In 1968, Bob Dylan was living in Woodstock, New York, where he recently relocated to public scrutiny, focusing on his new family and eventually recording a shit-ton of world-historic music with the band. Dylan relishing his new bucolic life, as author Barney Hoskyns writes in Small Town Talk his 2017 history of the Woodstock scene. "He even expressed support for George Wallace, the pro-segregation is governor of Alabama."
The idea of the man who wrote "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" , Dylan being Dylan, tweaking his friends and signaling his disdain for his role as spokesman for the sixties left. In 1968, Dylan knew his self-conscious bullshitting would not make it much more than his dinner table. Fifty years later, Kanye West's dinner table is as big as his number of Twitter followers – and the wall between sincerity and irony, lazy contrarianism and genuinely unhinged belief, has essentially collapsed into a child of dada hate speech.
Sure, there have been right-leaning rockers before. But the child of raw hurt West has delivered new, delivered with a blithe, vengeful narcissism that makes Morrissey look well-intentioned and levelheaded. It's hard to think of another artist at the top of his career who has alienated so many people so quickly for political reasons. To a generation of hip-hop fans, it's a seismic, even quasi-Oedipal betrayal – record-burning time, a moment where the only thing holding back is an anti-Kanye Twitter invective that might inadvertently offend the mentally ill
But we probably did not shock that pop's preeminent narcissist would be down with our infant emperor. Trumpian – charging through his olympic ascendance in a swirl of arrogance and ambition, giving his songs fashy win-at-all-costs titles like " Power "and" Stronger, "ripping an award out of the hands of a woman because that's what they say," Doing a Fear "is a mile a minute, weaponizing chaos and scandal.
During their rise, both also thrived on bulldozing institutions. The stunned look on Mike Meyer's face when Kanye interrupted a nationally televised charity event to tell us "George Bush does not care about black people" is not that different from the deer-in-the-headlights glaze that beset Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio in the early Republican debates when Trump showed up to ruin their careers by sucking up all their oxygen with his unscripted fulminations. Their creative processes are not dissimilar either. Kanye releasing The Life of Pablo then claiming it's the brilliant hip hop opus of the way the trump White House does everything – every Fox and Friends appearance or policy decision or misspelled press release. It's all a trainwreck to be re-railed later. We're living in the Pablo Presidency.
Sadly, the darkest connection between the two is political. Trump Brand racism was unique – a mix of warmed-over Wallace-ite's "law and order" whistles set against the backdrop of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim xenophobia. When he / she did a half-hearted gesture towards the African-American community, he offered a nihilist olive branch ("What have you got to lose?"), Playing on his outsider status and attending an understanding of systemic practice at the hands of Democratic and Republican politicians alike. West echoed that sentiment during his Tweetstorm when he said, "Obama changed to office in Chicago for eight years and nothing." That sense of cynicism may have been a depressing African-American turnout on Election Day 2016, helping put Trump into the White House.
West visited Trump Tower during the presidential transition, another convulsion of Crazy Kanye that most people tried to blow off as one more bizarre moment of vertigo in our Trump process. A year and a half into his presidency, we still have not really acclimated, which for Kanye is no doubt another one – Yeezus Kanye calls "dragon energy," maybe because Tiger Blood was already taken.
Ultimately, how much you feel about Kanye is how you every time you make a woody Allen movie on TCM. Along with having incredibly shitty key in hats, Kanye is also the engine of a massive amount of amazing music full of raw beauty and exhilarating contradictions. It's music that until this deal-breaking week most of us could still listen to with revelation and enjoyment. Do not let the jerkoff who made it ruin it for you.