Well, what are we going to do with Yi now?
The artist formerly known as Kanye West is one of music’s fiercest talents, and he’s one of the few artists currently working who the New York Times would likely call a genius like him. His cultural dominance isn’t just music: he’s spent the past decade as a fashion influencer par excellence, turning his monochromatic tracksuits and Yeezys into the default outfit for hippies everywhere. You are very, very good at what he does. And it’s been making it really hard lately to call yourself a fan.
there was Last week’s outburst of anti-Semitism and racismwhich culminated in You are condemned by the Anti-Defamation League. he was there Interview with Torture Tucker Carlsonand the Disturbing excerpts from Tucker Carlson’s interview. Then before that: Violent threats to Pete DavidsonThe The creepy possession of Kim Kardashian Because she shot him. time said Slavery was a choice. The Trump things. The White life matters T-shirt. Jesus, “White Lives Matter” T-shirt.
Since the Me Too movement exploded in 2017, the big question that haunts pop culture has been, “An artist I loved did something horrible. So what now?” Yee, no one ever does things in half, they have fully embraced a number of terrible ideologies. He uses his platform to promote it. So – what now?
How can we relate Yi’s increasingly worrisome public behavior to his formidable artistic legacy? What are the responsibilities of those who work with him and share the profits of his talent? And what are our responsibilities as an audience to a talented artist who is actively using his massive platform to steer his influential young audience toward hateful conspiracy theories?
issue Whether we can or should separate art from artist It is old and thorny. Over the past few years, we’ve discussed how warm nostalgia we feel for Cosby Show She could feel less comfortable in the wake of Bill Cosby’s rape conviction; How narcissistic self-sikh Louie It could feel less disruptive after Louis CK admitted to masturbating in front of unwilling women. Even when the artwork still feels lively and accomplished despite the artist’s misdeeds, we may nevertheless choose to withhold our funds and support from the artist in question – fan Annie Hallfor example, but choose not to watch it and send royalties to Woody Allen.
Case Ye sour this water. Unlike CK or Cosby, Ye has not been accused of any physical transgressions. His bad deeds are less personal, and more abstract: using his massive platform and influence to breed hate speech and racist conspiracy theories, to act irresponsibly and ignorantly in politics, to harass his ex-wife in public, to threaten her boyfriend. It might be easy to sigh and dismiss the whole thing as Kanye is Kanye, to pull Obama and describe him as Donkey He went on to play “Gold Digger” in an episode.
You also tend to take advantage of what we might call a genius loophole. You are considered a musical genius, and common wisdom says so Geniuses act choppy. So fans tend to be willing to look the other way when he’s acting, seeing it as a price to do business when you’re dealing with a genius. The fact that few other stars of Kanye’s caliber act exactly the way he does (imagine Beyoncé posting hate speech on Instagram!) somehow became more evidence of how special he is, rather than a sign that he’s perfect. It’s possible to be a genius without misbehaving so much that people like me are tasked with writing thought articles about the bad things you’ve done.
Your seemingly declining mental health makes it uncomfortable to talk about his erratic behavior. Ye has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and although he said he sometimes doesn’t take his medication, he also made it clear that “cheap and dismissive“To say he’s off his gun every time he does something controversial. Still, especially after Public account about making fun of Britney Spears During the downturn in 2007, there was a vague sense that perhaps it would be unfair to condemn a public figure in the midst of psychological distress, that doing so would somehow be to kick him while he was frustrated.
However, this attitude is offensive to all people with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses who don’t spend their days in long anti-Semitic rants (to be clear, most of them). Being bipolar can make a person paranoid and prone to conspiratorial thinking, but it does not make a person intolerant. It is possible, indeed better, to separate Yi’s fanaticism from his mental health issues when talking about his recent outbursts.
What if we tried to separate Fen Yi from his misconduct? What if we said we’d put Yi and his fanaticism aside and focus only on the music he gave the world? This is a position many of his fans already feel comfortable with. I’ve been so publicly obscene for so long that a lot of people used to hate them Hey man and focus all their attention on Yi the musician or Yi the fashion icon. Choosing to denounce Yi’s hate speech and continue to appreciate his music may not be much different than saying was wrong for Storming the stage at the VMAs But knowing that you’re still going to buy his next album.
That a division exists between the artist and his art is also the position of two of the great literary schools of the twentieth century: the new critics of the 1930s, who held that for a scholarly evaluation a work of art must be able to stand alone outside of history; and the postmodernists of the 1960s, who famously argued this The writer is dead. A Ye fan who follows one of these schools of thought may decide that “Runaway” was a gift from Ye to the culture and that he can no longer dictate or even influence how they view it.
Judging from Ye’s constant omnipresence, this is the path that quite a few of his fans choose to follow. You are still played in the clubs, by the biggest DJs in the world, on the radio, in the gym.
For other listeners, this may be a case where it is difficult to separate art from artist Because Ye has always put his huge arrogant personality at the center of his music. Oftentimes, the results can be fantastic: The selfishness displayed in his brutal one-sided feud with Kim turns hilarious and funny with words like “I’m a god, hurry up with the croissants. But when Yi tried to build music around his support for Trump, the result was,O against the peopleBoring and meandering, Song’s mantra was filled with empty, half-baked arguments about how Yi would turn a MAGA hat into a symbol of sympathy by simply putting it on. Tom Brihan wrote in Stereogum. “The West is just rap in circles.”
Good or bad art, a lot of critical schools will tell you that thinking about the artist is part of interpreting a work of art. More importantly, the new historians who emerged in the 1990s argued that all artwork was an integral part of the time and place in which they were created. This could mean, in this case, that you’ve decided that understanding “runaway” means understanding Yi and all his fanaticism as well—and you may decide that you don’t want any part of either.
This is a personal decision. No one else can decide for you how you feel about the art that matters to you and the person who made it. These questions are subjective.
There are two problems with this whole mess, though, that seem rather obvious to me. One is that Ye is actively using his platform to spread hateful and dangerous propaganda to his millions of fans. Before Instagram restricted his account over the weekend, You had 18.1 million followers there, and 31.4 million users on Twitter before his account went into “read-only” mode. Any support from Ye that might strengthen that platform is, in this context, irresponsible at best.
Second It is an issue of money. When you play Ye’s music, you send him the copyright. So one very simple step you might take is to think about how much of your money you want to give Ye. His collaborators seem to be thinking along these lines already.
Yi’s relations with fellow musicians are chronically strained, sometimes but not always for political reasons. While Looks like he’s reconciled with mentor Jay-Z And the Drake’s stepdaughter After a long and public break, says singer John Legend, who was signed by you and produced by She broke up with him after Legend didn’t support his candidacy for president. (Disclosure: Legend is on the Vox Media board of directors.) “It is strange how all these “free and independent thinkers” always land in the same anti-blackness and anti-Semitism,” The legend tweeted After Ye’s anti-Semitic outburst on Twitter this month. In 2018, competitor and collaborator Questlove It was performed in a T-shirt that says “Kane doesn’t care about black people.”
However, the bulk of Ye’s fortune comes from the clothing brand Yeezy, which he founded in collaboration with Adidas which Forbes estimates it to be worth $1.5 billion. Adidas has sided with Ye and their highly profitable partnership through past controversies, but the White Lives Matter T-shirt appears to have been a bridge too far. Days after Yi debuted the shirt at Paris Fashion Week, adidas announced that it will be Reviewing her business deal with Ye. JPMorgan Chase also recently He ended his relationship with his businessIt was revealed on Wednesday.
You may be a musical genius, and your relationship with his music is your business. He is certainly a fanatic, and this month, for the strength of his influence, his fanaticism was as inevitable as his music. So maybe the question isn’t what you should do about Kanye but what you should do about a fanatic. The answer is obvious: stay away.