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Martinez: Coming to terms with Kanye’s tweets

Marissa Martinez, Assistant Opinion Editor

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Kanye West is back on Twitter. In typical Kanye fashion, West started posting sporadic self-help messages last week — advice about individuality, power hierarchies and original ideas. After deactivating his Twitter last May, West returned to the platform in full swing, much to the delight of his 16 million followers, who retweeted and favorited his knowledge bombs by the thousands.

I was amused by all this “good-kind-of-weird” Twitter activity and was especially excited at hinted prospects of another album. I still maintain that West is one of the most innovative producers and singers of this rap generation, and I looked forward to this new music.

But my happiness in anticipation of another step in the West era flatlined when I opened Twitter a few days later, seeing reactions after the rapper posted, “I love the way Candace Owens thinks.” While this is not a wholly bad thing in itself, West’s open support for Owens — a black, conservative YouTuber — marked a quick descent into more controversial tweets.

Most recently, West posted a video of Scott Adams, the pro-Trump men’s rights activist creator of the Dilbert comics. The two men discussed how West’s tweets were liberating the public from “mental prisons.” West’s alignment with these Trump supporters isn’t new — he posed for a picture with Trump himself during the then-candidate’s 2016 presidential campaign. I remember feeling uneasy after seeing the photo, which felt like a departure from the values he had professed in his speeches and music.

Thanks to my father, I grew up on West’s first three albums. To me, they symbolized everything from growing up black in Chicago to supporting your family to admitting your mistakes. Whenever I blast his old songs, I become engrossed in his albums’ stories and emotions — these tracks have gotten me through good times and bad ones. I even have a framed cover of West’s first album, “The College Dropout,” on my desk as a reminder of the feelings his music evoke.

To see this 180-degree change from the loud and proud man who claimed, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” on national TV after Hurricane Katrina, who deeply honored his family like I do, who changed the rap genre numerous times — was disheartening, but not ultimately surprising.

West has always reveled in being a spectacle. From his outlandish comments during interviews to his boastful self-confidence, he has pushed himself to the center of the spotlight time and time again. Everything he does is planned to be shocking. I used to categorize this as his way of developing his own narrative of what it meant to be a black man in America, and I appreciated his thoughts as a part of his personal brand — his behavior would always elicit a sort of endearing, “Oh, Kanye,” said with a smile and sigh.

More than ever, these recent tweets and glimpses into West’s mind raise the question: Can you separate the artist from the art? At first, many people might say, “No.” If this is who West publicly is now — controversial, flirting with the far right — maybe this is who he always was, which would mean his music stemmed from those views all along. I certainly would have seen his songs and messages differently if he was praised by members of the alt-right like Alex Jones while he was still an emerging artist.

At the same time, I can’t give up the feeling of freedom and power I felt listening to his music. I can’t change all the positivity he brought into my life. He was a person who refused to fit into any mold society threw at him, and it worked. His celebrity inspired me.

Whether these tweets are really indicative of his core values or simply part of yet another publicity stunt, West has yet again placed himself outside “the norm.” Fans now have to decide if they want to follow him there.

Marissa Martinez is a Medill freshman. She can be contacted at marissamartinez2021@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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