I was in middle school when I was first introduced to your music. Listening on the radio, I heard “Through the Wire” for the first time and I just remember the line where you said “I looked like Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky.” I hadn’t seen the movie, I didn’t know who you were or what you looked like or why you looked like Tom Cruise, but I had heard OF that movie and that line for whatever reason stuck with me.
Fast forward a few days and I saw the music video for the first time. All the pictures flying by in the video and the clips of you in the studio and hanging out with DeRay Davis I thought was cool. But the main takeaway came later at school when rumors swirled that Diana Ross, who you sampled in the track, was your mother. Of course, we know now that wasn’t true -- all respect to Ms. Donda West and rest in peace queen.
Then I heard ‘Jesus Walks’ and the last 30 seconds of that song officially made me a fan. “So I can talk about drugs, sex, lies, video tape, but if I talk about God my record won’t get played? So if this takes away from my spins, which will probably take away from my ends, then I hope it take away from my sins and bring the day that I’m dreaming ‘bout. Next time I’m in the club everybody screaming out… (insert hook). Those bars sent chills throughout my body and they still do.
I was young, so buying CDs wasn’t happening for me and nobody wants the clean version lets be real. So it wasn’t until your third album, when I was in High School that I listened to my first full Kanye album. It was 2007 and my whole sophomore class was talking about your release date. It was Team Kanye vs Team 50 Cent. I remember vividly the rivalry, which later I realized was just great marketing, between the two MC’s who dominated my childhood (I was in fifth grade requesting ‘Wanksta’ at the school dance LOL). The day before the release, 106 & Park’s number one song was a tie between your song ‘Can’t tell me Nothing’ and 50’s ‘I Get Money’ which only skyrocketed the debate of who would win first week sales.
I went as far as betting on of my classmates that you would win, and you did. I don’t remember the first week numbers nor do I think it’s worth a google, but you dominated the first week and ultimately symbolically ushering in a new era where rappers didn’t have to be thugs to get on.
‘Flashing Lights’, ‘Homecoming’, ‘Big Brother’, ‘Barry Bonds’ – hit after hit after hit. The whole album slapped. I remember my step-brother had the whole album on our Xbox and I’d get up early Saturday to play Madden and ‘Graduation’ until I got kicked off the system for the day. With my love for that album, I started looking back at your catalog. I knew all the old singles, ‘Through the Wire’, ‘Jesus Walks’ ‘Diamonds’ ‘Golddigger’ but I had never listened to your whole album. But it wasn’t until after 808’s & Heartbreak dropped that I actually purchased all your albums. 808’s was my first purchased Kanye album, then ‘College Dropout’ then ‘Late Registration’ then ‘Graduation’. Admittedly, I was reluctant to buy the early Kanye Albums because there were so many songs. It almost felt like homework by going back to hear your old material but that feeling didn’t last. I was actually surprised at how many songs I knew from both albums. I had heard ‘Two Words’ when you performed it with Mos Def and Freeway on Chappelle’s Show, I had downloaded ‘Breathe in Breathe Out’ on Limewire before but my step-dad shut that whole operation down for fear of the FBI, and that same story can be told for a few songs from ‘Late Registration.’
By my freshman year of college I was a Yeezy aficionado. I defended 808’s & Heartbreak when everyone said it was trash, I started wearing the Ice Cream shoes that reflected you and Pharrell’s style, I had the Kanye shades, the colorful clothes. Like you said in the song ‘I Love Kanye’ I thought I was Kanye. You weren’t the only artist I listened to though. Wiz Khalifa was scorching when I graduated high school, Drake’s So Far Gone was incredible, Wayne was doing numbers although I wasn’t that much of a fan, and Nicki Minaj was killing as well.
I was a little different in my music choices but I’ll only name one artist of the many I started listening to at that time, J. Cole. This guy from Fayetteville, North Carolina had bars many that went way over my head but I felt something when I listened to ‘The Warm Up’ I just didn’t understand it at the time. My one memory from ‘The Warm Up’ was how he bit your outro from ‘College Dropout’ how you both told the story of your journey to Jay-Z’s label which when you singed was Roc-A-Fella but for Cole it was Roc Nation.
But my freshman year of college I heard the best Kanye album to date, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.’ Nicki’s debut dropped the same day and I walked miles in Orangeburg, South Carolina to K-Mart just to pick up the albums with the very few dollars I had to spare. I was at my grandmothers house for Thanksgiving Break when I popped the disc into her alarm clock/cd player and on first listen I admit I wasn’t in love.
It wasn’t until I loaded the disc into my boy’s laptop (because I didn’t have one) back at school and added the CD to his itunes and added the album from his itunes onto my ipod and listened again with a good set of Sony headphones. Now I’m hearing the instrumentation, the adlibs, the panning, the lows the highs the things that hip-hop hadn’t been familiar with since A Tribe Called Quest. Yes the Nicki verse was fire. Yes, ‘Power’ slapped. But the complexities of the album the ‘All of the lights’ interlude, the minute and a half in between your verse on ‘Devil in a new Dress’ and Rick Ross’ it was all amazing. I’m no music scholar, I’ll admit that. But I know when I heard that album that this was no hip-hop album, this was something else.
To this day, I memorize every Kanye West bar ever cited on an album with a few exceptions from ‘Late Registration’ admittedly. I loved ‘Yeezus’, I cheered when you walked on stage with Taylor Swift, I supported your “George Bush” comments which no one Black doubted were true. I was genuinely happy for you when you married Kim Kardashian and pissed off when you got booed at the LA Dodgers game. The Source ran a story maybe 5 months ago about people uninvited from the cookout and when I saw your name I was confused.
I wached a video of a poet dragging your name through the mud because you married a “white girl” and I still think that’s BS. I’ve seen people try to tear you down and I was happy that you were happy and that’s because you made me happy with your music. You made me aware to a lot of things that otherwise I wouldn’t have known about. I was a young kid when you told me “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” and in 8th grade when I saw the depictions of all the Black “looters” in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina I spoke up in my science class. Mr. Hart looked at me like I was crazy for asking why all the “looters” are black. I learned about FEMA too, and what they do, but didn’t do, in Natural Disasters and I put that together. 90 percent of New Orleans is black, they’re getting no hope. George Bush doesn’t care about black people. I get it now.
You woke me up to how black men and women were and are treated in this country, and that being said, I am heartbroken.
It is hard for my to understand why you would support Donald Trump. The man you once claimed was ‘Taking dollars from y’all” is now your best friend? I heard that you are trying to re-purpose the ‘Make America Great Again” hat the same way we did with the N-word which is an extreme false equivalency. You attacked President Obama for not doing anything for Chicago which is a fair criticism. But what has your friend Donald done for your hometown? I understand you don’t read much so let me breakdown why you should NOT support Trump.
1. During the Campaign, Donald Trump said he would bring back stop and frisk in Chicago. Stop and frisk was ruled unlawful and a violation of rights after the NYPD patrolled minority neighborhoods stopping young black and brown men and women in the streets looking for weapons, finding in most cases nothing. Other cases, sometimes they may have had a now decriminalized amount of weed. Is this what you want in your city? Cops patrolling the southside stopping every young man that looks suspicious, scarring him for life and creating an even greater distrust of police?
2. You told George Bush he didn’t care about black people because of FEMA’s poor response to New Orleans. Have you seen what happened in Puerto Rico? Florida and Houston (Two states that voted for Trump) got crushed by hurricanes and the response was excellent. Puerto Rico got hit by Hurricane Maria and Trump went to the island for a photo op weeks later and tossed paper towels at Puerto Ricans like he was Steph Curry. The island today is still largely without electricity and Trump has called it a job well done. Where’s your outrage Ye?
3. Just the other day Donald Trump gave a speech to the NRA to defend the 2nd amendment. We saw you at the March for Our Lives, Kanye. Donald Trump does not care about the lives of those children who died in Parkland. You do. How can you support a man who is clearly emotionless when it comes to the death of children? You called Emma Gonzalez your hero on Twitter, but how can that be?
I could run off a few more examples like his response to Charlottesville, his Haiti comments, and his Jay-Z diss on Twitter but I just want to get to this point. By supporting Trump as a friend, you’re supporting his policies. Millions and millions of people take your word as the gospel. I have one friend who is now hashtagging MAGA on Instagram not because he knows what’s going on but because you wore the hat. I am not one for blindly following someone but as someone with that type of power wouldn’t you want to turn it into something good?
Supporting a racist is one thing, but then you made things worse saying and then later defending that slavery was a choice. What the hell is wrong with you? You told us that your grandfather and your mother got arrested for the sit ins and with that in your blood you were bred to be different. Do you think your grandfather would be happy with your thoughts on slavery?
To continue the previous verse, you said “Niggas can’t make it to ballots to choose leadership, but we can make it to Jacob’s and to the Dealership.” But in 2016 you didn’t even vote! In 2018, you’ve become everything that you “Couldn’t feel” in 2004.
I agree with you when you said that no one man should have all that power, but unfortunately you do and you used to use it for good. The Kanye West that inspired me to focus on social issues related to Black and Brown people is now the elitist that he used to despise. This new Kanye could never make ‘Roses’ or ‘Spaceship’. This new Kanye just adopted the ignorance I dislike with the newer artists. Kanye West has become the Young Thug who ignores questions about social issues to show off his chain, the Desiigner who doesn’t know who Jeff Sessions is.
Now, J. Cole has become what you let go and much more. Cole made his statement on 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Now he’s using his platform to highlight other issues like on his new album ‘KOD’ that addresses our cultures favorite vices, the same vices that affected you, Kanye – opioid addiction. J. Cole is putting a spotlight on the problems black men and women go through, drug use, infidelity, lost loved ones, heartbreak the need for therapy or meditation etc and his voice has now become the best representation for us since you’ve dedicated your life to the Sunken Place. I know you spoke to Cole recently and I just hope he got through to you.
I end this letter saying that despite my disappointment I am still a fan of yours. Your music defined my generation and that’s not something you can just let go of. I’ll even continue to listen but I can’t say that I’m excited to hear what you have to say next month on your 7 track EP. My only request is that you listen to the fans like me who are perplexed and hurt by your decision to support a, to quote his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, “moron.” Then I want you to listen to the people who are directly affected by Trump. Muslims, gays, transgenders, poor blacks, rich blacks, women, environment advocates, Jews, Latinos. Every group that isn’t rich and white and male!
You made the song with T.I. called Ye Vs the people but T.I. is not the people nor can he represent the millions of people you hurt. Your support for a white supremacist only adds fuel to his fire. You’re another pawn that he can use to pander to Black while setting in place policy to make their lives worse.
Do some research before you publicize your support for a jackass like Donald Trump. Thank you, Kanye.