Kanye West's meeting with Donald Trump was a car crash for both rap and politics, but columnist Mark Beaumont wonders if Kanye believed he was playing The Donald at his own game.
As unmissable footage goes, last week’s Trump-Kanye summit is up there with Seann Walsh and Katya Jones announcing that their next Strictly dance would be the Reverse Cowgirl. You can understand why someone would want to put arguably the world’s two most incoherent and delusional alpha male egotists, both ranting Father Dougals convinced they’re Maurice Moss, into a room together and watch them fire nonsensical, crowing lies and non sequiturs at each other like arsehole paintball.
Either America’s eyes would finally be opened to the moronic depths to which their country’s politics has plummeted or the gravitational clash of Trump and Kanye’s competing egos would reach critical mass, create a kind of right-wing wormhole and suck the entire Oval Office back to Berlin 1945 where it belongs, ideally just after the best man’s speech and just before the after-dinner cyanide capsules.
There’s reason to hope the meeting might be another nail in the coffin of Trump’s presidency – in positive political PR terms, Ye vs Drumpf ranked slightly below the Zapruder film. Kanye buried his serious points about stop and frisk laws, Chicago crime rates and gang leader Larry Hoover in rambling bullshit about time being a myth, alternative universes, reincarnation and how he’s basically a cross between Superman and Sigmund Freud.
That the highest profile pop culture supporter Trump can drum up wants the President to fly around in an “iPlane” that looks like a squashed dolphin and generally talks about as much sense as a crack-ravaged bus stop warlock might make his most hardened voter base wake up to the idiocy they’ve unleashed. You can almost pinpoint the moment when even Trump, staring into space like a braindead guppy, finally realises that embarrassing, meaningless babble might not come across too great on camera.
Saturday Night Live spoofed the meeting by having Trump silently realise “he’s the black me!”, but I suspect Trump was actually thinking “I could learn a trick or two from this maniac”. Because, as unfair as it would be to mock Kanye for what might well be legitimate mental health issues – a questionable get-out-clause, I’d argue, when you’re an influential superstar using your ‘funny turns’ to endorse fascism – it’s disingenuous to believe that a very rich man is supporting right wing politics purely due to a psychiatric instability.
No, I suspect, to at least some degree, that Kanye has realised he can out-Trump Trump. During the meeting Kanye claimed to see old ‘Shroomcock as the beacon of “male energy” that was missing from his life; actually he’s more of a kindred spirit, not just in Twitter twattery but in empowering vacuous celebrity. Married to someone who built a multi-million dollar empire on the basis of having a notable arse, and having created his own anti-hero legend on the back of onstage rants, televised outbursts and being the ultimate Grammy git, Kanye recognises in Trump the first American leader to harness the modern-day power of near-constant attention. They mutually understand that it doesn’t matter the quality of the music, the morality of the policies or how oiled the arse – as long as people are talking about you, you’re gaining in influence and standing in a world where the voting public consider Instagram likes and Twitter follows to be tangible measures of self-worth and public value. In 2018, sense and substance are entirely overshadowed by profile. People would vote for sanctions on Narnia and a war on Frazzles if Justin Bieber was promising it.
So when Kanye arrives at the Oval Office spouting his bewildering, self-important gobbledigook, it’s quite possible that he truly believes he’s setting himself on a path to Presidential power by being as inane, baffling and ridiculous as POTUS, but trumping Donald’s airheadedness with snippets of bollocks that sound more streetwise, socially aware and nicked off Brian Cox. In which case T.I. was completely correct when he said of the meeting, “this is the most repulsive, disgraceful, embarrassing act of desperation & auctioning off of one’s soul to gain power I’ve ever seen.”
For Kanye to brush off Trump’s flagrant racism, to hero worship a misogynist facing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and rubbishing assault victims’ stories, to hug a man whose policies are breaking up families, destroying rights for women and LGTBQ communities, accelerating global warming and fracturing social and political relationships across the globe is utterly shameful and morally repugnant. The whole sorry episode is like George Formby regaling Mussolini’s birthday party with a rendition of ‘When I’m Creating Widows’.
The meeting was a fine wine with many sour notes to it, and it will probably backfire for Ye. As fast as Trump can disenfranchise minority voters before the November mid-terms, Mueller is closing in; Kanye might well have shackled himself to a fast-sinking ship, and the cultural world won’t forget such immoral toadying, nor the black community his cries of “I love you!” at a man in the process of denying them healthcare and the vote.
Kanye might think he’s playing the President. He might think he’s lining himself up for his own Presidential run in 2020 or 2024, taking full advantage of Republicans’ historic enthusiasm for black presidents. He might think, if he loses, he can just invade the podium at the inauguration and take the Presidency from The Rock with a simple “Dwayne, Imma let you finish…”. But he’s just a cheerleading puppet for an uncaring regime, made to look a fool by the world’s biggest fool. In that sense, at least, he’s out-dumbing The Donald.