The rap world’s new-money devotees once had an affinity for Donald Trump. They saw in his rudeness and in his excess the ideal of a man who knows how to supplant old powers. “Fuck Black Caesar, niggas call me Black Trump,” Bun B gloated on UGK’s “Pocket Full of Stones,” from 1992. Raekwon called himself “Black Trump” twice. Rick Ross, a poet of free enterprise, invoked Trump’s name in lyrics at least nine times. The businessman, in return, regarded these black men as curios, symbols of ambition, posing with them at events held at his towers, his smile wide. “You know, it’s amazing—all the rappers, all his African-American friends, from Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, have pictures with him,” Donald Trump, Jr., said, of his father, in February.
Kanye West also had a Donald Trump line, on the track “So Appalled,” from the 2010 album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”: “I’m so appalled, Spalding ball / Balding Donald Trump taking dollars from y’all.” Back then, the fleeting identification read as a funny detail in an extended boast on individualism. Now it looks like the first blush of a vacant and galling conceptual romance. Released in June of 2016, the video for “Famous,” West’s take on the Last Supper, featured wax models of celebrities, including the Republican candidate for President, lying naked together in an enormous bed. In the same year, at the Sacramento stop on the Saint Pablo tour, West told a bewildered crowd that he supported Trump. And in December of 2016, he visited the President-elect at Trump Tower. “I wanted to meet with Trump today to discuss multicultural issues,” he said, in a since-deleted tweet that day; in another, he cited “bullying, supporting teachers, modernizing curriculums and violence in Chicago.”
This week, it became clear that West met with Trump because he thinks of him as his spiritual complement. The past few days have marked the climax in a decade of exhausting showiness from West. The forty-year-old artist has long inhabited the role of the fickle vanguard, given to muddled rants and clear-eyed pontificating in equal measure, as easily activated by the injustice of the police as he is by Bill Cosby. (West’s “BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!!!!” tweet, from 2016, looks especially vexing today, when the comedian was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.) West is a brilliant musician—with two forthcoming albums to promote—who thrives