After taking a year off Twitter, rapper Kanye West returned to the social media site on April 13th. Like his previous use of Twitter, West’s musings were all over the map. Some were purely self-promotion, others teased new creative product, and there were some philosophical nuggets and random thoughts thrown in.
But West used his Twitter platform to continue one particular thread he was exploring a few years ago – one that could be either encouraging or disturbing, depending on your political point of view.
On Saturday, West tweeted his support for Candace Owens, notable for being one of the few black women in the media to openly support Donald Trump.
Owens has courted controversy by giving speeches on college campuses, harshly criticizing Black Lives Matter, blaming young black men shot by police, defending the NRA, and referring to Trump as “the savior of the world.”
Praising someone like Owens seems like a strange turn for West, who brought the wrath of the conservative media down on him by claiming George Bush didn’t care about black people.
But West had spent much of 2016 supporting Donald Trump for reasons that he never made entirely clear.
The closest West ever got to explaining his affection for Trump was during a post-election concert rant where he told a baffled crowd in San Jose: “if I would’ve voted, I would have voted on Trump.”
After declaring that he still cares about black lives and women’s rights, he claimed that “they” told him not to say he would have voted for Trump, and that “not only did I not vote, but there were a lot of things I actually liked about Trump’s campaign. His approach was fucking genius — because it worked.”
It should be noted that a few days after the San Jose rant, West checked himself into UCLA Medical Center suffering from depression, paranoia, and hallucinations.
Since praising Owens, West has gone further down the rabbit hole of right wing media, retweeting a series of videos made by Scott Adams, the creator of cartoon salaryman Dilbert.
Adams has carved out a second career as a conservative pundit, pumping out obnoxious praise for President Trump, trolling liberals with anti-feminist nonsense, and claiming that Hillary Clinton supporters were going to murder him.
West’s seeming embrace of conservative infotainers has, predictably, sent shockwaves through the media world.
Far right twitter celebrities got to work gloating about how they’ve “won over” a huge celebrity, praising him for breaking his mental chains (a phenomenon known as being “red pilled” after the scene from THE MATRIX where Neo is offered a chance to wake up from the machine realm), and jockeying for West’s attention.
Meanwhile, liberals and Kanye fans seemed genuinely perplexed, with some wondering if he was going to embrace even more radical conservative conspiracy theories,. Naturally, followers of the #QAnon conspiracy theory were especially interested in what Yeezy was going to do next.
Would he be the highest profile celeb yet to embrace their insanely complex plot involving worldwide sex trafficking and secret Trump insiders?
Where West’s newfound “redpilling” goes, and indeed, if it’s even real or just West flitting in and out of philosophical notions, remains to be seen.
Like Roseanne Barr before him, West shows all the hallmarks of being an easy target for conspiracy theories. He’s wealthy, isolated among people who either are just like him or want something from him, and has struggled with mental health issues much of his life.
However, West has also shown himself to be fiercely intelligent and able to read trends and forces in art and politics, creating genres out of whole cloth and inspiring a legion of followers to chase him.
It’s not shocking that he would embrace conservative messages about overcoming “self-victimization” by embracing their version of free thought. It’s also not shocking that West could get wrapped up in right wing paranoia, persecution delusions, and conspiracy theories. After all, it’s happened before.
It could also be neither of those things. Maybe he’s just saying stuff to say stuff, throwing out the random thoughts he thinks are pearls of wisdom to get headlines and attention.
This is a guy prone to absurd, hyperbolic, often offensive rhetoric, comparing himself to everyone from to Jesus Christ to Steve Jobs to Adolf Hitler. He’s also the face of a massive media brand that hasn’t been in the news much over the last few years.
So is Kanye woke now? Is he going to live up to his newfound status as a conservative warrior? Or is he playing with the digital equivalent of a shiny new toy? Or is he just messing with us and reaping the rewards?
More time and more tweets will tell us.