Kanye West has spent the last 14 years filling our world with indelible vibrations of air and on Thursday afternoon we heard a new one: the sound of a centrifugal pop star that aspired to President Trump in the Oval Office.
West had been summoned to Trump's desk to discuss prison reform and gun violence, but really to help quell the empty-calorie cable television shake that seems to provide this administration with its only source of food. . Using his custom MAGA hat with pride, West spoke about criminal justice, mental health, hydrogen-powered aircraft and "an alternative universe" in a profane swirl of misformed ideas while still managing to convey his fundamental intention at the beginning of the speech.
"I love Hillary," West said. "I love everyone, right?" But the "I'm with her" campaign just did not make me feel, like a boy who could not see my dad all the time, like a boy who could play ball with his son. Something about putting on this hat that made me feel like Superman … You made a Superman cape for me.
And that's why I was there. West had not come to the White House to discuss issues. He had come to an audition for a regular rotation in Trump's orbit.
We've heard enough of West's words to know that this was a different kind of blah-blah-blitz. "Trump is in the way of his hero right now," West said, praising the president in the same flattering tones we usually hear from Vice President Pence, Sean Hannity and the cast of "Fox & Friends."
If he has spent years listening to West's music, he knows that he usually only talks about himself in this way. But on Thursday, West spoke Trump's love language, expressing his gifts in a particular type of macho swagger that the president admires. Between breaths, two narcissists smiled at each other on the other side of the table, as if they were looking at themselves in a mirror.
This pivot still feels like a bad dream for those attentive Kanye West fans who have always been able to hear the striations of altruism in the rapper's most volatile trash conversation. West's televised response to the government's mismanagement of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005: "George Bush does not care about blacks" remains one of the most surprising moments of truth to power in popular history. And when West interrupted an MTV broadcast in 2009 to suggest that a prize won by Taylor Swift should have gone to Beyoncé, he was criticizing the institutionalized racism that pervades every corner of American life, including musical awards shows.
The point is that West's big mouth used to represent something bigger than himself. But that began to change in 2013, when West began derailing his live performances with meandering speeches that felt deeply aggrieved and completely unscripted.
However, he seemed to be in some kind of script in the White House, splashing his strong thoughts with talking points on the right. He doubled his proposal to abolish the 13th Amendment. He suggested that the black community only supports the Democratic Party because of a dependency on welfare. He blamed the violence with firearms on "illegal weapons" and said he defended the Second Amendment. At the end of the day, the National Rifle Association had tweeted that "its members are happy to see a celebrity who understands it."
Did West believe what he was saying? Do you realize how dramatically your new policy overrides your old lyrics? Do you understand that your contrary attitudes towards the left have allowed you to be exploited by the right?
Everything felt next to the point. West just wanted a hug from the rich man in the red tie. He wants to be Trump's boy. You know, the kind of person who feels less than a man when he sees a woman running for president, a man willing to align with the small-minded, small-hearted world view of every person who has ever shouted: up. "
At the end of West's comments, Trump seemed a little dizzy, but satisfied. "He can speak for me anytime he wants," the president told the swarm of reporters around his desk. And that was that. Done deal. When you are a global superstar who aspires to become the tool of an aspiring autocrat, audition is easy to grasp.