Kanye West's first album, The College Dropout, debuted 12 years ago. A then-26-year-old West described his style in Ebony Magazine as "Ghetto-preppy." His clothes were preppy, but the colors ghetto.
West spoke about race, sex, religion, family, the law and other real-life topics on The College Dropout. He was real and purposeful.
Over time, West's persona evolved, but the main themes have always remained. West is an honest, sometimes admittedly arrogant man, who used the American Dream to become one of the most famous entertainers in the world. He has never forgotten his roots, always bringing his music -- figuratively and lyrically -- back to the South Side of Chicago, where he got his start. West is a role model to many, notably young men of color, as he has long rapped about his struggles being an African-American man, while he has also spoken of ways to improve the black condition in the United States.
A few weeks ago, West told a crowd in San Jose he would have voted for Donald Trump -- if he had gone to the polls on Election Day. This was a surprising disclosure considering that he and wife Kim Kardashian West were seen at an event for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in August 2015 and donated money to her campaign. After revealing his preference for Trump, West checked into a Los Angeles hospital for treatment for exhaustion a few days later.
West was again in the media spotlight Tuesday when he showed up in Trump Tower for a meeting with the president-elect. The two could be seen dapping each other up before parting ways.
WATCH: Donald Trump and Kanye West appear together at Trump Tower https://t.co/Qld6MSme9j
— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 13, 2016
According to West's Twitter, the rapper met with Trump to discuss "multicultural issues," which "included bullying, supporting teachers, modernizing curriculums and violence in Chicago." Although those are admirable goals, West's visit was met with mixed reactions on social media. Trump's message to "Make America Great Again" has been met with considerable disgust by the black community. The image of West and Trump embracing Tuesday was hard to swallow for West's fans of all races, many of whom do not support the president-elect and saw the meeting as another diversionary tactic: Trump was supposed to have held a press conference to explain how he will detach himself from his business dealings while president but canceled it only to trot out a celebrity to create a different headline.
West himself has a bank of lyrics that do not seem to align with Trump. Here are 11 notable Kanye West quotes he contradicted by smiling for the cameras with Donald Trump:
"It seem we livin' the American Dream
But the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem
The prettiest people do the ugliest things
For the road to riches and diamond rings."
On his first album, West called out the upper class for taking their wealth for granted. He also points out that the "prettiest" and most buttoned-up people do the "ugliest things" to get what they want.
Trump is a billionaire who sought even greater fulfillment by running for president. Although previously a Democrat, Trump evolved into a far-right conservative for the 2016 election. In April 2016, Trumps then-chief strategist, Paul Manafort, said the candidate was playing a "part" on the campaign trail.
"I'm living three dreams: Biggie Smalls', Dr. King
Rodney King's, uhh
Cause we can't get along - no resolution
'Til we drown all these haters, rest in peace to Whitney Houston."
Biggie Smalls said, "It was all a dream," Martin Luther King Jr. exclaimed, "I have a dream," and Rodney King asked, "Can't we all get along?" West takes inspiration from all three. However, West's solution is to "drown all these haters." Trump's rhetoric has divided Americans as opposed to getting along. West claimed to be acting politically by talking with Trump, as opposed to "drowning him." While King would be pleased to hear about peaceful dialogue, he would question West's reasoning for supporting Trump.
"Colin Powells, Austin Powers
Lost in translation with a whole f***ing nation
They say I was the abomination of Obama's nation
Well that's a pretty bad way to start the conversation."
"Colin Powells, Austin Powers" is a reference to Kanye West saying in 2005, "George Bush doesn’t care about black people." West goes on to say that people consider him an impediment to Obama's progressivism, a concept he says is unfair. However, on Tuesday, it seems appropriate to start a conversation about West by referring to him as the abomination of Obama's nation. He was just all smiles with the man who is out to un-do Obama's accomplishments.
"Rick Ross had told me that
Said I'd be all up in Goldman Sachs
Like, "These n****s tryna hold me back
These n****s tryna hold me back"
I'm just trying to protect my stacks
Mitt Romney don't pay no tax, Mitt Romney don't pay no tax.
Chi-Town 'til I'm on my back, Chi-Town 'til I'm on my back"
According to Genius, "Kanye is saying that Ross told him he'd be in a financial institution like Goldman Sachs, ranting about how his peers are trying to hold him back and not letting him get his money. Ironic since Kanye seemed to really support the Occupy Wall Street movement."
In short, West is trying to say he wants to protect his income and not allow his peers to make him go broke. Likewise, Romney pays very low in taxes, and West does not want to be treated any differently than a white rich man. He also makes a reference to Chicago to remind listeners he cares more about Chicago than Romney. Although Romney is a fellow member of the upper class, West supports Obama, a Chicago native, over Romney in the 2012 election. This suggests social issues are more important to West than financial concerns.
Trump's tax returns became an even greater topic of discussion in 2016 than Romney's were in 2012. Trump has also hired a multitude of individuals with corporate and financial backgrounds for his cabinet -- including Steve Mnuchin, a former partner at Goldman Sachs.
"On the field I'm over-reckless, on my Odell Beckham
2020, I'ma run the whole election, yah!"
This is just false now. After meeting with Trump, West tweeted "#2024," implying he is postponing his run at the presidency until after Trump serves two terms. Times have changed.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) December 13, 2016
"The youngsters who were programmed
To continue f***ing up woke up one night
Digging Paul Revere and Nat Turner as the good guys."
"Who Will Survive in America" samples Gil Scott-Heron's "Comment No. 1" poem. Scott-Heron criticized the Revolutionary Youth Movement for its lack of focus on basic needs of African-American communities.
West is pointing out that while Revere, a white man, and Turner, a black man, are both considered heroes, both led violent rebellions that could be considered excessive. According to Genius, "Kanye [is] indicating the irony in how we are taught to love equality and also idolize those who created, in his eyes, a racist nation."
Whether you agree with this Kanye-ism or not, he said it. He questioned the reverence of our rebellious idols. Yet, he is praising a man who triggered division in the United States.
"How we stop the Black Panthers?
Ronald Reagan cooked up an answer."
Reagan was far from the only politician to take action against the Black Panther Party, but he is the individual West singles out. Genius explains that Reagan passed the Mulford Act of 1967 as governor of California, which limited open firearm wielding. There were also conspiracy theories that the CIA, during the Reagan administration, was responsible for getting thousands of poor African-Americans addicted to crack as a way of funding anti-Communist rebels in Nicaragua.
Trump has gone out of his way to compliment the conservative hero. During the week of the election, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said the"fundamental similarity of the two men" is their "honesty and toughness."
(One bit of irony here is that when West was hospitalized last month, it was at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.)
"They throwin' hate at me
Want me to stay at ease
F*** you and your corporation
Y'all n****s can't control me
I know that we the new slaves
I know that we the new slaves
I'm 'bout to wild the f*** out
I'm goin' Bobby Boucher."
West expresses skepticism with big business, telling "the man" that he cannot control West. Yet, there was West in Trump Tower, under what at the moment, is the most famous corporate name in the United States.
"N****s talking real reckless; stuntmen
I adopted these n****s, Phillip Drummond them
Now I'm about to make them tuck their whole summer in."
For all the selfishness that surrounds Kanye West, this is one of his most unselfish lines. Phillip Drummond is a wealthy white businessman who adopts two African-American children on the TV program Diff'rent Strokes. West portrays himself as the rich white man taking other artists under his wing. At the time he released "Otis," West was putting the finishing touches on "Cruel Summer," an album featuring other artists on his G.O.O.D. Music label.
Trump, a rich white man, antagonized the African-American community, threatened to deport millions of illegal immigrants and proposed a ban on Muslims entering the United States. Phillip Drummond would disapprove.
"Beyond the truest, hey, teacher, teacher
Tell me how do you respond to students?
And refresh the page and restart the memory?
Respark the soul and rebuild the energy?
We stopped the ignorance, we killed the enemies."
"'Don't be a bully,'" CNN's Van Jones said on Election Night, referring to Trump. "You tell your kids, 'Don't be a bigot.' You tell your kids, 'Do your homework and be prepared.' Then you have this outcome, and you have people putting children to bed tonight and they’re afraid of breakfast."
Rather than refreshing the page, West is allegedly trying to edit it by talking with Trump. Rather than inspire energy, he is embracing the enemy. The ignorance is not stopped, but legitimized. West even references bullying in a tweet Tuesday:
These issues included bullying, supporting teachers, modernizing curriculums, and violence in Chicago.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) December 13, 2016
While West can be seen as attempting to refresh the page by talking with Trump, his smiling with the King Bully is not a way to respark the soul in those parents looking for inspiration from West.
"I say f--- the police, that's how I treat 'em
We buy our way out of jail
But we can't buy freedom."
Trump has consistently called out those who have disrespected police. "Kanye literally said f*** the police, that's how I treat 'em." And it turns of buying freedom, Trump just paid for his own campaign to become president.
The Other Side
Kanye West is a complex individual who also has said things that line up with his Tuesday stop in Trump Tower. Here are three:
"Let's have a toast for the d*****bags
Let's have a toast for the a**holes
Let's have a toast for the scumbags
Every one of them that I know
Let's have a toast for the jerk-offs
That'll never take work off
Baby, I got a plan
Run away fast as you can
In this case, West is sticking by his word. He is giving the negative people in society their due. Even if Trump falls under one of these categories, he is president and deserves a toast.
"And I'll never let my son have an ego
He'll be nice to everyone, wherever we go
I mean I might even make him be Republican
So everybody know he love white people."
This seemed like an exaggeration at the time. It's real now. West has long felt guilt for his George W. Bush comments, and has expressed greater respect for Republicans in the last decade (although he was clear in his preference of Barack Obama, a black Chicagoan, over John McCain and Mitt Romney). West's meeting with Trump could be interpreted as a sign of peace between black and white culture. In West's mind, even if he does not agree with the Republican Party, diversifying the party can be progress.
"I'm so appalled, Spalding ball
Balding Donald Trump taking dollars from y'all
Baby, you're fired, your girlfriend hired
But if you don't mind, I'ma keep you on call."
West used Trump as a sign of money and wealth, specifically someone who strong-arms others. He pretty much nailed that one. West also drops two playful jokes at Trump, saying, "Balding Donald Trump," to mock his hair and, "you're fired," relating to The Apprentice.
It's worth noting this song debuted in September 2010. Trump didn't start calling for Barack Obama to release his birth certificate until April 2011.