Last week, Kanye West proclaimed to his 28.5 million Twitter followers that days later, he’d be dropping his new album, Yandhi, to coincide with his upcoming musical performance on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live.
Yeezus himself, on live TV, with a microphone, and loaded expectations. What could go wrong?
Thirty minutes into SNL, host Adam Driver introduced West, and within seconds, disappointment. Befuddlement. West and Lil’ Pump were dressed as different brands of bottled water – performing “I Love It,” a raunchy new single released a couple of weeks ago. The goofy smirks on their faces said it all: “We just havin’ fun. Oh, you wanted a Yandhi track? LOL.”
Two minutes later, a commercial break.
West’s next performance in the show was a taste of something untold and fresh, presumably a new song called “We Got Love.” The problem was Teyana Taylor had most of the mic time and never worried about convincing anyone she wasn’t lip-synching. When Kanye wasn’t on a verse, he kept a tightly-clinched jaw, glancing around, suggesting everyone recognize and revere this moment of import. Nothing about the song felt substantial, or worthy of a slot at any future tour stop.
Fans kept refreshing Spotify and Apple Music. Still no Yandhi.
Hope faded, then violently came back to life. Before the final credits rolled, Driver announced a rare third musical performance, and West took the stage with the SNL house band, Ty Dolla $ign, and Kid Cudi to perform “Ghost Town,” the anthemic centerpiece of this summer’s album ye. West was in all black, augmented with a #MAGA cap and electric smile, slinking all over the stage. When 070 Shake sang the song’s climax, West invited the SNL cast up on the stage as the credits rolled and the live feed went kaput.
Good times being had by all.
Pause. Let’s rewind to thirteen years ago, when West stood next to another former SNL cast member, Mike Myers. Addressing a national TV audience during a telethon for Hurricane Katrina victims, West deadpanned, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” In this moment, West transcended his status as a respected rapper and became a household name. He demanded to be a pariah or a prophet. Even if you didn’t know his music, you now knew his name.
Back to 2018. Love him or hate him, West is no idiot. He knows when everyone is paying attention, especially when people are staring at their phones expecting a new album at any moment. The live SNL feed had been cut, and it didn’t matter. West knew his words would find a place on a much more accessible, immediate, relevant format – Instagram stories.
With Driver and SNL writer/cast member Colin Jost standing behind West, an entirely different tone in the room had replaced the celebratory mood of “Ghost Town.” The instruments had dwindled to a church organ. With Reverend Kanye West presiding, a captive congregation endured his sermon. Driver crossed his arms, and Jost shoved his hands deep in his pockets while the gospel according to Kanye 3:16 unfurled. Ye was bullied by the SNL clique about his headwear. His red hat was equated to a Superman cape. He lambasted the liberal media, claiming it was 90% of the entire American propaganda machine. If he was that concerned over racism, he would have left the country years ago.
West then doubled down on all the support and praise he has heaped on president Donald Trump in the past two years: “But this man is a builder.” West then equated himself to Trump, “And when I said I’m running in 2020, all my smart friends talked so much shit about me. And when I saw that man win, I said, ‘See, I told you. I could have been there.’” Driver and Jost disappeared from the stage like Homer Simpson into the hedges. Someone in the audience yelled “Fuck Trump,” and Chris Rock, who was live-streaming the spectacle, can be heard dismissively sighing, “My God.”
Even during Instagram overtime, West never delivered the last punchline of the night: Yandhi wasn’t coming out, at least for another month-and-a-half.
West had promised chicken salad and delivered chicken shit. Fans had every right to be annoyed, pissed off. #MAGA disciples had no clue about any new album and were going to herald him as a patriot. At the end of the night, West came out a winner. Whether you agree with his politics or not, West devised a plan to garner the most of what he craves: attention. Lets filter out all the noise. West comparing himself to Trump was the most lasting, undeniable statement he made all week.
Perhaps Yandhi is Kanye’s equivalent to one of Trump’s big busts. Something about Obama’s birth certificate. Neither misstep will derail the chugging train.
Trump and Kanye are one and the same. Multi-millionaires who made a name by creating fascinating things populating their own pockets of the world. Buildings, songs, apparel for the masses. One and the same. You can’t say neither are artists. When either man is removed from their self-made world, they feel entitled to label the world at large however they feel, no matter the consequences. Everyone listens, and no one holds them accountable. Any appalling statement will be replaced by another within days. Even if you’re ignoring Kanye and Trump, the social media echoplex will assuredly deliver their messages. For years, both have uttered phrases and behaved in ways that would destroy their contemporaries.
And both are still standing tall.
Kanye and Trump are the Joker without a Batman. Chaos for chaos sake, and not one politician nor one rapper seems willing, ready, or able to confront the loudest voice in the room. Both men have incredible talents for making an absurd statement and writing it off as a joke. West can rap about fucking super models, girls that are basic, and even Taylor Swift. If Kim Kardashian is laughing it all off, what can any of us listening actually take seriously? If Trump is fucking Stormy Daniels while his wife abides, who are we to judge his pussy grabbing?
I’m certain of only one thing. Kanye West and Donald Trump have succeeded in creating their own cults of personality, and show no signs of running out of hot air. Will midterm elections, or Yandhi, prove otherwise?