The 'Donda' hype proves Kanye can never truly be canceled
No human is smarter than their subconscious, and memories shape our reality more than we ever notice. Kanye West has objectively said some of the most historically ignorant and ethically reprehensible statements of the last three years since he had the epiphany of slavey being a choice. Last night, when he packed out a Mercedes-Benz Stadium designed to fit football game-sized crowds to listen to an album that many had accepted was probably unfinished, it was clear the last three years could never outweigh the 15-plus years of memories people had of West prior.
On one hand the DONDA album listening event in Atlanta, Georgia was a mesmerizing art installation of a man dressed in devilish red, fighting his demons across an angelic white, barren stadium tarp while pledging fidelity to the Lord above and receiving guidance from the most influential person in his life: his mother. Kanye obscuring his face with a mask yet performing in the spotlight can be a salient commentary on him finally using his celebrity shine to focus people's attention on the content of the message more than the man. On another hand, it's a maximalist rapper flex where an MC has so much influence he can sell out a sports arena full of people there just to see him walk around and play music on big speakers. These are both very logical assumptions emboldened by the artistic and arrogant personalities Kanye has established. They're also intentionally incomplete.
Here's what also happened: Kanye West reportedly sold tickets for between $20 and $100 to tens of thousands of people for them to pack an arena for an event that opened doors at 6pm, didn't start until close to 10pm, and ended before 11. The stadium speakers, designed to stir up the adrenaline-thirsty sports fans more than provide clear lyrics for an album listening, made the lyrics for those in attendance largely undecipherable. That left fans to feast on the morsels of words they could hear such as Jay-Z's show-stealing lyrical chat with West's mother, where he pledged to her that he "told him stop all of that red cap, we goin’ home." Oh, and then there's the fact an hour after the event was over, there was no Kanye album to be heard; the following morning, reps for the iconoclastic artist didn't respond to the New York Times's simple request of when the album is actually coming out.
Many gleefully didn't care he once claimed slavery was a choice three years ago, believed Democrats "brainwashed" Black Americans two years ago, professed Harriett Tubman "never freed the slaves" last year, and had tens of thousands of people packed in a stadium with no COVID-19 restrictions in place in a state where COVID cases were rising the week of the event. That's because as long as Kanye creates a spectacle, he's the old Kanye people always loved. Saying the President of the United States doesn't care about Black people on live television is fundamentally not much different from saying a political party has brainwashed those same Black people. Neither is throwing an album listening party/fashion show hybrid in Madison Square Garden four years before the COVID-19 pandemic and doing a similar event during the pandemic. Kanye has escaped any tangible cancellation because the Kanye people remember isn't that far off from the Kanye we see today.
After West was seen donning a Make America Great Again Hat and buddying up to Trump on social media in late April 2018, artist and super Kanye West fan Chance the Rapper refuted any claims West's actions were due to mental health issues by tweeting "same ye from the VMAs, same Ye from the telethon," referencing both his interruption of Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards and his famous "George Bush doesn't care about Black people" comment from 2005. Kim Kardashian West defended his alignment with a white supremacist president under the same "free thinker" excuse racists use to give discriminatory ways of thinking equal standing with less harmful and more inclusive ideas. Even West himself believes his past makes him immune to any sort of cancellation, telling radio station REAL 92.3 LA in October 2019, “I’ve been canceled before they had cancel culture. I was canceled before they had the term.”
A cursory glance through social media will shows swarms of people praising a glorified 40-minute distorted aux cord session for the scope of its ambition. People marvel more at what Kanye does rather than who West is because he's been a backpacker, alternative rock-rapper, a producer, and now a "Christian everything." But, the one constant in him is a show of the boundlessness of creativity. He even made not getting an album on time part of his "genius," by routinely delaying projects to make largely inconsequential changes, even when the product is sub-par.
As long as West never stops being boring, he'll never be cancelled.