The Sound is a column on all things music written by Charles Park (’20) and Mark Park (’20). -Ed.
Whether or not if you’ve been following the news or music, most people know that Kanye West is one of the most controversial entertainment figures today. The past years have been a rough road for his fans, shocking them from his advocacy for Trump, from problematic tweets, and from the defense of problematic artists. Despite his sincere and apologetic reflection addressed in his latest album, “ye,” and the address of his unstable mental health, all is not forgiven. He still faces criticism from the majority, finding himself as the most polarizing artist last year.
From the absurd comments such as “Slavery is a choice,” and “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” Kanye lost everything: he jeopardized his marriage with Kim Kardashian, lost one of his closest friend, Don C, and, most importantly, disheartened all of his fans. In an interview with 107.5 WGCI Chicago, Kanye West breaks down into tears on his so-called “downfall” and struggles with his mental health issues. He wholeheartedly apologizes to everyone for his comments, insinuating that his struggles with mental illness drove him to this problematic state. This became a tearful moment for many, prompting people to assume that this was the turning point: a redemption for Kanye West.
West started his redemption in the later half of 2018. His latest album, “ye,” truly reveals his raw emotions and insecurities in this whole tumult. Unveiling the rationales of his questionable beliefs-his unstable mental health-Kanye tries his best to reach out to those who were damaged from his comments. Kim Kardashian also tried to control the damage by referring his tweets as a form of “therapy” for his mental illness-schizophrenia. As an ultimate apology, he tweets, “My eyes are now wide open and now realize I’ve been used to spread messages I don’t believe in. I am distancing myself from politics and completely focusing on being creative !!!” The sole belief of Kanye distancing himself from Trump and political opinion sounds ridiculous; however, it did sound plausible as he was working on his new album. This promise still satisfied what everyone wanted: enjoying his music without any hatred against his words. So, fans started to hope that the “old Kanye” would return in 2019, redeeming himself as one of the legendary rap-stars in the 2000s.
Unfortunately, his promise broke this year, unable to contain that “dragon energy” he kept during his album workshop. In January, West posted his first tweet: “One of my favorite of many things about what the Trump hat represents to me is that people can’t tell me what to do because I’m black.” This, again, devastated his fans, failing all anticipation that everyone has hoped from his real self. Kanye, blind to the world that Trump envisions, continued to ignore the voices from the community that he once supported.
The only thing that we could really hope for is West to redeem himself in 2019 as there are plenty of opportunities. For instance, the new album, “Yandhi” is a sequel to his past albums, suggesting he maybe could go back to his past self. Furthermore, he plans to have “Sunday Services,” wherein he hosts religiously themed concerts by adding gospel vibes to his songs. Although this news shines no definite light on his comeback efforts, these suggest positive things that we could hope for.
Throughout his whole career, Kanye always was put in the spotlight with either quality music or unexpected behaviors. So, the ultimate question is whether we separate the artist from his or her work. Personally, I do enjoy listening to some songs produced by controversial artists as my playlist are filled with them such as XXXTentacion, Kanye West, Famous Dex, Chris Brown, and more; however, it is a guilty pleasure. I do acknowledge the wrong in supporting these controversial artists. Others outright dismiss their music, condemn them in social media, and more. It’s a difficult question to be had.
Almost everyone has a song or two by Kanye West, Chris Brown, Dr.Dre, or even David Bowie in their playlist. So here is a slightly different perspective. Perhaps, actions that we take for our ethical concerns are not the best for us. Rather, the incomplete rectitude and guilty enjoyment to their music help us better understand the complicated world we live in and lets us become more self-aware. Ultimately, whether we like it or not, these artists will always pop up in the “recommended” lists for our playlists, and it is up to us on how we take responsibility. A song or two from these artists in our playlists would not change their whole career, but we should still condemn these artists for their outrageous behaviors but while giving them a second chance at the same time.
– Mark Park ‘20
Featured Image: USA Today