Kanye West and the smug cruelty of the anti-”cancel culture” movement

Entertainment

Salon 31 August, 2021 - 05:18pm 4 views

How many streams does Donda have?

Kanye West's new album Donda has amassed more than 60 million streams on Apple Music in the US on the first day of its release. The much-anticipated and heavily delayed album was released on Sunday 29 August and set a 2021 record for the global streaming service. The IndependentKanye West’s Donda amasses over 60 million streams on Apple Music on the first day

West is still one of the most influential pop stars of the century, but multidisciplinary spectacle is more his goal than music now, and he isn’t the star of his own 10th album.

For the last few years, Kanye West — perhaps tired of the insufficiency of the album, or music-making in general — has been seeking increasingly grand canvases for his various projects. There was the 2016 Yeezy Season 3 fashion show and album debut held at Madison Square Garden. His Imax film, “Jesus Is King,” filmed in James Turrell’s land art installation Roden Crater, in Arizona. A domed prototype for affordable housing built on his property in Calabasas, Calif. A vast expanse of ranch outside Cody, Wyo., annexed for work and play.

And now, for the rollout of his 10th album, “Donda,” stadiums — two listening sessions cum performance pieces in Atlanta starting in July, and a third last week in Chicago. New music may have been the raison d’être for these events, but it is not his sole goal, not anymore, not really.

Instead, these last few weeks have been album rollout as multimedia soap opera. The music itself has been in flux — the version of “Donda” played at each event has been different — and West’s refining of it in public, a method he introduced with “The Life of Pablo,” is his true artistic project now.

It is an ideal strategy for West, still among the most influential pop stars of the 21st century, an artist who is almost incalculably popular and yet almost wholly removed from the pop music mainstream. Gathering tens of thousands of people on short notice and engaging in a public conversation about what his music might sound like may be the purest expression of his fame now.

But crucially, big stages are easy places to hide. They are terrific distractions. And as West has cycled through periods of public tumult in recent years — his hospitalization, his assertion that slavery was a choice, his embrace of Donald Trump, his fitful 2020 run for president — he has simultaneously been orchestrating ever more complex creative projects while slowly removing himself from their emotional center.

That is a challenging place from which to launch “Donda” — named for West’s mother, who died in 2007 following a cosmetic surgery procedure — an urgent but sometimes center-less album that finds common ground between the scabrousness of “Yeezus” and the ethereality of his recent gospel turn. Given that it is an album dedicated to his mother’s memory, “Donda” is only intermittently emotional — more an achievement of texture and logistics than catharsis.

West remains capable of orchestrating impressive pop music. “Hurricane,” with sweet vocals from the Weeknd, is disarmingly pretty. “Junya” pulses with church organ and SoundCloud rap puckishness. “Believe What I Say,” which samples Lauryn Hill — one of the few times you hear a woman’s voice on this album — is among the most easeful songs West has made in a decade.

Several songs, including “No Child Left Behind,” “Jesus Lord” and “24,” sound like kin to the music West was making during his embrace of gospel. (He excised all cursing from this album, even bleeping out his guests.) But there are songs, like the recycled Pop Smoke collaboration “Tell the Vision” and the drowsy “Moon,” that feel purely decorative. As a Kanye West album, it feels more like a stabilization than an innovation.

Once a wordplay-obsessed, self-aware lyricist, West has shifted in the last decade to a more terse and immediate approach, one that complements his musical shifts toward the industrial and the spiritual. His late-period music makes a trade-off between complexity and directness. His songs pound and annihilate now. They’re corporeal studies of psychological hurt.

That approach went hand in hand with how West channeled his angst at last week’s Chicago listening event. He had a faithful re-creation of his childhood home built on a hilltop at the center of the stadium, then encircled it with rows of sentry dancers and black vehicles driving in concentric circles. This was a phalanx of protection, a way to consecrate and protect the place he was raised.

He also presented the home as a safe harbor. At the beginning of the show, he was almost immediately joined on the porch by Marilyn Manson and DaBaby — a Kanye’s Ark of the canceled and disbarred. Onstage, the guests looked bored, purposefully bored, above-reproach bored. (Manson is facing accusations of sexual abuse. DaBaby recently made homophobic statements during a festival performance.) West’s choice to include these widely derided figures exists somewhere between empathy for those who have been shunned for their misdeeds (suggesting that even those who have sinned are worthy of love) and aligning with the maligned for easy outrage.

If that is a coherent politics, it is animated by West’s longstanding sense of grievance that he is misunderstood, but it was ultimately a distraction from the album’s intended tribute. Also, even though the scale of the event was overwhelming, it was less elegant than earlier concert performances where he communed with his mother’s spirit.

This continues on the album itself, which is 27 tracks long, nearly two hours of music; it is sonically cohesive but also overlong and full of heavily assembled songs — multiple producers and writers, a bounty of male guests. West has long been shifting into conductor mode, and on several songs here, he is the ballast but not the focus.

Jay Electronica has a commanding verse on “Donda.” Fivio Foreign has a great verse on “Donda.” Lil Baby has a very good verse on “Donda.” Lil Durk has a striking verse on “Donda.” Sheek Louch, who sounds like he’s been mainlining Ka records, has an excellent verse on “Donda.” Jay-Z has a decent verse on “Donda.” Westside Gunn has a lovely verse on “Donda.”

West, though? Fewer than you’d think. The more you listen for West on “Donda,” the less you really hear him. The more fragmentary the lyrics are, the less satisfying they are.

But what keeps him from being a shadow presence on his own album is his ear for hooks, the way he can distill one quick phrase — be it a goof, a talking-to or an exultation — into something utterly sticky. “I know God breathed on this.” “He’s done miracles on me.” “Is to lay me or play me a bigger flex though?”

West has long wielded the voices of others to amplify his own — this has been true at least since the Hawaii sessions that birthed “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” one of his essential albums. As he’s become less of a full-time musician and more of a polymath who sometimes makes music, that tendency has grown, getting perhaps its purest expression just before the start of the pandemic, when the majority of his music-making came in the form of live performances of the Sunday Service Choir, a gospel troupe he assembled and directed but rarely contributed vocals to. At that point, it seemed as if West might be permanently decentering himself, or at least using his success primarily as a launching platform for others.

The “Donda” era realigns things, more in keeping with how West released “The Life of Pablo” and “Ye,” his last pre-gospel albums. There are, at the moment, at least four versions of “Donda” — the official one released on streaming services (though there’s no guarantee that one’s not in flux), and the ones West played at each of his listening events.

Instead of focusing on “Donda” as an album, or a playlist version of an album, it’s helpful to think of it more like theater, an iterative affair that evolves a little each time you encounter it. In the last few weeks, it has gone from regional company to Off Broadway to the Great White Way — each stop on that journey matters.

Typically, musicians keep listeners walled off from their process (at least until the 50th anniversary boxed set), but West has been contending that the assembly is part of the art. Not sure which version of a song is better? Include both, as West does with four different titles here. Not sure if your album is complete? Play it for fans and get feedback in real time. (Online chatter suggested he was paying attention to fan reactions to help shape what he would tweak or adjust.)

And why not monetize the uncertainty? West thrives in an attention economy, and with these live events, has found a way to make this interstitial period revenue-generating and curiosity-piquing.

This structurelessness allows “Donda” to function not simply as an album but also a marker of time. The day after the Lox dominated Dipset at Verzuz, they took a private jet to Atlanta, where they laid down verses that became part of “Jesus Lord Pt 2.” The two versions of “Jail” on the album capture the surprise rapprochement between West and his old friend and mentor Jay-Z, as captured in the second “Donda” listening, and also the head-scratcher of the third session, when fans heard a version of that song which scrapped Jay-Z in favor of DaBaby. Both takes survive here.

If little else, the “Donda” rollout has served as a demonstration that West can take scrambled eggs and, with a few weeks’ effort, make them something like whole. And, perhaps something of a surprise given the ire he inspires in some circles, he can still corral chart-topping levels of attention. “Donda” is expected to have one of the biggest opening weeks of the year.

That is a big victory for spectacle. And yet the most striking jolt on “Donda” — indeed, in this whole rollout cycle — comes in an exceedingly rare moment of intimacy, when West raps about his disintegrating marriage on “Lord I Need You.” Despite how intensely you can hear West throughout “Donda,” you almost never really see him; this is one of those moments, though.

“Too many complaints made it hard for me to think/Would you shut up? I can’t hear myself drink,” he raps, with patience and regret and a tinge of the absurd twists he favors in his lyrics whenever they threaten to get too serious. But when he raps “God got us, baby/God got the children,” it’s hard to hear something other than bare exhaustion and sadness — it’s pure surrender. “Donda” is a huge stage, but this is the only moment West stands at its center, undisturbed, raw.

Read full article at Salon

Soulja Boy disses Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s marriage in Twitter rant

The Independent 02 September, 2021 - 05:10am

Soulja Boy has called out Kanye West’s marriage to Kim Kardashian in an expletive-filled rant on Twitter after he was allegedly cut from Donda.

The 31-year-old “Kiss Me Thru The Phone” rapper – real name is DeAndre Cortez Way – claims his vocals didn’t make the final cut for West’s album, even though he was allegedly asked to record a verse for the track “Remote Control”.

When Donda was surprise released on 29 August, Soulja Boy shared what appears to be a screenshot of a chat between West and him, which suggested he was set to appear in the song that featured rapper Young Thug instead.

“If he (West) didn’t like the verse he should of said that don’t text me acting like u f*** wit it then secretly take it off. What kind of s*** is that I was working on my album too I don’t got time for this s*** (sic),” Soulja Boy tweeted.

In another tweet, he said: “He did this same s*** on Robocop when Amber Rose was in the studio years ago. I hate working with this dude. He needs help seriously.”

The “Crank That” rapper then continued dissing West in several tweets ever since Donda released.

“That n***a Kanye so p****. Lame a** ni**a thought he could be the president sit yo goofy-a** down somewhere that’s why Hov don’t f*** u weirdo,” he wrote in one tweet.

Soulja Boy also posted a clip of his “deleted” verse from Donda.

The Chicago-born rapper went on to take a swipe at the rapper and Kim Kardashian's marriage and called him “weird”.

“Don’t call phone no more weird-a** n***a that’s why Kim left yo bipolar A** @kanyewest,” Soulja Boy wrote.

The “Rick n Morty” rapper additionally made a second dig about West’s marriage claiming he “was the first rapper wit @KimKardashian not u”. He accompanied the post with a photograph of himself and Kardashian together.

He added that he wants to fight West one on one, writing: “I wanna fight. Do u know how to fight? @kanyewest I feel like u a h**. Let’s get in the ring?” he added. “I don’t take s*** from NOBODY. I don’t give a f*** who u are.”

Soulja Boy’s reps have no comment on the matter.

The Independent has contacted West’s team for quotes.

Kanye West CLAIMS He and Kim Kardashian Are Back Together?!

Clevver News 02 September, 2021 - 05:10am

Kanye West Accused of Stealing Logo Design from Up-and-Coming Black-Owned Brand

AllHipHop 01 September, 2021 - 02:30am

Kanye West is once again caught up in another controversy, this time he’s accused of ripping off the logo for his “DONDA’ album merch.  

Yeezy allegedly stole the logo design from a Black-owned business, Infinity G8ds. Randy Crawford the brand’s creative director made the claims to the Daily Beast. He states that Kanye’s merch features a direct copy of the logo used on some of Infinity G8ds’s clothing.  

“It’s disappointing,” Dawkins said. “We don’t have any bad vibes or bad feelings toward him, we actually like the dude. But how he handled business? Well, that’s another story.” 

According to Dawkins, Kanye’s personal chef initially contacted the brand in late July. He claimed the two men were friends and met through another one of Yeezy’s chefs, Travis Reece.  

Dawkins claims to have been personally involved. “I was on the phone directly talking to Kanye,” Dawkins disclosed. “He was like, ‘Bro, I really love your design. It’s really dope. When can I meet you to talk about your process?’” 

On July 26, Dawkins said he and his team drove from Miami to Atlanta to meet with Kanye for him to understand their design process. Dawkins claims that once they broke it down to him, he loved their ideas and their design.  

He says they had dinner together and Ye sold them dreams of doing business with them and keeping in contact. This never materialized.  

Dawkins said that although there has been some communication between the two camps, they have been unable to reach a resolution. Travis Reece also lost his job as Kanye’s chef. 

Dawkins sees this as, “a misjudgment of his character for me,” adding “From one Black artist to another Black artist, he could have said, ‘I see what you got going on, let’s help you gain some exposure, some visibility.’ That’s all we ask.” 

 The allegations first came to light when a designer affiliated with the brand shared some videos on her personal Instagram page, accusing the Chicago rapper of stealing Infinity G8ds’s logo design. The video is captioned:  

“To see all the thought, hard work, and dedication put into @infinityg*ds and then to see someone disrespectfully copy with no credit given is sickening and then not just anybody but @kanyewest .. someone with so much money and so much power .. yet this proves that he is indeed beneath us!! I’m sure these types of situations happen often but it definitely hit home this time..” 

Copyright © 2021 AllHipHop.com LLC 2021-Infinity

Kanye West and the smug cruelty of the anti-”cancel culture” movement

HYPEBEAST 31 August, 2021 - 01:18pm

You'll recall both Manson and DaBaby are what some might call "canceled": Manson turned himself in to the police in July over much-publicized sexual assault charges, and DaBaby is fresh off a string of music festivals literally canceling him, following an inexplicable homophobic rant in which the rapper called people with HIV/AIDS "nasty."

One would have to have lived under a rock for the past several months to see the smug, unapologetic collaboration between West, Manson and DaBaby as coincidental. West's whole brand is the antithesis of what has come to be called "cancel culture," or, you know, holding people accountable for the things they say and do. His eccentricity, bold politics and rejection of the establishment were once what made him popular, as he slammed former President George W. Bush for leaving Black people behind in the shameful national response to Hurricane Katrina, and criticized the racist horrors of the diamond trade.

In the years since, West has taken a bit of a turn, spewing hideous lies about the history of American slavery, buddying up with President Trump, and as recent as last summer, using his bizarre presidential campaign as a platform to repeatedly call abortion murder. His partnerships with Manson and DaBaby aren't because either is some generational talent worth the controversy, but quite literally because they deliver the controversy and the notoriety that West craves. 

The women, survivors and LGBTQ people who are offended and invalidated by this truly ghoulish stunt are secondary to West's pursuit of infamy, to his attempt to dunk on so-called cancel culture. It's the pop culture equivalent of the Trump political era's well-known thesis of "the cruelty is the point." West needed neither three album launch parties, nor to include artists who are polarizing, even triggering figures for marginalized people like women and queer folks. He included them not despite, but because of the outrage and harm their presence would inflict on audiences he clearly does not care about.

Few displays have been as smug and unabashedly cruel as the convergence of West, Manson and DaBaby, but in the era of an angry, rapidly growing, right-wing, anti-"cancel culture" movement, we can almost certainly expect more of this. 

We can expect more of the likes of Louis CK standing in front of sarcastic "SORRY" signs at his self-described "comedy" shows that no one asked for. (Yes, per the right wing's self-pitying definitions of cancel culture, CK is somehow "canceled" while literally on a national tour.) Hey, maybe next time he'll even bring women up onstage and nonconsensually masturbate in front of them — hilarious! We can expect more bizarre Bill Maher rants on how oppressed Matt Damon is. Heck, we can probably expect other artists to resume collaborating with DaBaby in the future, either after the initial outrage wears off, or even while the outrage remains fresh in order to capitalize on it.

It's fair to point out that any sort of media coverage of manufactured, aggressively mediocre spectacles like West's unveiling of his two new best friends plays right into their strategy of calling up a storm, bringing attention to their supposed edginess and transcendent genius. But stunts like this are also transparent in their desperation. They can also misfire if attention is paid more toward the scandal versus the project bring promoted. The idea that bad publicity is good publicity doesn't wash in an era when consumers have endless choices to select from instead.

Men and those with privilege who have refused to grow, to self-reflect and adapt to a changing society that is increasingly valuing the experiences and safety of marginalized people, are quickly losing relevance. These men respond by demanding that society focus on and sympathize with what they are supposedly losing — their birthright to be terrible without consequence — rather than celebrate the progress and power that women, LGBTQ folks, people of color and other marginalized communities are gaining. They resort to pity parties, outlandish trolling, and alliances with fellow toxic, insecure men who share in their weakness and cowardice.

West's musical partnerships with Manson and DaBaby, and his decision to essentially make them the stars of his launch party, say as much about his feelings toward a man accused of sexual violence and a disgraced, homophobic rapper, as they do, his feelings about himself, and his status as "uncancelable." At the end of the day, West doesn't believe he, Manson or DaBaby should face any sort of public scrutiny or accountability, because he doesn't seem convinced any of them have done anything wrong. 

Mistreat women, disparage queer people, say things that will get abortion providers killed! It doesn't matter — you'll still be able to release a highly anticipated album, and command legions of often straight, male fans who will find a way to defend you no matter what.

The right is constantly impressing upon us the supposed cruelty and nastiness of cancel culture, their current boogeyman of choice. Yet this is the alternative it presents: smug, petty stunts demeaning women and queer people. So, what's worse — accountability or another "Donda" launch party?

Kylie Cheung is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She is also the author of "A Woman's Place," a collection of feminist essays. You can follow her work on Twitter @kylietcheung.

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