I have defended Kanye West for my entire life. My need to defend him has spawned from what I consider an almost lifelong desire to make a connection between his music and my life. Before I get into the heart of what I’m about to say, I need to establish to you all, I am a real Kanye West fan. I am not a Kanye fan that jumped ship after 808’s & Heartbreaks because “it didn’t sound like College Dropout.” I do not romanticize Late Registration era Kanye while denying his personal right to creative exploration during Yeezus. I have always felt like I’ve grown with Ye’s music, each album describing a correlation with a time period in my own life. That brings me to now, days before the release of Swish, or Waves, or ???. This time, something is different. Kanye and I have been growing apart. This is something that I have been fighting for quite some time now, but Kanye’s latest rant has confirmed that Kanye and Wallace Mack do not have much in common anymore. By tomorrow, I will be okay with that.
BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!!!!
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 9, 2016
There is no doubt in my mind that Kanye’s next album is going to be great. Every last Kanye West stan fiber in my being is anticipating the hits that are about to occur. Here is the issue. I, a stable-minded and slightly reasonable man, can no longer make excuses for my estranged best friend. Last night, Kanye West exposed himself as the breed of man that my 22 year old self can no longer align with. Kanye exposed himself as an uninformed rape apologist.
As I say this, it is hard not to reflect back on better times between Mr. West and myself.
I was 12 years old when Late Registration dropped. 2005 was my first year as a 7th grader at the combined C. E. Murray Middle & High School in Greeleyville, South Carolina. In the middle of nowhere, with 500 students, you can imagine that my high school wasn’t the most progressive space on Earth. It was 2005, and I showed up for my first day of classes in a pink Izod polo and Sperry’s. It was 2005, and I was daring to be what I thought was “different” at my predominantly black and low-income high school. Needless to say, I was mercilessly ridiculed, but the taunting of dudes in Red Monkey jeans and tall tee’s meant nothing to me, because Kanye.
Everything about the great Kanye West was something that I wanted to embody. I’d become familiar with Mr. West the year prior from The College Dropout, but there’s something about that period of transition that makes Late Registration a standout period in my life. Late Registration was a period of transition for Kanye as well. It was 2005 and Kanye West stood before me on national television and declared that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.” This marked the beginning of my consciousness as a Black person in America. While his second studio album, Kanye was fighting back against stereotypical norms of Black masculinity at the time, and he was unapologetic about it. I wanted to be Kanye. “They say people in your life for seasons, and anything that happen is for a reason.”
I was in the 10th grade when my 18 year-old girlfriend broke up with me. It was a heartbreak that would go on to shape my feelings about relationships even until now. It was 2008. It was 2008 and 15 year old Wallace felt isolated, alone, and confused. It was in a period of my life where I didn’t know how to process all of the emotions that I was feeling, but simultaneously, society did not condone the expression of these feelings. It was the fall of 2008 and I was experiencing loss. It was the fall of 2008 and Donda West died. I could never know exactly what that meant for Kanye, but I wanted to relate. Vicariously, I channeled every single emotion I was feeling into my headphones and I let Kanye speak for me.
As a young, growing and developing Black man, Kanye made me feel like it was okay to feel, and I did. I changed the song on my Myspace profile to “Heartbreak” and let Kanye sing my pain. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy dropped in 2010 and it was the only language I needed to communicate. “Power” and “All of the Lights” were representative of a fresh era of creativity and hope in the Kanye West legacy, while both tracks spoke to my optimism- the promise of college. “Runaway” was a justification for my teenage “holier than thou” perceptions of those around me. “Blame Game” became the tune to all of the rest of my convoluted high school relationships, and “See Me Now” was a premature victory anthem. In my mind I had accomplished so much. I was about to be one of the kids that made it out of my hometown. It was 2010, and Kanye created a masterpiece.
The Yeezus era was the most trying on my journey a Kanye fan. So-called Kanye fans started falling off like flies in every direction. We, the tried and true, argued back and argued back hard. “It’s too futuristic for you! Kanye is ahead of the times! He always has been! You’ll see next year!” Kanye continued to talk his shit, and we backed him, screaming from the top our lungs that Kanye was no more arrogant than America’s favorite white assholes, even the less accomplished. We wanted so badly to defend Kanye’s right to freedom of expression as a Black man. Yeezus was accompanied by several different Kanye West rants, some legitimate, some not. I still never left his side.
It was early 2015 when I first started giving ‘Ye the side-eye. I tuned in to a Breakfast Club interview, looking for Yeezy fashioned inspiration, but was met with something very different. I watched from my iPad as Kanye gave his take on the Tyga and Kylie Jenner scandal. “I think that uh, I think [Tyga] got in early. I think he was smart,” Ye says. I am a senior at Clemson University at this time. I am in the midst of learning everything I can about #blacklivesmatter and I’m tuned into Feminsta Jones discussing #youoksis on Twitter. I am find myself in those awkward initial stages of becoming “woke.” These comments disturb me a little, but I let it ride. Instead of standing up and saying, “Wait, what?” I treat Kanye like some of my former homeboys. Homeboys who, at age 26-27, cruised around the freshman dorms at my university during college orientation preying on young and impressionable girls. They saw no issue here. I did not challenge them. I did not challenge Kanye.
The internal conflict that I face concerning Kanye West has been brewing since then. The random fits of unwarranted hysteria. The dichotomy of his views on “affordable fashion for all” versus the price tags on his Yeezy Season 1 and 2 collections. Or even his misogynistic obsession with Amber Rose. But last night, Kanye’s obtuse declaration of Bill Cosby’s innocence broke the last straw. After 12 years of friendship, a few hours ago, I dapped Kanye up for the last time.
In this moment, I can no more reverse my love of the Graduation album, anymore than I can undo my memories of Heathcliff Huxtable. But what I can do is acknowledge that Bill Cosby is not Heathcliff Huxtable, and that Kanye West is actually not a God free from fault. Taking no credit from the the hits he’s given us over the years, or even the hits to come, I can confidently say that Kanye West and I are no longer growing together. And that’s okay.
Kanye, from brother to brother, a few parting words:
“You can still be who you wish you is/It ain’t happen yet/And that’s what intuition is/When you hop back in the car/Drive back to the crib/Run back to their arms/The smokescreens/The chokes and the screams/You ever wonder what it all really means?”
Get in touch with Wallace Mack to discuss your thoughts on Kanye’s recent behavior and how it’s affected your feelings towards the man and the music.