but not the one that followed it. When change flicked over in the cold eyes of Yeezus, and his voice was uncertain, throat inflamed, akin to a father of the bride who decided to wing his speech but was now overcome by the breadth of the moment, I believed him – and he didn’t even say anything.
The case can be made that the VMA crowd is not the congress, sure, but if the orange trail blazed by Trump’s GOP nomination has proved anything, a sheep in a tie, is still a sheep, and they still, above all, desire to be led – even if it’s to the truck marked “Glue factory”.
It’d be easy to blame Trump ’16 for West ’20, and blame we might as we witness Kanye climb the top step of the podium one stormy afternoon in three years time. But that ire would be misdirected, as Kanye’s political swerve long pre-dates the rise of the toupéed one:
However, much like great politicians, linked by time, he possesses the ability to apologise to his foe, without betraying his original station (policy). As evidenced below: Kanye apologised for how he said, not what he said.
Which is standardised politico doublespeak. So, blame not the Tangerine Fiend; his re-imagining of the US political system was not the lightning bolt that animated the political corpse of Kanye West. If blame is to be attached, staple it to the aura of Obama. It’s easy to see. Kanye once spoke his message through his music. In 2007’s Everything I Am he planted the message, “Last year Chicago had six-hundred caskets”, a message awkwardly tacked as an afterthought, as the track is actually about his rise as a musician. Flash forward to 2016, and the same views stand – free of the bars. His voice loud, and his expressions refined, as the self-aware, self-educated Kanye, his scattered activist beam finally focused, subtly begins his run in the shadow of Obama’s example.
Kanye finding his outspoken self, fits nicely within the timeline of the Obama administration, 2008-present.
After all, he’s gone from this:
Power to the people. Power to the artist. Empower the artist and create a more inspired world.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) August 23, 2016
I have discovered my single greatest quality. I care.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) March 13, 2016
As for what his potential run might look like, who knows. He holds a similar political appeal to Donald Trump: a self-made outsider. But Kanye is something else. The man knows self-promotion, has an unwavering base of support, and most importantly, understands how to market his message as entertainment. As the great political analyst Hunter Thompson once said, “Politics is the art of controlling your environment”.
Considering that, when Obama drops the mic, Kanye might be the one to pick it off the floor.