People are complicated.
We like to put public figures into easy-to-categorize boxes: Barack Obama is a liberal ideologue. Ronald Reagan is a timeless conservative role model. Hillary Clinton belongs in prison.
Once you dig deeper, however, it turns out that people rarely fit into their assigned boxes, even though it would be convenient if they did.
Obama, nemesis of the right, is by all accounts a devoted husband and father, which is easy to forget. Reagan, far from being a bastion of perfection, was a divorcee, believed in astrology, and often supported gun control. Hillary Clinton… well, who are we kidding, she actually does belong in prison.
The point is that complex people cannot be so easily categorized and summarized. Everyone has depth, and that’s important to remember when an influential voice starts drawing attention.
Enter Kanye West, stage right. The 40-year-old rapper has once again seized the spotlight, after he began talking about conservative speaker Candace Owens and hinting that he might have boarded the Trump Train.
Conservatives — including the author of this piece — have voiced their cautious support for Kanye, based primarily on the hope that the black community has started to realize that liberalism is not their ally. There is another path, and it seemed surprising but interesting for Kanye West to stumble upon it.
Over the past weekend, however, one of the famous musician’s new singles was released. Why is this relevant? Well, the song is so laughably bad that it’s time to raise the possibility that we’re all being played for fools.
On April 29, “Lift Yourself” made its official appearance online. It has so far received over 1.5 million views — or should we say “listens” — on YouTube, but is one of the most radical musical departures for Kanye in his history.
Set primarily over a sped-up sample from an obscure 1973 Amnesty song, Kanye himself only appears briefly to drop some vocals… and they’re, shall we say, unconventional.
“Poopity-scoop / Scoopity-whoop / Whoopty scoopty poop.”
Yes, those are the actual “song” “lyrics” — both of those words need air quotes — for Kanye West’s new single. You can listen to it here, but even the musician’s most die-hard fans must admit that it’s bad. Laughingly bad. Jokingly bad.
And that leads us to the big question: Is Kanye West messing with us?
One need only look at his past behavior to realize that publicity stunts and taking the mickey out of society are his modus operandi. As much as conservatives want it to be true that a major entertainer has seen the light, there could be more going on than the right wants to admit.
Every figure is more complex and nuanced than we like to acknowledge, and Kanye West is arguably more complicated than most. Sometimes a musical genius and often a self-centered iconoclast, Kanye’s entire message recently has been to stop putting people into boxes.
Conservatives including the president are rushing to include Kanye in their box, but we’d be wise to take a wait-and-see approach. We can be optimistic and encouraging without tripping over ourselves to make him the face of the right. The truth is that Kanye is a wildcard.
Modern conservatism is a big tent, large enough to include everyone from openly gay Milo Yiannopoulos to pastor Mike Huckabee. There’s an open table for Kanye, too, right next to the DJ booth — but it would be nice to know he’s actually serious before we give him the entire stage.
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