Now Kanye West wants to be the new Socrates

Unlikely bedfellows: In response to the rapper, Trump tweeted, “Thank you Kanye, very cool!”

Is Kanye West wise or idiotic? The rapper is making headlines with a remarkable series of tweets which express his opinions on a range of subjects. He describes it as his “philosophy book”.

“This is my book that I’m writing in real time. ... This is not a financial opportunity this is an innate need to be expressive.”

Thus tweeted Kanye West last week, marking his dramatic return to Twitter after a year’s absence. The ensuing “philosophy book” — in fact, dozens of stream-of-consciousness tweets — sets out the rapper’s views on a dizzying range of things, from the nature of truth to ping-pong.

One running theme is Kanye’s individualism. “I don’t agree 100% with anyone but myself,” he notes, emphasising the need for “freedom of thought”. He encourages his fans to be themselves: “Don’t follow crowds.”

Another is Kanye’s faith in love: “Truth is subjective but love is the most powerful force in the world.” He notes that he does not “believe in the concept of an enemy”. He sees “feelings” as a more reliable source of guidance in life than “thoughts”, which are “placed in our heads”.

But the rapper’s feelings have ruffled a few feathers. His most controversial tweets express his support for President Donald Trump, whom he calls “my brother”. “We are both dragon energy,” he declares. At the same time, “I love Hillary too”. Despite hinting that he will run for president in 2024, he insists that he’s “not even political”.

Kanye has backed the president before — he even met with him in December 2016. Many fans are outraged that an African-American icon could be friendly with a man liked by white supremacists. Not that he minds: “Truth is my goal,” he writes. “Controversy is my gym.”

More generally, Kanye’s tweets have fuelled gossip about his mental health. This kind of speculation has been rife since the artist was hospitalised in 2016 (shortly before meeting Trump), but it is unfounded. This week, his wife Kim Kardashian West took to twitter to defend him, criticising those who “so casually” debate his mental state.

“I’m a proud non-reader of books,” Kanye once said. “I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life.” Now that he is writing a “book” of his own, what should we make of it?

Wild wild West

It’s gibberish, say some. Kanye says he never reads — and it shows. He has mistaken his fame for intellectual genius. In reality, his ideas are inconsistent and offensive. He is an egomaniac who will write literally anything to get attention. No wonder he gets on with Trump.

There is wisdom in his words, reply others. Love surely is the best attitude in life. Kanye’s “support” for Trump is really a refusal to get caught up in the hatred dividing the US. And speaking the truth does often lead to controversy. Kanye has an artist’s sense for what life is about. If we follow his advice, the world will be a fairer, more honest place.

You Decide

  1. Should we take Kanye West seriously?
  2. Is it OK to speculate about another person’s mental health?

Activities

  1. Reply to Kanye’s tweets in a tweet of your own (no more than 280 characters!). You do not have to address Kanye directly.
  2. Write a 1,000-word essay debating the proposition: “Everybody should agree 100% with themselves.”

Some People Say...

“To be great is to be misunderstood.”

Kanye West

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
With 21 Grammys and over 100 million sales to his name, Kanye West is one of the most successful musicians in the world. And he knows it. The rapper is as famous for his grandiose, sometimes arrogant statements as for his highly innovative albums. He is often described as a musical genius, but his provocative attitude puts many off — Barack Obama once described him as “a jackass”.
What do we not know?
Why Kanye went to hospital in November 2016. The Los Angeles police described his case as a “medical emergency”. Gossip website TMZ reported that he was having a “psychiatric evaluation” and treatment for “severe sleep deprivation”. He was released after a week. This week, his friend Chance the Rapper said that he’s “in a great space”.

Word Watch

A year’s absence
Kanye regularly quits then rejoins social media without explanation.
Stream-of-consciousness
A literary technique that describes a character’s thoughts as they occur, without editing or rearranging them too much. The idea is to represent the continuous, sometimes contradictory way people think.
Ping-pong
The exact quote: “I’m nice at ping pong.” Other topics in his tweets include the linearity of time, his electric Tesla car, and his desire to meet Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Dragon energy
In another tweet, Kanye defines this as follows: “Natural born leaders. Very instinctive. Great foresight.”
Met with him
“I wanted to meet with Trump today to discuss multicultural issues,” Kanye tweeted at the time.
African-American icon
Kanye caused a stir in 2005 when, on live television, he said that then-President George W. Bush “doesn’t care about black people”. He was criticising Bush for his slow reaction to Hurricane Katrina, which disproportionately affected black communities in Louisiana.

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